The Harvard Business School, earlier known as the Harvard Graduate School of Business Administration, was created in 1908 to impart management education during America’s managerial revolution. HBS focussed on general management and in 1924 adopted a unique pedagogy called the case method as the primary method of instruction. HBS began using the case method even in its executive education programs for senior managers and the Advanced Management Program (AMP) that it launched in 1945.
The case method involves faculty interacting closely with people in business to write a case study on a business problem usually with a case protagonist who has to make a decision. Program participants have to read the case before hand, individually or in groups, and discuss various facets of the case in the program session. Participants are encouraged to explore different options before arriving at a decision. HBS sold its case studies outside and slowly began to internationalize its distinct style of management education.
The HBS connection with Indian management education started before the creation of IIMA. Andrew Towl, the first director of case development at HBS who helped popularise the case method around the world, had brought the case method to the Administrative Staff College in Hyderabad in the late 1950s. The Dean of HBS from 1942 to 1955, Donald K. David, was a Trustee of the Ford Foundation in the 1950s. Richard Merriam, HBS faculty member, co-wrote a Ford Foundation report in 1957 on the need for management institutes in India. After IIMA was registered in 1961, it began a five-year collaborative venture with HBS in 1962.
HBS sent some faculty members to IIMA to teach in programmes and also trained over twenty Indian faculty members at HBS as part of its International Teachers Programme (ITP). Harvard’s action plan did not envisage the setting up of IIMA and turning it over to the Indians but a more cooperative effort with mutual learning. As a result, in the 1960s there were several Indian innovations in institutional design, admission criteria, student placement methods and management development programmes that occurred outside the Harvard orbit.
The HBS team which interacted with IIMA came from a variety of fields. Prof. Harry Hansen (1911-1992), seen in the above photograph, marketing faculty at HBS, and the Director of HBS’s Division of International Programmes was a key figure in formulating the partnership with IIMA. Prof. George P. Baker, an expert on transportation, was Dean of HBS from 1962 to 1970 overseeing the partnership with IIMA in its first decade. Between 1963 and 1965, Prof. Warren Haynes (1921-1972), faculty of managerial economics served as the Project Director of the HBS team to IIMA and also served on the faculty evaluation committee at IIMA. Other faculty members from abroad who visited IIMA included Melvin Copen, Allen Cohen, Michael Halse, Neil Borden, Phillip Borden, John Dearden, Martin Marhsall, Robert Masson, Denis Thomas, Franklin Folts, John I Reynolds, Henrietta Larson, R J Johnson, Carl Nelson, Arthur Turner and A K Rice. These interactions strengthened the case pedagogy at IIMA and also brought in particular disciplines pioneered at HBS, such as Business History, to IIMA.
The financial support to the HBS faculty in India was facilitated by the Ford Foundation through the Institute for International Education (IIE). The HBS faculty found warmth in Ahmedabad and earned the respect of IIMA students for their teaching styles and the music and movies that they would occasionally share with the students.
The historic relationship between IIMA and HBS in the 1960s is neatly preserved in over ten thousand pages of documentation at the HBS Archives in Boston. Some IIMA alumni went on to pursue doctoral studies at HBS, most famously C. K. Prahalad (IIMA PGP 1966). Some others like Srikant Datar and Ashish Nanda became faculty at HBS, and later directly contributed to IIMA as Board Member and Director respectively. At IIMA, the ‘visible hand’ of Harvard today lies at the entrance of the red-brick academic complex, where the steps are called the Harvard Steps