VIEW FROM THE DEAN: Peter Tufano
‘As part of a particularly special Oxford community, we have a special responsibility to think about our collective purpose’
The 2015/16 academic year has been a bittersweet one at Saïd Business School, University of Oxford. We have accomplished much, sadly lost a dear friend, and look forward to the coming year.
After years of planning for a fourth stream in our MBA programme, and with the support of the University and colleges, we welcomed the biggest MBA class that we've ever had - 338 wonderful students from 54 different countries. These and our other new students joined a set of new professors who have brought their vim and vigour to our community - you'll read about some of their research later in this inaugural issue of The Oxford Saïd Review. And our great professional staff, led by Catherine Quinn, continue to make Oxford Saïd a wonderful place to work and study.
This year, we've welcomed some great speakers who have shared their wisdom with us: Christiane Amanpour, the CNN newscaster, spoke about politics and society; Reid Hoffman, the co-founder of LinkedIn, spoke about "blitzscaling"?, but also announced a large gift to the School; Sir Martin Sorrell, the founder of WPP Group, enlightened us on changes in the media world; Biz Stone, co-founder of Twitter, gave us insights into his creative genius; Antony Jenkins, in one of his first appearances after stepping down as head of Barclays, discussed the past and future of finance; and Vernon Hill, the impresario behind Metro Bank and previously Commerce Bank, reminded us of the importance of putting customers first. These, and many other speakers, gave us windows into different aspects of the business world.
‘Research has to be at the core of a world-class business school, and it is at Oxford Saïd’
Research has to be at the core of a world-class business school, and it is at Oxford Saïd. The world is an uncertain place - predicting the future is futile. However, our work on scenarios helps leaders structure their thinking about possible futures, so that they can contemplate how to deal with that uncertainty. Our work on the automotive industry shows how an entire industry deals with uncertainty and change in the form of resilience.
How can businesses be more successful? Our work on CEOs shows how leaders deal with change and uncertainty. Smaller firms have some unique challenges. A large fraction of new jobs come from fast-growth enterprises, but in the UK, these enterprises often stall out before scaling. How do we create the conditions so that they can scale, not only in the UK, but around the world?
Start-ups and scale-ups need finance, but so do social initiatives. How do we use financial approaches to try to improve the social status of the world? The work that we’ve done in a new book about social finance addresses these topics.
My own research on financial fragility suggests that we have to look beyond macro measures to whether families are financially healthy. This work has received a great deal of attention over the past year as economies in the US and Europe have found themselves weakened and middle classes hollowed out.
But at the end of the day, what is it all about? Economists routinely look at GDP and employment statistics, all imperfect measures of "utility"?. Recently, academics have turned their attention to directly measuring happiness at the individual and societal level. Some of our new research looks at the correlates of happiness, including income inequality. So from fragility to happiness, we strive to understand how the human condition is affected by the world in which we live.
‘While I am distressed by some of the politics around the world, it strengthens my resolve that we have encouraged a global community here at Oxford Saïd that respects similarities and differences’
I'm excited about the coming year. We're about to welcome students from all over the world, and they will enliven our community. While I am distressed by some of the current politics around the world, it strengthens my resolve that we must be a global community here at Oxford Saïd that respects similarities and differences.
People ask how I will spend my time. I will devote a substantial part of the coming year to raising money so that we can support our students, faculty, alumni and University colleagues. We must increase the scholarships that we offer to students so as to ensure that we are not a school for the privileged few. Similarly, I will be devoting time to raising funds to support our great research.
We claim to be "embedded in a world-class university". This is reflected in many elements: the willingness of colleges to take more students, of scholars in the Smith School or the Humanities to engage with our students, of college Presidents, Wardens and Deans to tutor our Global Opportunities and Threats: Oxford students. But any relationship involves reciprocity, and our way of giving back is to support student entrepreneurs from around the University. We have done this for the last few years in the Oxford Launchpad. In a footprint of less than 100 square metres, the Launchpad is a hub open to the entire University, where we help to support student entrepreneurs of all backgrounds and in all programmes.
We have been extremely successful but are a victim of our own success: the Launchpad is simply too small to serve the demand by students. In May, we announced that we will be expanding into a much larger space: The Oxford Foundry. It will have the same concept as the Launchpad: to create a home for student entrepreneurs across the whole University, but will do that in its own building outside the business school, and will be open to the entire community of Oxford. I will be working with others around the School and the University to open the Foundry in 2016/17.
‘Whether you're 29 or 59, you need to understand where you're headed and how you are part of your family, your community and the broader world’
Over the last two decades, we have given our students the freedom and resources to help turn their great ideas into breakthrough businesses. Some of our alumni are entrepreneurs who are helping to light up Africa; others are finding new ways to analyse and represent data. Still others are doing great work in consulting firms, tech firms and financial service firms. We can celebrate all of their achievements. But regardless of what we do, we have to operate with a sense of purpose. The problems of the world and the problems of business have never been more interconnected, nor so immediate. Whether you're 29 or 59, you need to understand where you're headed and how you are part of your family, your business community and the broader world. How one fits in, in some sense, defines our purpose. As part of a particularly special Oxford community, blessed with fine architecture and history, and even finer people, we have a special responsibility to think about our collective purpose.
This summer, we lost one of our most eloquent and purposeful colleagues, our beloved Pamela Hartigan. Our tribute to Pamela must be to continue to be excellent business women and men, who make the world a better place in small and large ways.