Nitin Nohria’s very flaky start

I was excited to see Nitin Nohria appointed as the new Dean of HBS. He’s an interesting man with interesting ideas. He’s well-liked, and Indian-born, which makes a lot of sense in today’s economy. Jay Light, the previous Dean, was weak and waffling as the school’s public face during the past few years of economic tumult. He must be looking forward to spending more time in his role as a board member at Blackstone now. At a cocktail party in New York last week, an activist hedge fund manager complained to me that Nohria was one of these “touchy-feely” guys and what the school needed was financiers in charge. Real business people not behavioral experts. I didn’t agree.

But then I read this interview with Nohria in Business Week. He was asked what he thought of Goldman Sachs’ appearance before Congress. He said:

“The events in the financial sector are something that have been watched closely at Harvard Business School. We teach by the case method, and one of the things we’ll do through this experience is study these cases deeply as information is revealed over time so we can understand what happened at all these financial firms. I’m sure that at some point we’ll write cases about Goldman Sachs because that’s how we learn.”

Oh God. It’s so feeble. What does it take for a dean at HBS to say something critical of the financial sector? They’ve lost billions, plundered the US Treasury for help and in Goldman Sachs’ case face criminal and civil fraud charges.

And still HBS is waiting to figure out the learning opportunity???

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