Embracing New York City & the world's emerging markets:
Dean Soumitra Dutta
Envisions Johnson’s Future
Dean Dutta’s vision for Johnson focuses on three key goals: systematically expanding Johnson’s reach and reputation around the globe, beginning with the emerging markets of China, Latin America, and India; expanding Johnson’s presence and programs in New York City; and drawing on Cornell’s strengths to build new, multi-disciplinary programs.
Q:You have stated that growing Johnson’s presence and reputation
globally is a high priority. Can you talk about why that
is so important in today’s world?
Dean Dutta: We have to recognize that we are living in a world which is different from what it was five, ten, fifteen years ago. The world has become multi-polar and an executive today has to work with colleagues, with customers, with suppliers in multiple countries. So it doesn’t matter which country the executive resides in; the necessity to work with different cultures, different nationalities, different organizations is almost a prerequisite for global success today, and in many cases the executive may have to relocate and live in multiple parts of the world as the demands of his or her job require.
So global collaboration, global sensitivity, being aware of the importance of how the economic power is shifting on a global basis — these are extremely important for all business and executives today.
"Global Begins at Home"A business school like Johnson has to prepare executives and MBA students for the future. That’s our mission. So we have to be much more global in our perspectives and global begins at home. We have to make sure that our curriculum, our student-body composition, our faculty composition, our staff composition reflects the global nature of the world we operate in. The more diverse, global perspectives we can offer — whether it’s though in-class discussions, immersions, study trips to other countries, visiting executives from foreign companies, or even presentations by domestic executives who have interacted and succeeded globally — these perspectives on the changing nature of the world will help our students and executives be better prepared for the future.
A global focus is an inherent component in a variety of different performance-learning approaches we use at Johnson. It’s already present in the fabric of our approach. But there’s certainly more that we can do in that area.
“China, Latin America, and India are the key emerging markets in which we seek to increase Johnson’s global impact.”
If you’re looking at which markets will grow the most in the future, emerging markets are the top of the list. If you want your business to succeed and grow you have to be present in those emerging markets.
A global focus also implies that our faculty members are doing research that extends into other global markets. We are encouraging our own faculty members to conduct research projects internationally, either while on sabbatical leave or some other kind of short research stays in foreign partner institutions. We support those research projects through funding from the school, and while faculty members are certainly free to choose any part of the world, any region of interest, for their own research, we are also trying to build special research capability in a few markets of interest. So, we are encouraging faculty members to do research in these markets; we are trying to hire more faculty based on research interests in these markets; and we are building more partnerships and institutional links with universities in these markets.
For example, in India many of our faculty members are working on research projects with colleagues in IIMs [Indian Institutes of Management], and we have colleagues working with leading universities in China on joint research projects. So we’ll try to establish more of these joint research projects and collaborations going forward.
We are also trying to get more executives and executive MBA students from global markets into our programs, and build on our current interactions. For example, when executives that we bring from the China Europe International Business School (CEIBS) in Shanghai come here, we mix them with students in our Cornell Queen’s Executive MBA program; in that way, we can have a very nice blend of learning and approaches among Chinese and North American executives. Both sides learn from each other. It’s a good example of how we can try to create more occasions and more opportunities for global interactions in our programs.
Q:I understand that, together with your management team,
you have decided to focus first on China. Why?
Dean Dutta: We can’t take on the whole world at the same time, so we have chosen to focus on China initially. I really want to create a holistic strategy for approaching China, and then translate and move this approach to other markets in the world.
China is very important in the world today because it is the second biggest economy in the world. In terms of human talent, it is a great source of qualified students and top researchers. It is also a very interesting country in terms of research: new research problems, new research approaches, and new questions that have to be addressed.
So from the point of view of global importance, human capital, and interesting research problems, it is a very important market for everyone in business to consider. And given that our client and customer base includes executives and MBA students who will work in global corporations, they will have to understand and deal with China as part of their jobs and future careers.
Q:Can you expand on how you see the different research
challenges and problems in China?
Dean Dutta: In China, you need to understand the role of stateowned enterprises and the role of the government. Researchers need to understand the special needs of that context and what it means for companies, both foreign and domestic, to grow and compete successfully in such a market. If you look at the issues around innovation, a lot of the innovation needs in China are different: there are masses of people in a very large country at different price points of affordability. How do you innovate for such a large market?
Let’s take the example of healthcare. If you want to provide quality health care to the entire population of China you cannot do so using the models and the methods of the West. It will just simply be prohibitively expensive. So how do you come up with innovative healthcare models that are able to provide affordable, quality healthcare to a large population? You have to fundamentally rethink and innovate.
If you think about sustainability, if you think about raising the quality of life of Chinese citizens, you cannot just apply Western approaches because it will be too heavy a cost for planet Earth to pay. We are forced to innovate and create more sustainable solutions. That’s why China offers a very fertile ground for new research approaches and new research questions.
We’ve asked four of our Chinese colleagues — Johnson Professors Ya Ru Chen, Eric Yeung, and Ming Huang, as well as Chen Jian, a colleague from Cornell’s history department — to come up with a first draft proposal of Johnson’s strategy in China.
Johnson in NYC
Q: You have expressed keen interest in building Johnson’s presence
in New York City, establishing it early on as a key player
in the Cornell NYC Tech campus. Why is this important for
Dean Dutta: The focus of Cornell NYC Tech is technology commercialization, and clearly Johnson is going to be a major part of this effort, in partnership with computer science, engineering, and other departments in the university. This whole initiative is unique. It’s probably the most innovative project in higher education today, bringing together a major global university together in partnership with the city government of a unique metropolitan area and with local industry. The end result everyone expects will be a lot of new ideas brought to market, successful new ventures, and a renewed revitalization of the economy using technology and innovation, which is the lifeblood of the modern economy today.
Participating in this exciting experiment is an important part of Johnson’s future. It is the opportunity to take part in creating a new business innovation ecosystem. Today there are many good business schools inside a university, but no top business school in the context of a technology campus. New York also represents a unique platform for Johnson to expand in many ways — to innovate and create new ways of looking at business education in the special context of technology and entrepreneurship, to form new partnerships with local industry and local business players, and to tap into the unique talent pool in the New York area. The range of opportunities that exists for Johnson in New York is limitless. Our challenge is to selectively identify those that make the most sense for us, seize the opportunity, and execute that.
I’m very hopeful that through the creativity of our faculty and our students, in combination with our partner companies and alumni, we will be able to create unique, new combinations of products, services, and projects, such that we really position Johnson in a very strong manner for the future.
Q: It sounds like you are intent on expanding the school?
Dean Dutta: Certainly the school will grow; that’s a normal part of the process. We have grown a significant amount over the last ten years and over the next ten years we will continue to grow. But that’s also because the range of opportunities ahead for top business schools is growing. Our peer schools are also going to grow; this is how the market is evolving. And New York City gives us a chance to be unique as we grow. So it’s not just a question of growth for the sake of growth; it’s more a question of growing such that we are able to add unique value, create unique knowledge, and have a fundamental, important impact on our key groups: prospective students, executives, and companies. And I do think that the Cornell NYC Tech campus will give us a platform for exploring new avenues. It’s a really exciting project. It’s a game changer for the school.
We can’t even imagine today what all we may want to do in New York five years from now. Just think about technology itself. If you go back ten years and you try to predict what technology looks like today, you would have failed. Even today we cannot predict what technology will look like ten years from now. We can think and make guesses but it’s very difficult, so we have to be open, we have to be willing to experiment, we have to be bold, and we have to fundamentally move forward with the best support ecosystem that we can create, and innovate.
Q: Why did you decide to become dean of Johnson at this
point in time and what attracted you both personally and
professionally to Johnson?
Dean Dutta: I was very happy and well-settled in INSEAD and I’m very grateful for the 23 wonderful years I spent there; it’s a great institution. But when the search firm came and approached me about the Johnson opportunity I had to listen to them seriously because Cornell is a great university and the privilege of leading a top business school like Johnson was something I just could not ignore. And the more I spoke with them, the more I interacted with Johnson faculty colleagues, the more I understood the deep strengths of the institution: the strong community spirit, the high quality of faculty and research, the way Johnson interacts with the rest of the university, and Cornell’s strength all across its different, discipline-based schools.
All these elements were very important in my decision, because I felt that, given these unique assets, we could really create something new inside this space. Certainly, news of the Cornell NYC Tech campus gave me an additional boost of enthusiasm for the project, because that provides a unique platform for doing something new, something innovative, something very much linked to my own research interests in technology and innovation. Putting all these things together, I thought this was a very unique opportunity to lead a great business school at an exciting time in an exciting context, and that’s the main reason why I decided to make this jump. And I’m very happy I did.
Q: You are a member of the World Economic Forum’s Davos
Circle, and you play a lead role in preparing and publishing
the annual Global Innovation Index, a publication you
founded, which ranks 141 countries and economies on the
basis of their innovation capabilities and results, for the
World Intellectual Property Organization. Will you continue
to be as active in these roles?
Dean Dutta: I certainly hope to be active in these and in other global networks. My level of activity will change, given my new responsibilities at Johnson, which are my priority. But I do intend to continue to co-publish the Global Information Technology Report with the World Economic Forum and the Global Innovation Index with the World Intellectual Property Organization. These are important elements of my own professional profile that will also enhance Johnson’s profile in the global context.
Q: How do you like living in Ithaca?
Dean Dutta: Ithaca is a beautiful place, with the lake and the trails and the wineries. Here, my wife Lourdes and I are able to combine the best of two worlds: the best of a rural environment and a very intellectual, modern, high-profile academic environment that is connected to the global world. With today’s technology we can stay in touch easily with our daughter, Sara, who is doing her PhD at the University of Oxford, and with our families in Spain and India. I think it’s a tremendous advantage to be able to have the best of two worlds. Lourdes and I are very happy to be here and be part of the unique Johnson community.