from the world's big
Robert Dolan Gets Personal
A professor of marketing, he was a chaired faculty member and administrator at Harvard Business School for 21 years. His major research interests are product policy and pricing. He has published widely on these topics in such journals as the Bell Journal of Economics, European Management Journal, Harvard Business Review, Industrial Marketing Management, Journal of Business, Journal of Marketing, Marketing Science, and Sales and Marketing Management
Dean Dolan earned a Ph.D. and an M.S. in management at the University of Rochester and a B.A. magna cum laude in mathematics from Boston College.
Dolan is author or co-author of eight books and numerous case studies. His Managing the New Product Development Process (Addison-Wesley), based on research to develop the New Product Development course in the MBA Program at Harvard, has been adopted at a number of leading business schools. A recent book, Power Pricing: How Managing Price Transforms the Bottom Line (Free Press), was developed for practitioners. Drawing on research and consulting experiences with firms worldwide, the book sets out a program for proactive management of prices for superior profitability. His case studies and notes, published by Harvard Business School, address a wide range of companies and issues, including Black and Decker, BMW, Henkel Corporation, L’Oreal, and Eastman Kodak. More than one million copies of these materials have been sold to date.
A frequent lecturer and consultant, he assists a wide variety of clients on issues of product policy and pricing. He has testified on marketing issues in a number of major litigations and has served on the boards of directors of several publicly traded companies including Knoll Inc., a leading office furniture manufacturer and Precise Software Inc.
Question: What’s the difference between a manager and a leader?
Robert Dolan: That’s a good question and one that I’ve thought about a lot. You know, I think a leader is, a couple of different aspects to it. One is that a leader is somebody who’s developing great talent around him or her, that the organization is just getting better by this person being there. And the leader really takes it as part of their job to be developing the talent of the people in the organization.
Second thing I really think is an important distinguishing characteristic of leaders is they see new opportunities. They’re always pushing the organization out in new directions. And the third thing, I think, is that they really bring kind of a moral compass to the organization. That they’re the ones whose values that are really going to be expressed for the rest of the people and be adopted by the organization. Whereas the manager can, you know, very effectively kind of manage the status quo and do things in a way that delivers historical profitability. I really think the leaders of the people who are really seeing the new opportunities and establishing the values for the organization.
Question: What has been your biggest leadership challenge?
Robert Dolan: My biggest leadership challenge would be my first year as, my first year as dean of the Ross School of Business. You know, I had been a faculty member at the University of Chicago and Harvard Business School prior to becoming dean. But I became dean in late summer 2001. And, you know, of course, we had September 11th occur, probably about a month after I was on the job. And the job market kind of declined rather rapidly for our students. And the problem was you come in as dean and within a heartbeat, everybody is saying to you, well, what’s your vision? And, you know, the truth of the matter was that I didn’t have it yet. I had just come to the school.
And so, I think the, looking back at it, probably the hard thing for me for six months was that I was going around, meeting a lot of the alumni, giving presentations, and I was out a little bit ahead of myself because if you said, well, what’s your strategy?
I couldn’t say much other than, "I’m all for quality and Go Blue," which, you know, it's fine but it doesn’t say anything. And so, I think it was, the leadership challenge for me was to really take my time to do my homework even when the stakeholders were getting impatient. It would’ve been a real mistake for me to kind of have adopted a strategy without any edge to it in response to the kindly pressure but it was still pressure from some people to say, "okay, you’ve been here a hundred days now and if we read one of those airport books, it says the CEO only has a hundred days to really bring change to the organization."
By then, the degrees of freedom are gone. I do not subscribe to that. And so, I think it was to really stick with it and think my way through it and go out and visit enough companies so that I could really get a vision of what I wanted to try to do to the school.
And it was really a valuable exercise for me because there was one person who really help me greatly, get my vision for the school. Because he said, you know, “Business schools are great,” he said, “But what they do is they say we’re going to give a certain set of knowledge, we’re going to give a certain set of skills, and we’re going to develop student’s leadership capability.” And he drew three circles of the same size, with the little leadership pea sitting up on top of the other two. And he said, “So, what you say you’re going to give us is three grapefruits.” He said, “But in reality, what you give us is two grapefruits and a grape, with the grape being, obviously, the leadership capabilities.” And then, he said, “Now, if you could figure out a way to really distinguish yourself around developing those leadership capabilities, that would help set you apart from all the other business schools out there.” And that really became kind of the strategy. And then, saying, okay, well, action based learning: I don’t know how to make that grape into a grapefruit by keeping the students in the classroom.
If I can get them out into the world, dealing with messy problems as part of a diverse team that we put together rather than have them being able to go with their buddies, that, I think, is the way to develop that kind of leadership capability. So that was one personal thing for me. That, it took me sort of longer than a lot of people hoped it would. It would’ve been nicer if I came up with the idea a little bit more quickly than I did but, I think, for me, to be able to kind of work my way through a process that works for me and then really having a strategy, which has really served us very well in retrospect. So I think that was one personal one for me.
Question: What’s the best management advice you’ve received?
Robert Dolan: The best management advice I ever got is, you know, I’m a marketing guy so it really is around the importance of focus and differentiation. That if you try to think about being the best in the world for everybody, that’s sort of leads you to really dilute your offerings and not be great for anybody. So I think the idea of really having a focus and saying, gee, this is what we do, we honestly think we’re the best in the world at that, if this is what you’re looking for, that’s, you ought to buy our product, you ought to come here rather than trying to spread yourself out too thin. So it’s kind of basic stuff about marketing management, about segmenting the market and really picking a spot. But it’s much harder to do than a lot of people think it is because you should be saying enough about your product that some people aren’t going to want it. And if you can get yourself to having enough confidence in what you’re doing so that you say, gee, its okay if there are some people who don’t want this product at all, I think that’s when you know you’ve gotten to a point of really developing a focused offering. So, I think, there are lots of examples of the benefit of focus. And, you know, certainly from my personal experience in what I’ve done as a marketing academic, as a consultant and a dean, I keep being refocused and less on the importance of focus and really developing a particular point of differentiation that you’re the very best at that particular thing and nobody can compete with you on that.
Question: What’s the best personal advice you’ve received?
Robert Dolan: Best personal advice? I guess, in sort of recent times, I guess, it would be sort of the advice to really think about continuing to develop as an individual. And that may mean doing some new things that you’re really not very comfortable with. And I’ve always been, and it’s, it’s really what lead me to leave Harvard Business School and go to the University of Michigan because I’ve always been a preacher to everybody else about, look, you have to, if a new opportunity comes, even if it’s outside your comfort zone, you have to go, you have to go do it and develop new muscles, otherwise, you don’t grow. And so, this was something where I had, as I said, been a preacher about this to many, many people. I had been at Harvard Business School for 21 years. I had no intention of going anywhere else. I was just about to become the senior associate dean at HBS. But there was nothing about that job that’s scared me, whereas thinking about becoming dean at a school where I didn’t have a stock of good will and would require me to do things I never done before, for example, like fundraising. In the end, the things that initially scared me and made me hesitate about Michigan were the things that made me go there when I saw them as a chance to develop in ways that I haven’t really developed before. And, you know, fortunately for me, they’ve been some of the most satisfying aspects of the job. So this idea of always be thinking about the need to develop yourself, have the capability to reinvent yourself, I think that’s something that’s very important, very important to me.
Recorded on: April 13, 2009
A focus on his own individual growth has guided the dean throughout his career.
Higher education faces challenges that are unlike any other industry. What path will ASU, and universities like ASU, take in a post-COVID world?
- Everywhere you turn, the idea that coronavirus has brought on a "new normal" is present and true. But for higher education, COVID-19 exposes a long list of pernicious old problems more than it presents new problems.
- It was widely known, yet ignored, that digital instruction must be embraced. When combined with traditional, in-person teaching, it can enhance student learning outcomes at scale.
- COVID-19 has forced institutions to understand that far too many higher education outcomes are determined by a student's family income, and in the context of COVID-19 this means that lower-income students, first-generation students and students of color will be disproportionately afflicted.
What conditions of the new normal were already appreciated widely?<p>First, we understand that higher education is unique among industries. Some industries are governed by markets. Others are run by governments. Most operate under the influence of both markets and governments. And then there's higher education. Higher education as an "industry" involves public, private, and for-profit universities operating at small, medium, large, and now massive scales. Some higher education industry actors are intense specialists; others are adept generalists. Some are fantastically wealthy; others are tragically poor. Some are embedded in large cities; others are carefully situated near farms and frontiers.</p> <p>These differences demonstrate just some of the complexities that shape higher education. Still, we understand that change in the industry is underway, and we must be active in directing it. Yet because of higher education's unique (and sometimes vexing) operational and structural conditions, many of the lessons from change management and the science of industrial transformation are only applicable in limited or highly modified ways. For evidence of this, one can look at various perspectives, including those that we have offered, on such topics as <a href="https://www.insidehighered.com/digital-learning/blogs/rethinking-higher-education/lessons-disruption" target="_blank">disruption</a>, <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/20/education/learning/education-technology.html" target="_blank">technology management</a>, and so-called "<a href="https://www.insidehighered.com/sites/default/server_files/media/Excerpt_IHESpecialReport_Growing-Role-of-Mergers-in-Higher-Ed.pdf" target="_blank">mergers and acquisitions</a>" in higher education. In each of these spaces, the "market forces" and "market rules" for higher education are different than they are in business, or even in government. This has always been the case and it is made more obvious by COVID-19.</p> <p>Second, with so much excitement about innovation in higher education, we sometimes lose sight of the fact that students are—and should remain—the core cause for innovation. Higher education's capacity to absorb new ideas is strong. But the ideas that endure are those designed to benefit students, and therefore society. This is important to remember because not all innovations are designed with students in mind. The recent history of innovation in higher education includes several cautionary tales of what can happen when institutional interests—or worse, <a href="https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2016/02/09/apollos-new-owners-seek-fresh-start-beleaguered-company" target="_blank">shareholder</a> interests—are placed above student well-being.</p>
Photo: Getty Images<p>Third, it is abundantly apparent that universities must leverage technology to increase educational quality and access. The rapid shift to delivering an education that complies with social distancing guidelines speaks volumes about the adaptability of higher education institutions, but this transition has also posed unique difficulties for colleges and universities that had been slow to adopt digital education. The last decade has shown that online education, implemented effectively, can meet or even surpass the quality of in-person <a href="https://link-springer-com.ezproxy1.lib.asu.edu/article/10.1007/s10639-019-10027-z" target="_blank">instruction</a>.</p><p>Digital instruction, broadly defined, leverages online capabilities and integrates adaptive learning methodologies, predictive analytics, and innovations in instructional design to enable increased student engagement, personalized learning experiences, and improved learning outcomes. The ability of these technologies to transcend geographic barriers and to shrink the marginal cost of educating additional students makes them essential for delivering education at scale.</p><p>As a bonus, and it is no small thing given that they are the core cause for innovation, students embrace and enjoy digital instruction. It is their preference to learn in a format that leverages technology. This should not be a surprise; it is now how we live in all facets of life.</p><p>Still, we have only barely begun to conceive of the impact digital education will have. For example, emerging virtual and augmented reality technologies that facilitate interactive, hands-on learning will transform the way that learners acquire and apply new knowledge. Technology-enabled learning cannot replace the traditional college experience or ensure the survival of any specific college, but it can enhance student learning outcomes at scale. This has always been the case, and it is made more obvious by COVID-19.</p>
What conditions of the new normal were emerging suspicions?<p>Our collective thinking about the role of institutional or university-to-university collaboration and networking has benefitted from a new clarity in light of COVID-19. We now recognize more than ever that colleges and universities must work together to ensure that the American higher education system is resilient and sufficiently robust to meet the needs of students and their families.</p> <p>In recent weeks, various commentators have suggested that higher education will face a wave of institutional <a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/scott-galloway-predicts-colleges-will-close-due-to-pandemic-2020-5" target="_blank">closures</a> and consolidations and that large institutions with significant online instruction capacity will become dominant.</p> <p>While ASU is the largest public university in the United States by enrollment and among the most well-equipped in online education, we strongly oppose "let them fail" mindsets. The strength of American higher education relies on its institutional diversity, and on the ability of colleges and universities to meet the needs of their local communities and educate local students. The needs of learners are highly individualized, demanding a wide range of options to accommodate the aspirations and learning styles of every kind of student. Education will become less relevant and meaningful to students, and less responsive to local needs, if institutions of higher learning are allowed to fail. </p> <p>Preventing this outcome demands that colleges and universities work together to establish greater capacity for remote, distributed education. This will help institutions with fewer resources adapt to our new normal and continue to fulfill their mission of serving students, their families, and their communities. Many had suspected that collaboration and networking were preferable over letting vulnerable colleges fail. COVID-19's new normal seems to be confirming this.</p>
President Barack Obama delivers the commencement address during the Arizona State University graduation ceremony at Sun Devil Stadium May 13, 2009 in Tempe, Arizona. Over 65,000 people attended the graduation.
Photo by Joshua Lott/Getty Images<p>A second condition of the new normal that many had suspected to be true in recent years is the limited role that any one university or type of university can play as an exemplar to universities more broadly. For decades, the evolution of higher education has been shaped by the widespread imitation of a small number of elite universities. Most public research universities could benefit from replicating Berkeley or Michigan. Most small private colleges did well by replicating Williams or Swarthmore. And all universities paid close attention to Harvard, Princeton, MIT, Stanford, and Yale. It is not an exaggeration to say that the logic of replication has guided the evolution of higher education for centuries, both in the US and abroad.</p><p>Only recently have we been able to move beyond replication to new strategies of change, and COVID-19 has confirmed the legitimacy of doing so. For example, cases such as <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/education/2020/03/10/harvard-moves-classes-online-advises-students-stay-home-after-spring-break-response-covid-19/" target="_blank">Harvard's</a> eviction of students over the course of less than one week or <a href="https://www.nhregister.com/news/coronavirus/article/Mayor-New-Haven-asks-for-coronavirus-help-Yale-15162606.php" target="_blank">Yale's apparent reluctance</a> to work with the city of New Haven, highlight that even higher education's legacy gold standards have limits and weaknesses. We are hopeful that the new normal will include a more active and earnest recognition that we need many types of universities. We think the new normal invites us to rethink the very nature of "gold standards" for higher education.</p>
A graduate student protests MIT's rejection of some evacuation exemption requests.
Photo: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images<p>Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we had started to suspect and now understand that America's colleges and universities are among the many institutions of democracy and civil society that are, by their very design, incapable of being sufficiently responsive to the full spectrum of modern challenges and opportunities they face. Far too many higher education outcomes are determined by a student's family income, and in the context of COVID-19 this means that lower-income students, first-generation students and students of color will be disproportionately afflicted. And without new designs, we can expect postsecondary success for these same students to be as elusive in the new normal, as it was in the <a href="http://pellinstitute.org/indicators/reports_2019.shtml" target="_blank">old normal</a>. This is not just because some universities fail to sufficiently recognize and engage the promise of diversity, this is because few universities have been designed from the outset to effectively serve the unique needs of lower-income students, first-generation students and students of color.</p>
Where can the new normal take us?<p>As colleges and universities face the difficult realities of adapting to COVID-19, they also face an opportunity to rethink their operations and designs in order to respond to social needs with greater agility, adopt technology that enables education to be delivered at scale, and collaborate with each other in order to maintain the dynamism and resilience of the American higher education system.</p> <p>COVID-19 raises questions about the relevance, the quality, and the accessibility of higher education—and these are the same challenges higher education has been grappling with for years. </p> <p>ASU has been able to rapidly adapt to the present circumstances because we have spent nearly two decades not just anticipating but <em>driving</em> innovation in higher education. We have adopted a <a href="https://www.asu.edu/about/charter-mission-and-values" target="_blank">charter</a> that formalizes our definition of success in terms of "who we include and how they succeed" rather than "<a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2019/10/17/forget-varsity-blues-madness-lets-talk-about-students-who-cant-afford-college/" target="_blank">who we exclude</a>." We adopted an entrepreneurial <a href="https://president.asu.edu/read/higher-logic" target="_blank">operating model</a> that moves at the speed of technological and social change. We have launched initiatives such as <a href="https://www.instride.com/how-it-works/" target="_blank">InStride</a>, a platform for delivering continuing education to learners already in the workforce. We developed our own robust technological capabilities in ASU <a href="https://edplus.asu.edu/" target="_blank">EdPlus</a>, a hub for research and development in digital learning that, even before the current crisis, allowed us to serve more than 45,000 fully online students. We have also created partnerships with other forward-thinking institutions in order to mutually strengthen our capabilities for educational accessibility and quality; this includes our role in co-founding the <a href="https://theuia.org/" target="_blank">University Innovation Alliance</a>, a consortium of 11 public research universities that share data and resources to serve students at scale. </p> <p>For ASU, and universities like ASU, the "new normal" of a post-COVID world looks surprisingly like the world we already knew was necessary. Our record breaking summer 2020 <a href="https://asunow.asu.edu/20200519-sun-devil-life-summer-enrollment-sets-asu-record" target="_blank">enrollment</a> speaks to this. What COVID demonstrates is that we were already headed in the right direction and necessitates that we continue forward with new intensity and, we hope, with more partners. In fact, rather than "new normal" we might just say, it's "go time." </p>
Sallie Krawcheck and Bob Kulhan will be talking money, jobs, and how the pandemic will disproportionally affect women's finances.
Scientists uncovered the secrets of what drove some of the world's last remaining woolly mammoths to extinction.
Every summer, children on the Alaskan island of St Paul cool down in Lake Hill, a crater lake in an extinct volcano – unaware of the mysteries that lie beneath.
Manly Bands wanted to improve on mens' wedding bands. Mission accomplished.
- Manly Bands was founded in 2016 to provide better options and customer service in men's wedding bands.
- Unique materials include antler, dinosaur bones, meteorite, tungsten, and whiskey barrels.
- The company donates a portion of profits to charity every month.
These new status behaviours are what one expert calls 'inconspicuous consumption'.