Stripe co-founder and CEO Patrick Collison on “prizing the small details”

A man speaks into a microphone on a stage while a woman and man listen.
Professors Jennifer Chatman (left) and Sameer Srivastava (center), co-directors of the Berkeley Center for Workplace Culture & Innovation, interview Stripe CEO Patrick Collison.

Patrick Collison and his brother John conceived of financial services company Stripe as something that they thought should already exist. 

On the way back from a UC Berkeley-hosted startup event in 2009, John, who is president of the company, suggested that they turn their idea for an “easy way to move money online” into a reality by creating their first prototype. Now, Stripe is used by millions of businesses across almost 50 countries, from startups to global enterprises like Ford and Amazon, having reached a $1 trillion in total payment volume. 

Co-founder and CEO Patrick Collison shared his journey founding Stripe and the company’s mission to “grow the GDP of the internet” at a recent Dean’s Speaker Series, co-hosted by the Berkeley Center for Workplace Culture and Innovation. Professors Jennifer Chatman and Sameer Srivastava interviewed Collison in a fireside chat format.

Born and raised in rural Ireland, Collison grew up without a consistent internet connection, only reading about it in books. At age 13, he made his first pitch to his parents for satellite internet. It was from here that he discovered programming, planting the first seeds for one of the most successful software-as-a-service companies today. 

But the journey from startup to Fortune and Global 500 wasn’t always smooth. Between difficulty finding growth to feeling like he was misallocating time, Collison reflected that the first few years were a time of trial and error. He noted, however, that if the idea and the market are good, startups can actually be fairly resilient as management learns along the way.

“I think it’s much better to be right than to be consistent. And I think somehow getting yourself into the psychological frame where that’s OK, and you can swiftly recognize, ‘well, I tried this, it’s really not working, let’s do something else,’” Collison said. “As long as you get into that mindset, I think a lot of the actual errors themselves are recoverable.” 

With the success of the company dependent on handling people’s money, Collison likewise stressed the importance of ensuring a meticulous and diligent atmosphere at Stripe. 

“There’s this culture at Stripe of just really prizing the small details. And we talk a lot about craftsmanship and rigor and abstractions that can endure over decades and sort of really getting those right. So I would say precision is pretty deeply embedded,” he said. 

Stripe is also known for its early adoption of a writing-oriented culture. An avid reader and self-described “misanthropic introvert,” Collison said this came about partially as an accident. But he likewise reflected on its benefits, citing written work as valuable for its ability to be reflected and improved upon. 

In 2020, the company launched Stripe Climate, which allows users to direct a portion of their revenue toward scaling carbon removal technologies, leading to the implementation of the second-ever large-scale advanced market commitment (AMC) for carbon removal.

The company’s mission to do good hasn’t stopped there. Believing access to the internet is crucial for global development, Collison stressed the role Stripe has on aglobal scale. Citing his own experience witnessing the rapid expansion of Ireland’s economy, he stressed the “moral importance” of economic growth for parts of the world that have been left behind. . 

“I think the internet is one of the most important technologies ever created with respect to the enablement of global development,” he said. “Stripe’s mission is to grow the GDP of the internet.”


Read the full transcript 

– Good afternoon. It doesn’t seem like it’s on. Is it good? Good afternoon. Welcome to our Dean’s Speaker Series, co-hosted by the Berkeley Center for Workplace Culture and Innovation. My name is Jenny Chapman. I’m the associate dean here at Haas. Dean Harrison is actually traveling on school business, kind of around the world right now. She apologizes that she can’t be here, but we are here, and I’m so absolutely thrilled to introduce our guest today, Patrick Collison. Patrick has been an entrepreneur, I’m guessing since the day you were born. He created iPhone apps with his brother John and his teams, founding Auctomatic while at MIT, and co-founding his biggest venture Stripe, which we’re going to talk a lot about. Stripe was born when Patrick and John looked for a payment platform but couldn’t find all of the features they thought would be important. And Stripe debuted in 2010 and grew exponentially because the product is really simple for businesses to implement. Of course, the back end is anything but simple, but it’s easy on the front end for customers. Through Patrick’s leadership, Stripe has reached, listen to this, $1 trillion in total payment volume. So it’s really becoming a dominant methodology. And today—

– You can’t assume the causality, though, there. You can’t say, like, because of my leadership. It could be despite my leadership.

– I’m sure that that’s correct, but we will talk about the attribution, I’m sure. You will deflect it, and we will heap it on. So today, millions of businesses, from hypergrowth startups to global enterprises like Ford and Amazon, use Stripe to accept payments and payouts, manage complex business online. Patrick, we were back in our green room here, and Patrick was telling us about his biomedical research foundation, the Arc Institute, that he co-founded in 2021. Fascinating, fascinating work. Through the Arc Institute, Patrick and his co-founders are pioneering new model research in partnership with Stanford, UC San Francisco, and UC Berkeley, and hopes to enable passionate biomedical investigations to study and address complex diseases, which gives us all great comfort to know that brilliant minds are researching some of the most difficult health challenges that we face. So Patrick, we’re incredibly grateful to have you here today, to impart your learnings on our student body.

– No, thanks for having me. And it’s a particular honor to be here because the first time I tried to come here, you guys rejected me. So it’s… No, look, I might have rejected me as well.

– So did you land at your safety school, MIT?

– My first ever trip to America was to the Bay Area to… And I visited Stanford and Berkeley, and those are my first, literally, kind of two experiences of the U.S., and I just assumed all of the U.S. is like this. And so then, I, yes, decided to apply to college here, but I couldn’t get further than the East Coast.

– Oh my gosh. Well, that was a miss on our part. I can’t say it would be the first or last one, but… Anyway, let me do two more housekeeping things, and then, we can properly welcome you. The first housekeeping issue is: You notice that you have note cards on your chairs, and a pencil. And it’s not for keeping your golf score. But please, if you have questions, please note them on the card. We have collectors, Sarah and Audrey, who will be collecting them throughout the session and bringing them up here. And at around 1:15, 1:10/1:15, we’re going to start answering questions from the audience. So please, be sure to capture those questions. And second, I want to introduce my colleague, Sameer Srivastava, my partner in crime. We are the co-founders of the Berkeley Center for Workplace Culture and Innovation. And many of you probably have had Sameer for the power and politics class. So Sameer, welcome too. So let’s give now a proper welcome to Patrick if we might. Thank you so much for coming up. So let’s start with a kind of softball question, which is, if you could walk us through your kind of career progression, I think it would be of great interest to our students.

– Oh gosh. Alright, well you already heard an important detail in this, but, so I grew up in very rural Ireland, and our house was kind of far from the phone exchange, so it’s more detailed maybe than the career than you want, but you can push fast-forward at any any point. But just the relevant kind of consequence of that was, we couldn’t really get a proper internet connection. And so, I first learned about the internet by reading books and borrowed from the library, and to think, “Wow, this internet thing sounds great.” And there was no TikTok or anything. And then, actually, the first pitch I ever wrote was to my parents when I was 13, trying to convince them to get this kind of pre-Starlink satellite internet connection from Germany, and very, very graciously, and I don’t know, forbearing exceeded, and we got it, and it was 100 euros a month or something, which was a big deal. So once we got that, then, I discovered programming, and kind of fell down that rabbit hole. And then, when I went to MIT, and maybe you guys have had kind of versions of this experience, but I considered myself pretty good at math and physics and sort of science and things like that when I was in high school. And so, MIT had three different intro kind of freshman physics classes. And I thought, with great ambition and virtue, that like I’d go take the hard one, and I did, and it was hard. And they had this kind of particular midterm, and that, I guess they use this kind of weed out, I don’t know, the something… And I remember the average score on that midterm was like, a 43 or something. And I was feeling, initially, I don’t know, well kind of mixed feelings, but somewhat proud I’d scored like a 70 or something like that. And then, I saw that this… I don’t know if this is good for one’s psychological well-being, and maybe now this policy has been reconsidered in the intervening years, but at the time, they published everyone’s score publicly. And then, I saw that this guy, Yufei Zhao, had gotten like a 97. And that was like a big moment in my life where, to be clear, I’ve never interacted with Yufei Zhao, I don’t think he’s heard of me.

– But you certainly remember his name, don’t you?

– He is large in my life. And I thought, well, “If Yufei Zhao exists and can be so spectacularly better than me at physics, well, maybe I shouldn’t become a physicist. Comparative advantage, Ricardo, the whole thing. So I did some soul-searching, and by the way, I looked him up, and he’s done very well now in math and physics. So, I think we… And he now trains MIT Putnam team, and they’re doing… Anyway, so he found his thing.

– He didn’t found Stripe.

– Well, look, I think he’s not doing… I think Yufei Zhao has self-actualized with tremendous effectiveness.

– You both have.

– But anyways, so… But I done all this programming in high school, and so… And then, right around the time of that midterm, this was fall of 2009. Sorry, fall of 2006, excuse me. Reddit was purchased by Conde Nast for I think $12 million. And I knew the Reddit guys a little bit because YC started out in Cambridge, and they were based there in Cambridge, and they were just like normal people, or so I thought, and the idea that they’d just sold like a website, like anyone can make a website, for $12 million, just there, was a big kind of shift in my perspective. And so, I thought, “Well, not cut out to be a physicist, maybe this startup thing could be interesting.” And I really liked programming. And so, my brother and I, we decided to start a company. It did OK. It was acquired for a reasonably small amount. Went back to school. And something we learned over the course of that first company was… Cloud computing was just starting back then. I think EC2 launched in ’07, maybe ’08. And it was now getting incredibly easy to just launch a website, and you could do that in an afternoon. You didn’t have to call someone up and rent a server. But whenever you wanted to move money, it was kind of jumping back in time a century. You’d go to a bank and fill out paperwork, and the forms were in Latin—or so it felt. And so, it was just this kind of weird dichotomy, where certain aspects of setting up a business were becoming kind of so streamlined. And then other parts were, yeah, were so… There was such a high activation energy barrier and kind of so much inhibition, and we thought something like Stripe must exist, and we were Googling for it. Like, there must be, like… How could there not be an easy way to move money online? Like, it’s not an obscure need. But we eventually concluded there wasn’t. And so, we’re walking back from dinner, not that far from here, a restaurant in San Francisco, and John turned to me… We’d come out here, actually we come out here for a startup event at Berkeley. You guys hosted YC startup school in 2009. And we were feeling very inspired. And so, after dinner, John, we’re walking back, John said to me, “Well, we should just build a prototype of this Stripe thing. You know, it can’t be that hard.” Here we are.

– Wow, that’s great.

– Great, so we wanted to ask you also about the early days of Stripe, ’cause every startup faces challenges and hurdles. So, could you describe for us, like, one big challenge or hurdle that you encountered in the early days of Stripe, and how you overcame it?

– Well, I had breakfast this morning with another startup founder, and we were kind of reminiscing about or discussing the fact that people will sometimes ask us now, I mean, she’s been working on our company for, I don’t know, five or six years now. And people will sometimes ask, like, “Is it still fun?” And we were kind of making fun of this question because the early stages of the company are never fun. And so, is it still fun? Like, which period was fun here? So, look, the early days of Stripe, like, in hindsight, it’s now, like many maybe intense experiences in life, you look back on them with some kind of fondness, but when you’re living them, I mean, you don’t know the outcome. I mean, they’re just stressful. I remember very vividly just how intent, intently, and intensively we worked. And I don’t know if we kind of had to, but we felt like we had to, and we did. Like, we started out down in Palo Alto, and we hired this guy who lived in San Francisco, and he ended up deciding to move from San Francisco to Palo Alto because the last Caltrain left Palo Alto to go north at 11 p.m., and he felt guilty leaving the office early every evening. And that’s, like, again, maybe that was… We were kind of misallocating our time or something, but just as a descriptive matter, that’s how it played out. And then, of course, there are all sorts of undulations and tribulations. Like, I remember our first serious outage very vividly where people are using Stripe to move money, and if Stripe is down, their business is down. So we felt this very intense responsibility, and a rack blew up at a data center, and Stripe therefore was unavailable. And we had a kind of… We didn’t have proper redundancy at the time. And I was paged at 2 a.m., and very unusually I’d left… I mean, Stripe was five people at the time, and very unusually, I’d left my laptop at the office, so I had to get on my bike, pedal to the office, start trying to fix things. It took six hours. Eventually, 8 a.m., 10 a.m., it’s back online. I remember feeling so horrifically dejected because I realized, as Stripe recovered, that we hadn’t received a single complaint. Nobody had even noticed. Stripe was that inconsequential in the world. And then, of course, subsequent to that, we had production issues that were… In fact, there was no shortage of complaints. And you’re taught to be kind of careful what you wish for. But I would say overall that… And by the way, I think this is not… I don’t think Stripe was in any way an unusual experience here. Like, I don’t think it’s in any way unusual where the experience of the first five years were… It was fulfilling, but, yeah, it was just like difficult AF. And I remember Jensen recently saying publicly, Jensen Huang from NVIDIA, that, if he’d known what starting NVIDIA would be like, even knowing the outcome today, the hottest company in the world, whatever, that if he’d known in the beginning what it would actually take, that he wouldn’t have started it. And I think, even when you condition on success, you get sort of a surprising number of responses like that.

– So we’ve been—

– I’m sorry, I’m really encouraging you guys to start a company. It’s great. Such a motivational fireside chat here. But look, actually, OK, if I knew what it would take, I would still start Stripe. There.

– You’ve heard it here first.

– Maybe NVIDIA was just harder or something, and I’m just a wimp, but…

– Yeah. Maybe he was having a bad day. So we’ve been really intentional here at the Haas School at creating a deliberate culture, which our students know well. We have four defining leader principles. One of my favorites is confidence without attitude, which is why I think our students are so open to learning and not overconfident. But I’m wondering about your intentionality in designing the culture at Stripe, and what you did initially, how you’ve scaled the company. I think now you have something like 7,000 employees. What looks different now? How is the culture doing? How are you thinking about it? We would be super interested to know.

– Well, just, you mentioned kind of the culture, the values here. And actually, we did notice pretty early on, and I won’t mention kind of any other schools, but just, we noticed that Berkeley students were more humble. And that was something that… But gee, you can’t let that go to your heads. It’d be self-defeating. So you can’t be proud of that. But yeah, I don’t know if it’s the Irish thing or something, but somehow… I mean, Ireland has kind of a hypertrophic pernicious version, I think, of humility, where we start to get resentful of anything that’s successful. Like U2 or any other tremendous Irish export, we take a very dim view of those things. But anyway, so we, early on… I don’t know. Well, partly because we knew that Stripe, even if it worked, would take a long time, just ’cause it’s an infrastructure business. With Snapchat or TikTok or something, everyone can just kind of decide overnight, we’re going to adopt it, it’s going to become super popular, within two years it’s an overnight success, whatever. If you look at the internet, or if you look at… Take a company like Amazon, kind of companies that are operating more at the sort of infrastructure level. Like Amazon, within its first couple of years, was not growing 100% year over year or something like that. Amazon, within four years, was growing at about 30 points a year. And what’s remarkable about Amazon is just the durability with which they’ve sustained that growth, but the kind of the rate itself is not particularly noteworthy. And similarly, if you take the internet, the internet has grown at a compounded rate of around 30% to 40% year over year. But in no year after the first two, I think, did the internet double year over year. Again, it was just this remarkably sustained growth over the course of, now, more than four decades. And so, anyway, we kind of knew that Stripe would… Again, even if it was going to work, would probably have roughly that kind of character. And so, yeah, we wanted to figure out a sort of a cultural orientation that we thought would kind of befit that, and that that requires recognizing that we’re not here to build cars, we’re here to build roads, and it’s the kind of personality not of someone who wants to build some hyper-successful app, but the kind of person who would like to build a TCP stack. And that’s not everyone, and that’s fine. We need cars for the roads. And so, there’s kind of a diversity of different skills required. And again, it is very hard to separate that which is adapted for Stripe and that which is just kind of personal preference or something. But because Stripe’s domain is really complicated, and where the details really matter. Like, if we make a mistake, just one mistake, there’s a very good chance that that’s, like somebody’s paycheck is wrong or something. It’s even in a single instance… There’s this, I think, a culture at Stripe of just really prizing the small details. And we talk a lot about craftsmanship and rigor and abstractions that can endure over decades and sort of really getting those right. So I would say precision is pretty deeply embedded.

– So could you talk a little bit about your own leadership journey during that process? It’s one thing to be the leader of a small startup, another to be running an organization of the size and scale that Stripe is now. And thinking, in particular, about this idea of rigor or precision, how do you really try to embody that and reinforce it through your own leadership?

– Well, the good news about startups is, as far as I can tell, if the initial idea is good, and if kind of the market’s good, like, kind of those core characteristics, and if you’re willing to recognize your mistakes, the startups… So startups I think are actually quite resilient, and they can endure a lot of managerial malfeasance as you learn along the way. And I definitely didn’t come to Stripe with any kind of enlightened leadership expertise or sort of genetic muscle memory or something. Like, Stripe didn’t have any managers until we were 70 or 80 people. And that’s not a best practice. If we were doing it all again, I would definitely kind of invert colors on that one. And also, there’s lots of other things that I think in hindsight were ill-advised and mildly unhelpful but empirically survivable. And so, I think at a meta level, the question is, yeah, much more sort of the rate of adaptation, the rate of learning. And John and I, we’re… Stripe conducted layoffs in 2022, where… During the pandemic. I just said a moment ago that the internet, Amazon, whatever, didn’t grow that quickly. During the pandemic, it was such a crazy time that even though, again, Stripe broadly has that character, we roughly doubled in 2020 and 2021. And so, kind of our forecast, how big we would be and what we would need to sustain the service and everything got pretty out of whack. And so, in 2022, we were trying to kind of rectify this, obviously acknowledging a misprediction on our part and significant mistake. And John and I had this conversation, where we decided, imagine that we’re sort of marauding private equity raiders who’ve just purchased Stripe, and we’re horrified at the decisions the prior management has made. And the want and errors and mistakes and sort of grievous instances of mismanagement that have been committed. And somehow, I think it’s much better to be right than to be consistent. And I think somehow getting yourself into the psychological frame where that’s OK, and you can swiftly recognize, well, I tried this, it’s really not working, let’s do something else. I think, as long as you get into that mindset, I think a lot of the actual errors themselves are recoverable.

– Yeah. Better to be right. We agree with that. So…

– But it sounds like a… It’s easy to say. I think a lot of people, and to be clear, even myself, like, I think we all feel surprisingly strong kind of psychological pull to kind of intertemporal internal consistency.

– Well, there are huge biases. Actually, one of the deep experts in what’s called the escalation of commitment cycle, Barry Staw, was a professor here for many years, and it’s a very, very treacherous bias. That consistency, people really worry about having an external image of consistency, and even maintaining consistency internally, because in some ways consistency describes the essence of who you are.

– Yeah, and look, I mean, presumably there is some set of things about which one ought to be consistent, right? And so, it’s maybe wrong to toss consistency overboard wholesale.

– Right.

– But tying your self-conception and identity to specific management practices seems like maybe over-constraining the action space.

– Yeah. Well, I mean, the countervailing force is an experimental mindset, right? Where you’re actually discarding ideas that aren’t working because they’re not working.

– Yeah. And again, maybe the fact that we kind of came from the middle of nowhere in Ireland, like, it was… One thing that is, I think, helpful, a lot of different cultures around the world have kind of some self-conception of grandeur, right? The French people, English people, say Americans, one could occasionally accuse them of that.

– What?

– One thing that’s great about Ireland is, we never have delusions of grandeur. And Ireland never thought of itself as, like, the best country in the world by objective criteria. And very fond of it, to be clear. And so, anyway, it wasn’t that hard for us to think, “Well, we know nothing about this domain, and we should assume that 70% of the things we try will turn out, ex post factor, would be mistakes.”

– Yeah. Yeah, yeah. Well, an interesting issue. So switching topics a little bit, there’s a lot of discussion about… Well, we used to think about hiring people for culture fit. In fact, my dissertation was on culture fit and understanding all about culture fit. And in addition to finding people who can do the job, you want to find people who resonate with the culture that you’ve created. But people are now talking about culture add, and ensuring that you’re not just fueling a kind of homogeneous mindset in an organization. And so, I’m just interested to find out where Stripe is on this balance.

– Well, I think this question’s really interesting at the meta level, where, “How do we have more variegated and kind of heterogeneous cultures across an industry and across a society around the world so that people can find the place where, yeah, that that place is me, right?” And actually, one of the things that I really like about the internet… Like, Stripe’s mission is to increase the GDP of the internet. There’s sort of a fundamental question of like, “Why should you be excited about that?” Like, kind of, who cares? And I think part of it is, that enables increased access to goods generally, where, for most people in most parts of the world, it’s pretty difficult for them to benefit from the set of goods and services that, say, we here in the Bay Area might be able to purchase. And again, growing up in Ireland, there were so many magazines or newspapers or whatever we would get, and there’d be little fine print, “Offer not applicable in the Republic of Ireland,” where it was printed for the U.K., but they hadn’t figured out the shipping mechanics for Ireland or something. So something I think about the, just about this, kind of this global extension, global access. But maybe a second order aspect of the internet that personally appeals a great deal to me is, I think we want a… I think a richer society, not in the kind of pecuniary financial sense, but in kind of a… In the second sense of the word, is one where there’s a greater array and more complexity of goods and services, and that variety is in more abundance. And if you can aggregate more demand via the internet, well, then it can make sense to serve some very narrow niches, right? And part of what I love about Stripe is, I’ll stumble upon so many businesses where I think, wow, like, I would never have thought that that could even be a business, right? You know, people, a marketplace for sort of user designed and user-created action figures, right? Or CRM for Boy Scout troops. And these things would never make sense if you just had a village or you just had a town. It only makes sense where you can aggregate sort of the entirety of the internet’s demand. So anyway, I think that this also, with respect to cultures and if one can only work in one of 10 businesses, well, they’ll probably all… Like, by necessity, they’ll probably all have something approximating the same kind of culture just by virtue… Like, there can’t be that much self-selection going on if there’s only 10 places. And I love finding organizations with just very unusual and places where the central limit theorem doesn’t apply. And I visited the folks at Jane Street not that long ago, and I really think Jane Street would not be for most people. I mean, it probably wouldn’t be for me, but like, for the people at Jane Street, it seems awesome, and they stay there so long. Right? And my wife’s a scientist, and as you get a sense for the cultures of different departments at a university, or even across universities, you realize, well, some of these have very unusual cultures. And again, probably not even for most scientists in that area, but right for a little group of people who can affiliate. So anyway, just to your kind of point about culture add, I think figuring out mechanisms by which we can enable more of that structural diversity kind of across the board. I think that’s really helpful.

– So turning to unique cultures, I want to come back to Stripe. And one of the cultural tenets that you have talked about as being, “Continually paranoid at the prospect that we might be forgetting something important.” So I’m wondering if you could give us an example of that tenant in practice, but also, how do you keep it from going too far, from being too paranoid?

– Can you be too paranoid? What do you think? Well, if one can be too paranoid, then we might have to reconsider some things. So… The thing that makes me so paranoid, and maybe this is kind of more idiosyncratic to Stripe, is again, just the… Like, we handle around $1 trillion a year, that works out to around 1% of global GDP. And again, there’s just kind of basic point that, if Stripe is unavailable, that’s a lot of people and a lot of businesses and a lot of activity that isn’t happening. And during the pandemic, DoorDash, Instacart, Zoom, and Amazon, and so many of what kind of felt like load-bearing pillars of society, they were handling their transactions with Stripe. And so, we feel this extremely… I don’t know, solemn kind of custodial responsibility to be able to provide uninterrupted service to them, the way that they ought to expect. And so, it’s less a competitive paranoia, and more paranoia that we’ll screw something up with respect to our obligations to them. And again, I don’t know if you could take that too seriously, but for us, it’s very weighty.

– So I have a question. I used to teach a case about John Reed, who decades ago was the CEO of Citigroup, and he was one of the first to use a kind of metaphor of the back office being like a factory. You use a metaphor of front office, back office, in finance being more like a bicycle, which I find appealing. I’m a cyclist. So what does that actually mean, and how does that influence how you make decisions and how roles are thought about within Stripe?

– Well, I’ve forgotten I said that, so thank you for… It’s a good metaphor. But… The thing we spend a lot of time thinking about is necessarily in organizations you… Or maybe necessarily is a strong word, but the bureaucracies haven’t worked that well. So it appears necessary with current organizational practices to have some kind of a hierarchy. And I don’t have a better idea. So let’s just kind of take that as a premise. That necessarily involves some logarithmic game of Chinese whispers and information loss sort of through transmission. And so, the picture that the people making the most important decisions may have, might be meaningfully divergent from that which is actually true. And so, the thing I’m always wondering about is, just, “How do I know what’s actually true?” And not just how do I know, but how do leaders generally across Stripe know what’s actually true? And so, we built our own internal project management software. And it’s less because we want to be able to kind of customize the animations. It’s more that we want, like… Because it is so important that we know what reality is saying that, we want to be able to kind of figure out the optimal way of surfacing that context. And I mean, it’s true to some extent in every organization, but I think it’s especially true in knowledge work and in the creation of… Like, software is an interesting thing, where there’s mining, where maybe there’s just some kind of linear elasticity between the number of people extracting the rock from the ground and how much rock is produced in the economic value, whatever. It’s very kind of tailor-en. And then, you have movie making or novel writing, where, if you’re a publishing house, you can’t just kind of measure your likely prospective success on the basis of just number of writers, right? Like, it’s so sensitive to the specific efficacy of every individual person. I think creating software is sort of, in an interesting way, halfway between mining and novel writing, where look, there is just… There is some scaling in the amount of work and one person could not build all of Facebook, or choose your service, but it’s definitely not linear. And for us at Stripe, even though decisions have to get made, the work is not being done by the decision-makers. The software engineers and the designers and everybody involved in… The partnerships people, whatever. In the creation of the product, they’re our authors. They’re the people actually creating Stripe, and everyone else is in some sense playing a supporting role. And so, I think it’s important to have that kind of inverted mental model in mind. And it’s not sort of a feel good thing, it’s just, it’s a deep truth. Like, I don’t know how many support staff work behind J.K. Rowling to enable the books to get published. But J.K. Rowling is the one doing the writing.

– Yeah, right.

– So I’m going to turn to another facet of the culture at Stripe, which has to do—

– Can we talk about J.K. Rowling, or is she canceled? Alright, OK.

– Not yet.

– We’ll let it slide this time. So—

– We’re at a business school.

– Yes, exactly. So the other facet of the Stripe culture I want to talk about is the writing dimension. And, of course, it’s becoming more pervasive now, but my sense is you were one of the early adopters of a writing culture. So tell us a little bit about where that comes from, and then, how you reinforce it.

– It’s kind of funny. I know what you mean. It’s kind of funny to consider oneself an early adopter of writing culture for true to form tablets. What do I say? Well, partly I think it comes from… We were just kind of misanthropic introverts in the beginning and we, even when there’s only four or five of us working on Stripe, we would just communicate a lot in written form because it’s kind of less oppressive than having to talk to each other. So part of it was just that kind of predisposition of early people. And to be fair, if I must include myself. Like, John, my co-founder is much more extroverted and charming, and usually, he’s kind of… It’s rare that I’m wheeled out for public engagements.

– He’s the front man.

– You can see why. So if John didn’t exist, it’s unclear whether Stripe would have any customers. But I do like writing, and I like reading. I think it’s like a… I found very… Bruno Latour has this piece about… And he overcomplicates it because you have to for that kind of work. But he has this piece about kind of immutable, I guess, mobiles since he’s French. And he kind of makes this point that the printing press is maybe correctly associated with the advent of the scientific revolution. But maybe the sort of simplistic sense, in which we might perceive the causality there as, “OK, we have the printing press, we can distribute more stuff, and now just people have more information, whatever.” They come to more insight. He makes the point that before the printing press, manuscripts were necessarily copied by hand. And in the act of copying by hand, obviously there’s the prospect of the introduction of error. And so that means, when you kind of encounter or confront some observation where there’s a disparity between that claimed by the work or by the theory or whatever, and what is it you see, you can’t really tell. Is it because the theory is wrong, or is it because there was some boring mistake made along the way, right? And it’s kind of when knowledge became more rigid that it became easier to break in a way that is conducive to the rejection of false theories and inadequate explanations. I found that very thought-provoking. And I think there is something to that. And obviously, this also gets the difference between oral cultures and literary cultures, where, I guess back to this idea of assuming that 70% of what we believe is wrong, if we don’t write it down, it’s going to be harder to remember what specifically we thought and what specifically we believed because our minds will play subtle tricks on us. And so, I think part of the value in writing things down is, our past selves look stupider. And that’s actually very adaptive because we’re like, “Oh wait, we had these beliefs, and just, clearly these two are not true.” And I think, yeah, that robustness through time makes it easier to find our flaws.

– I was going to say, as a sociologist at a business school, I’ve talked to lots of CEOs. This is the first time someone has brought up Bruno Latour in a response to a question. So very impressive.

– Yeah. I’m going to skip around here ’cause we want to get to the audience questions. So actually, Sameer and I have a podcast because, like, who doesn’t? And our second episode just dropped today, and it’s about… CEOs have been, lots of managers have been asking us about work schedules and remote work and hybrid work and what’s working. So since we don’t know the answer, we’re going to ask you. So I understand that Stripe’s remote workforce increased from about 20% pre-Covid to almost 40% now. Is that about right? Yeah. So I mean, how has this influenced the company? What differences do you notice? Is it what you’re expecting for the long term?

– Well, I think the right answer is probably quite scale dependent and like, with Stripe now being 7,000 or 8,000 people, we can’t all fit in the same room regardless, no matter how draconian our in-office policy, right? And furthermore, we serve businesses and employ people all around the world. And so, we’re necessarily somewhat remote in that sense. Like, there is no universe in which we’re not having lots of Zoom meetings, just because of the globally distributed nature. And then, so the question is more something around the exact nature of the interactions we want people to have in the course of their day, but not, again, whether they’re conducting a lot of work that is distant from their colleagues. And so, I think for a large organization for whom that’s the case, there are considerable benefits to in-person work, just for boring reasons… I mean, everyone, this becomes such a religious debate, but I think there’s… A bunch of the kind of precepts are, I think, fairly uncontroversial. Like, there are some people who are really effective and really enjoy working in their cave. I think I would probably be one of those people, and sadly, I’m not in a role where that makes sense. But some people are, and that’s great. Other people, they get really bored, and they go, they get cabin fever, and they really want to be around other people. And just like, those people exist as well. And society probably has some mechanism for the provision of employment for both categories. It’s probably a significant efficiency gain to have more options for the kind of, the cave dwellers, the people who just want to sort of sit in the room and do the work by themselves. Again, like me. And then I think there… You have to think about it kind of longitudinally, where there’s a question of skill and culture and knowledge transmission. And so, I think some of the analyses that look at kind of short-term efficacy, they… I mean, that’s interesting, but I think you have to take… Ideally, you have to take a kind of a full life cycle view. And I think that sort of the cohorted change over a workforce. And Berkeley has a pretty strong culture, as I understand it. And they’re like, if Berkeley went remote, maybe Berkeley would be fine like next week or next month. But the idea of like four, 20 generations of Berkeley students being remote, I have to think that culture would at least be different, right? So yeah, I think all those considerations apply, but maybe relevantly for this room, I don’t know, I do notice that the 10-person, the 20-person, the 50-person companies, for whom being in room together is an option, the ones that exercise that option really seem to do better. And I think we all even intuitively kind of know it, where… I often ask parents, like, if your kid was considering two different jobs, one is kind of fully in person, resolutely five days a week, and one is kind of loosey goosey or fully remote or something, which, with your kid’s best interest in mind, which would you advise them to take? And no parent that I’ve asked has ever hesitated in answering that question.

– That’s right. OK, so, yeah.

– So I have the honor of doing the audience questions as well as my own. So—

– Austin, you want to introduce yourself?

– Sure, yeah. So I’m Austin Schoff, I’m a second-year MBA, I’m also a member of the Dean’s Speaker Series board. I think the first question we want to start with is the future of money movement. What do you think will happen? Will it be more real-time payments? Will it be more crypto type transactions? Will it still be T+2, and we’ll be stuck using Swift for eternity? What do you think is the future of money transactions and money movement?

– I think the short answer to your question, like, to each specific sub-question you asked, I think the answer to each one is yes, except maybe the T+2. But so, first off, the U.S. is actually one of the places in which payments are changing the slowest, where across most other… Not most. Many other major markets around the world, there’s been enormous changes over the last 10 years or so. So obviously, UPI in India. Everyone knows WePay and Alipay in China. But those are kind of famous ones. But like, Pix was launched in Brazil in 2020, and within two years, the majority of the Brazilian adult population was a weekly active user on Pix. It’s kind of UPI for Brazil. There’s Swish and TWINT in Sweden and Switzerland, respectively. And a whole host of schemes like this across in… Malaysia has its own. Japan is now finally starting to change pretty rapidly. So it’s happening, is the short answer. The Ron Paul GIF. And then, crypto, I think that… I mean, there’s kind of a fundamental question for crypto, like, these different lenses of analysis of store of value or some kind of risk hedge or kind of are talking like a means of exchange. But as a means of exchange, I think you should probably further disaggregate between stable coins and like, crypto crypto. I think the stable coin thing is happening, and the absolute numbers are sold reasonably small, but not that small. I think the outstanding tether volume is now, like, in the order of a $100 billion or so, like, it’s not nothing. And then, given the existence of stable coins, it’s not totally clear to me why you would ever use Bitcoin or some other kind of less convenient currency for a medium exchange. And Swift will still be a useful technology for interbank settlement, as it was initially designed. Or forfeiture was initially designed. And T+2, it’ll probably shrink, but you do have to… I mean it’s interesting to look at with FedNow in the U.S., this kind of new real-time payment scheme in the U.S. that has only kind of partially rolled out support, but we’re already starting to see that having instantaneous transactions… What about scams? What about fraud? What kind of oversight is possible? So it’s not a totally free lunch. And Bitcoin, of course, acolytes not unjustly, because for certain use cases this is important, but they often celebrate the fact that transactions are instant and irreversible. We also see some of the downsides of that with respect to other activities. But it’s all happening.

– Next question I want to hit on, how do you deliver constructive feedback while maintaining trust, especially given that a mistake in your organization could be the loss of a couple billion dollars depending on scale?

– I think people really want to… I think they really want to know what is… What is their interlocutor’s authentic view of them? And I think loss of trust doesn’t come from constructive feedback but comes from a divergence between what’s true and what you’re saying is true. And so, I would almost kind of invert it where it’s like, well, if you’ve constructive feedback and you’re not telling them, I think you’re really undermining trust. And, look, this is… I don’t know if it’s possible to teach giving good feedback. I haven’t heard of it being taught well anywhere. Maybe it is, I’m not saying it’s not. But I think it would be a very valuable skill to teach if, in fact, it can be taught well, and some of the people at Stripe… There’s, in fact, I think, even a causal relationship, a causal positive relationship, where the people at Stripe with whom I feel the greatest trust are, to a significant extent, those who give me the most critical feedback. And maybe just even kind of knowing… Like, maybe that fact should just be like on a billboard. Not about me, but just that these things, in fact, can go together.

– Could you talk a little bit about Stripe Climate and how we should think about your commitment to carbon removal as part of Stripe’s long-term goals?

– Yeah, so… If you look at the IPCC forecasts of what’s going to happen to the Earth’s climate over the course of the 21st century, basically, we’re going to significantly overshoot any reasonable target. Two, two and a half degrees, whatever. Unless we remove a significant amount of CO2 from the atmosphere, because the problem where, even if we fully decarbonize the economy, all the CO2 molecules, they don’t know about that. Like, they’re still there. And so, there’s this kind of overshoot and overhang, and we were looking at these IPCC reports a few years ago, and all companies are sort of announcing their sort of fancy climate whatever. And many of those are good and come from a good place, but not all of them are, and a lot of companies are pursuing kind of carbon offsets that we think are… Like, are just fundamentally kind of, almost necessarily fraudulent. Like, I think they’re fraudulent, they almost couldn’t not be, even if you were trying, where you’re kind of paying for counterfactuals and you’re like, “OK, well, I will not cut down this forest, please pay me.” But it’s like, were, are you going to cut down that forest? Like, how could anyone even know that, right? So anyway, we’re reflecting on those IPCC reports, and then kind of thinking about corporate programs in the context of climate generally. And I mean, because of this kind of precision rigor thing, we hate doing something that’s… Inauthentic is not quite the right word, but, if we say something, we want it to be literally true. And doing something kind of just for show really kind of rubs us the wrong way. So anyway, we noticed that no company in the world as of 2018 had ever purchased commercial carbon removal. So removal is totally different to offsets. Removal is like, I will give someone some money, and they’re going to have to bring back some actual CO2 molecules. But there’s this kind of, this proof of work involved, and more importantly, the molecules are no longer in the atmosphere. So no company had bought from any of these companies today. There were, or back then, there were, I think, only two companies even in operation. We thought, “Well, this will have to become a sector.” Again, the IPCC reports show you that. Like, they say we’re only not screwed if we remove a lot of CO2. And so, we thought maybe it’ll be helpful if we kind of… I mean it’s not like Stripe is Microsoft or IBM or something. Like, we’re not the most blue chip, legitimate, or legitimizing buyer you could have, but we’re something at least, and so, maybe it’d be helpful to these companies if we started to purchase from them. So we started to buy from them in 2018. Our first transaction was for $1 million of CO2. And kind of based on that, and learning more about the sector, we were very fortunate to have some really terrific people join. And they cooked up this really incredible AMC, the second-ever large-scale AMC. So AMC stands for advanced [market] commitment. And the idea is, you pre-commit to purchase something, something that doesn’t currently exist, as this was first pioneered for vaccines where there are all sorts of conditions we want to vaccinate people for, but like, the vaccines literally don’t exist. Of course, the vaccine manufacturer, the scientists or whatever, there’s market risk for them where it’s like, well, if I invent it, will anyone buy it? And so, this is a way to try to kind of bridge that gap. Worked quite successfully there. Gavi was the program. And so, we decided, “Hey, let’s do the same thing for carbon removal, where we want more of these companies to exist. We’ll pre-commit upfront to purchase $1 billion of carbon removal, at any price, from whoever will come along and sell it to us.” And so, we assembled a coalition that includes Meta, Alphabet, McKinsey, JPMorgan, a host of other companies, but Stripe committed the largest amount to it. And gosh, we’ve now, I think, purchased from on the order of 40 companies or so. And the stat that I’m proudest of is that, in most cases, we are the company’s first-ever customer. And so, we’re not like coming along to somebody who, we’re their thousandth customer, it’s already validated. Kind of, we’re through frontier, this organization kind of sticking our reputation on, “Hey, we think this technology is legitimate, we think it has promise, we’re going to contract with you today, and hopefully you can now use that contract to sell to others, and so forth.” So anyway, it’s early days. Most of the CO2 is still in the atmosphere, so it would be premature to declare any kind of victory. But some of the companies are now actually removing it, and yeah, we’ll see how it goes.

– How do you think technologies like Stripe can help businesses in developing markets, maybe even in places where internet connectivity is not as strong as it could be? What do you think the future is for the developing world?

– I think the… Well, I think the internet access problem is pretty quickly being solved, in that… Like, over Thanksgiving, I went to Brazil, and I was on a little boat on the Amazon, and I had perfect 3G reception. Across most… Like, India thanks to Reliance Jio, data is becoming super cheap in the most populous country in the world. And there’s kind of versions of this story playing out in so many places. So I don’t worry too much about the provision of internet problem. I think the… Look, I think the internet is… Is one of the most important technologies ever created with respect to the enablement of global development. And so, I was born in Ireland in 1988, and when my parents who were born in Ireland, Ireland was a kind of, was a deeply impoverished theocracy, and the Catholic Church kind of ruled with an iron fist, and we were a very kind of mercantilist socialist, closed little enclave. And there was a great deal of interest in sort of, how could Ireland be the… How could things in Ireland be working so badly? We’re right there next to England, why is Ireland so bad? And it turns out that it was bad policy. And some enlightened people like T.K. Whitaker and others, they proposed that, “hey, if we reformed and reconfigured ourselves in a kind of more free market direction, that good things could follow. And there was some propitious timing, where the EU came along, and we joined it, and American multinationals set up operations in Ireland. We benefited from that and so forth. But hey, point is, between when I was born in ’88 and when I left for college in 2006, Ireland had, I think, the fastest economic growth of any country in the world. And you can’t grow up around that and kind of fail to internalize the, like, the moral importance of economic growth. And it’s kind of avant garde, here in the U.S., the Bay Area, rich places, just sort of degrowth and the ills of capitalism, whatever. And for places that are already extraordinarily prosperous, I understand how it might be difficult to perceive the underlying imperative there. But having kind of seen some of the kind of… The longitudinal difference, it’s… And I’m sure many of you have kind of versions of this from your lives. The criticality is very apparent. And so, anyway, Stripe’s mission is to grow the GDP of the internet. And we think about this a lot with respect to those emerging markets where… There’s only one technology that we’ve ever found to enable impoverished places to become, or at least to get on the trajectory to kind of full developed world status. And that is a free market economy connected and integrated with the rest of the world. And Stripe’s obviously not going to solve that, but if we can play a very small role in enabling those transitions, we’ll feel good about that.

– Amazing.

– Fantastic. Are you done?

– We have one final question.

– OK, one final.

– Are there any founders that you strive to emulate? And then, conversely, are there any founders who give you the ick?

– We won’t tell.

– It’s not recorded or anything.

– Exactly, not being livestreamed. So… Look, it’s hard to single out individual founders. I think that, I mean, which, look, it’s kind of a bland answer, but also true. I mean, I’m kind of partial to… I mean, we culturally know a lot about the present day founders, right? I think it’s kind of interesting that the founders of kind of generations past, and like, not that many generations past, are so much less culturally conspicuous. And so, sorry, this is now going to become an infomercial, but there’s a book Stripe Press published called “The Big Score” about the semiconductor industry, primarily in Silicon Valley, in the ’70s and the ’80s. And those characters and firms like National Semiconductor, and so on, they’re kind of forgotten today. But they were incredibly impressive. Or Cypress, these sorts of businesses. And so, I found it fun to learn from them and to see kind of what’s similar, what’s different. And then, I don’t know, I really enjoy kind of founder-like personalities from non-startup domains, and just kind of, again, both the sort of the compare and the contrast. And so, a guy who really inspired me growing up was Ed Walsh, who started the University of Limerick when he was 31. And nobody… Limerick is a very small city in Ireland, and nobody at the time really thought that Limerick even deserved a university. And he couldn’t persuade anyone to kind of let Limerick have a university from Day One. And so, it was a national institute of higher education. My dad was actually in the first year of students there. But then, eventually acquired kind of full university status. But like, I don’t know, he was a 31-year-old, who before that was living in the U.S. and decided like, screw it, I think Limerick should have a university. And over the course of several decades, really realized that vision in an extraordinarily impressive way. So, I don’t, I like finding those personalities from the nontechnology domain.

– Yeah. Well, thank you Austin. Those were terrific questions. Patrick, a whirlwind of insight and things… Yeah. Citations—

– That was so disorganized that I’m having trouble even summarizing it.

– No, no, no. Well, you began with Ireland, and you ended with Ireland. I think it’s completely appropriate. We are so grateful for coming to share your thinking. We hope you will come again sometime soon. But let’s offer Patrick our deepest thanks for coming out.

– Thank you very much.

– Fantastic. And thank you all for coming. We really appreciate you attending. We hope you got a good lunch and lots of mushrooms, I think. We’ll see you again soon. Thanks everybody.

– Thank you. Of course, that was fun.

– Yeah, that was amazing. That was so fun.

Berkeley Haas experts launch ‘The Culture Kit’ podcast with insights to improve workplace culture

A man and woman sit at a table wearing headphones and speaking into podcasting microphones.
Photo: Jim Block/Berkeley Haas

Berkeley, Calif.—The world of work is a work in progress. Hybrid work arrangements, emerging AI tools, ongoing layoffs, and an increasingly diverse pool of workers who want a voice and a sense of belonging at work—managers have a lot on their plates.

Illustration shows a toolkit with monkey wrench, tape measure, level, and clue. Text reads The Culture Kit with Jenny & Sameer.In their new podcast “The Culture Kit with Jenny & Sameer,” organizational culture experts Jenny Chatman and Sameer Srivastava tackle questions from business leaders wrestling with the seismic changes underway in the world of work. 

Chatman and Srivastava are professors at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business who have dedicated their careers to studying and advancing workplace culture. In each 15-minute podcast episode, they draw on the latest academic research and their years of experience advising organizations around the world and share concrete strategies to improve workplace culture.

“What I’m most excited about with this podcast is that it brings together the worlds of academic research and industry practice,” says Srivastava, the Ewald T. Grether Professor of Business Administration and Public Policy. “Here, we get to take a deeper dive into a specific problem raised by a specific leader and really workshop it together.”

“Here, we get to take a deeper dive into a specific problem raised by a specific leader and really workshop it together.”

The podcast is an extension of the work that Chatman and Srivastava started six years ago when they launched the Berkeley Center for Workplace Culture and Innovation to bring emerging insights from academic research to business practitioners. 

“With our new podcast, we hope to expand the reach of the work we’ve been doing through a new medium with the goal of reaching more people,” says Chatman, Paul J. Cortese Distinguished Professor of Management and Berkeley Haas associate dean for academic affairs. “Business leaders can submit culture ‘fixit tickets’ laying out the topics on their minds. Our goal is to give them actionable steps they can take to improve their organization’s culture.”

Season 1 of The Culture Kit with Jenny & Sameer launched today and includes thoughtful questions from industry leaders such as WD-40 CEO Steve Brass, Hubspot CEO Yamini Rangan, and former Google SVP of People Operations Laszlo Bock. New episodes will be released every two weeks on major podcast networks.

The Culture Kit with Jenny & Sameer is a production of the Haas School of Business, the Berkeley Center for Workplace Culture & Innovation and Professors.FM, a new podcast network helping you make sense of the world with top scholars. Professors.FM is a collection of scholar-hosted shows that bring insights from research and make them relevant to today’s world.

About the Haas School of Business

As the second-oldest business school in the United States, the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley has been questioning the status quo since its founding in 1898. The school is one of the world’s leading producers of new ideas and knowledge in all areas of business. Located within the world’s top public university, Berkeley Haas is at the heart of what’s next in the Bay Area’s rich innovation ecosystem. Learn more about our six degree programs, our exceptional faculty members—including two Nobel Laureates in economics—and our community of big thinkers:

About the Berkeley Center for Workplace Culture and Innovation  

The Berkeley Center for Workplace Culture and Innovation aims to usher in the next generation of organizational culture research, one that draws on a wide range of data sources and computational methods to uncover different facets of culture within and across organizations and industries. The center partners with organizations and academics from a wide diversity of disciplines and industries to lead these efforts, with the ultimate goal of leveraging research insights to help organizations function more effectively and advance academic understanding. The Culture Connect Conference, held in January each year, convenes leading academic researchers studying organizational culture and company leaders to deepen the dialogue about how to address culture-related challenges. Lean more about the Berkeley Center for Workplace Culture and Innovation


Laura Counts, [email protected], 510-643-9977

Gen AI, hybrid work, and DEIB are hot topics at 6th annual Culture Connect Conference

All of the speakers from day two of the conference pose for a photo on stage.
Photo: Jordan Joseffer

More than 250 business leaders and academic researchers gathered at Berkeley Haas from Jan. 9-10 for the sold-out Culture Connect Conference, sharing challenges and insights on creating high-performing, inclusive cultures in the age of generative AI and hybrid work.

The sixth annual conference, organized by the Berkeley Haas Center for Workplace Culture and Innovation (BCC), featured talks by top leaders from IBM, Lyft, Pixar, LinkedIn, Hubspot, and other leading companies, along with hands-on workshops and discussions. It was led by the center’s Co-Founding Directors Jennifer Chatman and Sameer Srivastava, and organized by Program Director Audrey Jones.

Chatman, the Paul J. Cortese Distinguished Professor of Management at Haas, said she was struck by the stories leaders shared of trying, failing, and trying again as they have experimented in real time with AI and hybrid work. 

“My biggest takeaway is that an experimental mindset is critical as organizations approach these very significant changes that everyone is facing today,” Chatman said. “Organizations are going through seismic shifts in how they are thinking about and conducting work. The conference was fascinating because leaders shared their stories—the good and the bad—as they navigate these changes.”

People sit at tables listening to a presentations in a large event room with big windows.
Photo: David Ho

This was the first year the conference was open to the broader public beyond invited presenters and BCC partners. Attendees included about 100 academics and 150 industry leaders from a diverse range of industries, including health care, biopharmaceuticals, media, tech, financial services, film, government, and nonprofits. Seventy companies represented.

“The combination of research-backed evidence from academics and practical advice from seasoned industry leaders is difficult to bring together but when it happens, it yields a level of insight that could not be achieved by either perspective alone,” added Srivastava, the Ewald T. Grether Professor of Business Administration and Public Policy. “We’re immensely grateful to every speaker, workshop leader, facilitator, and participant who contributed to making this a meaningful event of learning and connecting.”

A person reads a poster about leading culture.
Photo: Jordan Joseffer

Day 1: Diverse perspectives on organizational culture academic research

The first day of the conference emphasized research, with presentations from 34 scholars from around the world who examine culture through the lens of sociology, social psychology, and economics. Keynote talks included Paul Ingram of Columbia on how people tend to conceal social class identities; Doug Guilbeault of Berkeley Haas on how gender biases tend to be stronger and more persistent in online images than in text; Anita Williams Woolley of Carnegie Mellon on how the drivers of collective intelligence in teams differ from individual intelligence; and Leo Bursztyn of the University of Chicago on how to create social change by correcting misperceptions about prevailing norms. 

Former Haas Dean Rich Lyons, Associate Vice Chancellor and Chief Innovation & Entrepreneurship Officer at UC Berkeley, and Laura Hassner, executive director at UC Berkeley Innovation & Entrepreneurship, reported on the success of the UC Berkeley Changemaker program, a campus-wide certificate program including about 30 courses addressing critical thinking, communication, and collaboration—and enrolling about 20% of undergraduates.

Doctoral student Yingjian Liang of Indiana University Bloomington won the Edgar Schein Best Student Paper Prize. Second place went to Danyang Li of Berkeley Haas.

Day 2: Deep dives into three key themes 

Future of work and hybrid workspaces

Yamini Rangan speaks on stage.
Photo: Jordan Joseffer

The second day of the conference was attended by about 200 industry leaders and academics. HubSpot CEO Yamini Rangan, MBA 03 (left), sat down with Chatman (right) for a fireside chat. Rangan said companies should treat culture as a product that management consistently refine. “You have to evolve your culture every day, every week, like a product,” Rangan said. She also emphasized the importance of building a team of leaders, rather than building a leadership team to make culture inclusive. “Culture is how people behave when leadership is absent,” she said.

Nicholas Bloom, an economics professor at Stanford, shared data on how firms are adapting to remote and hybrid work across different sectors of the economy. Bloom noted that the effect of remote work on productivity has been neutral, while the impact on productivity has been typically positive. “Organized hybrid has won,” he said. 

Kristen Sverchek, president of Lyft, detailed the company’s journey with hybrid work, and Martine Haas, a management professor at the Wharton School, offered a framework for thinking about a firm’s hybrid culture. 

Laszlo Bock speaks on stage.
Photo: Laura Counts

In a fireside chat with Srivastava (above right), Laszlo Bock, CEO and co-founder of Humu & (above left), discussed how to help employees find meaning and connection while using hybrid work models. Bock, who formerly worked in People Operations at Google, shared an impactful exercise used at Google: Find three or four interesting stories about people within the company, and brief execs on these stories again and again so that they retell the stories. These stories aren’t PR, he said—they will resonate to help give a sense of a strong, cohesive culture.

DEIB focus

A panel of five people engage in a discussion on stage.
Photo: Jordan Joseffer

Shifting focus, Co-founder, Coach, and Consultant Kia Afcari (above left) moderated a roundtable on diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging. 

During the discussion, Reema Batnagar, vice president of people at Pixar (2nd from left), emphasized the importance of using personal stories as a way to foster inclusion and belonging at work. David W. Kim, chief DEI officer at NetApp (2nd from right), discussed why corporate leaders must maintain the momentum of their DEI efforts despite recent pushbacks. David Pedulla, a sociology professor at Harvard (right), highlighted the extent to which various forms of discrimination still persist in the labor market. 

Sa-kiera Hudson, an assistant professor at Haas (middle), shared recent research findings that emphasize the importance of understanding intersectionality, specifically how gender and race can work together to amplify or dampen various forms of bias. Hudson emphasized that people are complex and we should never assume that their experience within a group is aligned with their perceived identity.

Chris Bell and Jamie Woolf pose for a photo on stage.
Photo: Jordan Joseffer

CreativityPartners Chief Associate Chris Bell (above left) and Co-founder and CEO Jamie Woolf (above right) led a workshop on how to create a sense of belonging through mutual storytelling.


Generative AI’s transformative role

Nickle LaMoreaux speaks on stage.
Photo: Brandie Brooks

In a fireside chat with Chatman (above right), Nickle LaMoreaux, chief human resources officer at IBM (above left), described how she and her colleagues have been harnessing AI to transform the role of HR in the organization.


Three people engage in a discussion on stage.
Photo: Jordan Joseffer

MIT Professor Kate Kellogg (above middle) and Warwick Business School Professor Hila Lifschitz-Assaf (aboove left) discussed a generative AI field experiment conducted at Boston Consulting Group. Hatim Rahman (above right), an assistant professor at the Kellogg School of Management, shared research on the importance of technological certification in the labor market.

Two people engage in a discussion on stage.
Photo: Jordan Joseffer

Teuila Hanson (above left), chief people officer at LinkedIn, emphasized the need to take a people-centric approach when adopting AI tools and technologies, since human skills—including human intuition that AIs lack—are critical. “The future of work is still human,” she said.

Berkeley Haas anniversary marks 125 years of reimagining business 

Haas this year is celebrating 125 years of reimagining business. Our Defining Leadership Principles , including Question the Status Quo, are etched in the stone of the Haas courtyard. Photo: Jim Block

Berkeley Haas this month is kicking off its anniversary celebration of 125 years of reimagining business. The festivities commemorate a significant milestone in the school’s history as a leader in advancing management education, corporate responsibility, innovation, and entrepreneurship.

Founded in 1898 as the College of Commerce with just three students, Haas has expanded to nearly 3,000 students across six programs, all of which rank in the top 10 and boast a world-renowned global faculty. Haas has 44,000 living alumni worldwide, spanning more than 20,000 organizations in 81 countries.

“A 125th anniversary is a remarkable achievement for any business school, especially given the immense changes that business and business education have gone through,” said Berkeley Haas Dean Ann E. Harrison. “As the world’s number one mission-driven business school, we take pride in developing innovative business leaders who consider the long-term impact of their actions—and increasingly, that requires a lens for sustainability and inclusion.” 

Cora Jane Flood.
Cora Jane Flood gave the university’s then-largest gift to establish the “College of Commerce” in 1898.

Haas has always been a pioneer. It is the first business school founded at a public university, and the second-oldest in the U.S. It is the only leading business school to be founded by a woman, Cora Jane Flood.

It’s also the first top business school to be led by two female deans, Professor Laura Tyson (1998–2001 and 2018), and Harrison (since 2019).

And from the start, the school has had a distinctive culture

That culture was formally codified in 2010, when the school unveiled its Defining Leadership Principles (DLPs): Question the Status Quo, Confidence without Attitude, Students Always, and Beyond Yourself. Shepherded by then-Dean Rich Lyons and anchored by the organizational culture research of Professor Jennifer Chatman, the DLPs are a source of pride for the community—and a competitive advantage. 

Senior Assistant Dean Courtney Chandler, Haas’s Chief Strategy and Operating Officer, described the principles as much more than mere aspirations or platitudes. They are, rather, aligned tightly with the school’s strategy. “Powerful leaders think about culture all the time,” Chandler said. “If done well, everything relates back to the culture, from how we set priorities to how we get buy-in from people to how we show up as a community.”

“Powerful leaders think about culture all the time. If done well, everything relates back to the culture, from how we set priorities to how we get buy-in from people to how we show up as a community.” — Senior Assistant Dean Courtney Chandler, BA 90, MBA 96.

Life-changing Research

The Haas legacy includes generations of researchers and teachers who have changed how industry leaders think and do business. That legacy includes two Nobel laureates. The late John Harsanyi won the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences in 1994—along with John Nash from Princeton University and Reinhard Selten from Bonn, Germany—for advancing the study of game theory, and in particular, how parties act in negotiations with incomplete information. 

The late Oliver Williamson became the school’s second Nobel laureate—along with Elinor Ostrom of Indiana University—in 2009 for bringing together economics, organization theory, and contract law to invent the field of transaction cost economics, fundamentally reshaping understanding of how firms operate in the marketplace. 

Prof. Oliver Williamson with his Nobel coin.
Prof. Oliver Williamson with his Nobel coin.

Many other Haas faculty members have ushered new ideas into the world, including Henry Chesbrough, PhD 97, who created the novel theory of Open Innovation; and David Aaker, the father of modern branding, who defined brand equity and the idea of the brand portfolio. 

Professor David Teece established his groundbreaking theories of dynamic capabilities in 1997; and Ikujiro Nonaka, MBA 68, PhD 72, a knowledge management expert, envisioned knowledge as a living and breathing entity that must be shared among workers to reach its full potential. 

Finance Professor Ulrike Malmendier, who researches how individual biases affect corporate decisions, stock prices, and markets, illuminated many ways in which human psychology and systematic biases influence economic behavior. For her work, Malmendier won the prestigious 2013 Fischer Black Prize

Women at Haas have also made pioneering contributions as visionary leaders—since Mary Dickson became the first woman to get a degree from the school in 1906. Professor and former Dean Laura Tyson served on President Clinton’s cabinet, and was also the first woman to chair the Council of Economic Advisers and direct the National Economic Council.

Professor Emeritus Janet Yellen, who taught macroeconomics at Haas for 25 years, is now the first woman to serve as U.S. Secretary of the Treasury and was the first to chair the Federal Reserve. 

Accelerating Innovation

Berkeley Haas has also been a hub of innovation and a launching ground for entrepreneurs over the years. In 2022, for the fourth straight year, UC Berkeley was named the nation’s best public university for startup founders, and the second-best university among both private and public schools, according to Pitchbook’s annual ranking.

In 2022, for the fourth straight year, UC Berkeley was named the nation’s best public university for startup founders

In 1970, six years before Apple Computer was founded, Dean Richard Holton taught one of the country’s first entrepreneurship classes at Haas with Leo Helzel, MBA 68. Lecturer Steve Blank took the teaching of entrepreneurship in a cutting-edge new direction in 2011 with his Lean LaunchPad method. Blank taught students to build a company by developing business models rather than traditional business plans, iterating models quickly based on customer feedback. This approach is now accepted practice for entrepreneurs.

students sitting at Skydeck three of them together in a group talking
SkyDeck in downtown Berkeley, where many Haas students collaborate with founders from across the campus.

Haas students have been honing startup skills for years in programs like the UC Berkeley LAUNCH accelerator; SkyDeck, a partnership between the Haas School of Business founded in 2012 with the College of Engineering, and the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research; and The Cleantech to Market accelerator program, which for 15 years has been pairing students with entrepreneurs to help bring promising climate tech innovations to market. 

Visionary entrepreneurs

Over the years, Haas students and alumni have founded hundreds of companies as part of the UC Berkeley startup ecosystem. Among the school’s notable alumni entrepreneurs:

  • John Hanke, MBA 96, CEO of Niantic Labs, was instrumental in creating Google Earth, Maps, and Street View, which brought sophisticated geospatial data visualization to the masses. Hanke then masterminded the wildly popular augmented reality Pokémon Go game.
  • Paul Rice, MBA 96, founded Fair Trade USA, whose Fair Trade Certified seals signify products made according to fair trade standards. 
  • The late Priya Haji, MBA 03, co-founded Free at Last, a national program for substance abuse treatment and HIV/AIDS intervention; World of Good,a sustainable/fair trade product marketplace acquired by eBay in 2010, and served as CEO at SaveUp, a rewards game for saving money and reducing debt.
  • Patrick Awuah, MBA 99, launched Ashesi University, Ghana’s first liberal arts college, in 2002, which pioneered a multidisciplinary core curriculum that challenged the dominant rote-learning culture in many African schools. 
  • Danae Ringelmann and Eric Schell, both MBA 08, co-founded Indiegogo with Slava Rubin, building a crowdfunding platform for all creative, cause, and entrepreneurial projects.

    Eric Schell, MBA 08
    Danae Ringelmann and Eric Schell, MBA 08s, began working on Indiegogo, one of the world’s first crowdfunding platforms, while students at Haas and used their Haas connections to develop the company. Photo by Genevieve Shiffrar.
  • Nikhil Arora and Alejandro Velez, both BS 09, grew mushrooms from used coffee grounds in their Haas class, which led to their startup Back to the Roots—now a national brand with products sold in thousands of stores.
  • Jason Bellet, BS 14, along with engineering alumni Connor Landgraf, BS 13, MEng 14 (bioengineering), and Tyler Crouch, BS 14 (mechanical engineering), founded Eko in 2013 and developed an FDA-cleared platform of AI-powered stethoscopes for early detection of cardiovascular disease. 

Roots of social responsibility

The Haas tradition of educating leaders who prioritize the social impact of business dates back more than 100 years.

 The school is named for Walter A. Haas, Sr., BS 1910, whose family at Levi Strauss & Company outfitted Western miners in a new kind of work pants that evolved into Levi’s iconic blue jeans. Haas Sr.’s views on social welfare and public affairs were influenced by the school’s first female instructor, Jessica Peixotto, and led him to grow this apparel manufacturer into one of the country’s largest socially responsible businesses. Later, as Levi’s CEO, he noted that the company “owes responsibility to the communities in which we do business.” 

The company “owes responsibility to the communities in which we do business.” — Walter A. Haas, Sr., BS 1910

During the late 1950s, Earl F. Cheit, the future dean, ushered in the study of corporate social responsibility through research and teaching. Cheit organized the first national symposium on the subject in 1964, and Berkeley’s coursework became the model for other leading business schools with support from Professors Dow Votaw and Edwin Epstein. 

Earl F. Cheit
Earl F. Cheit ushered in the study of corporate social responsibility  The Haas annual Award for Excellence in Teaching is named for him.


Decades later, The Center for Responsible Business in 2002, brought Haas into the modern corporate social responsibility and business sustainability movements. Six years later, The Financial Times named Haas number one in the world in this area. 

Prioritizing inclusion

Socioeconomic mobility is core to both the UC Berkeley and Haas missions. Over the past six years, Haas has made substantive changes to increase diversity and representation, engender lifelong learning around equity and inclusion, and cultivate belonging.

Woman standing next to sign that says we are one Haas
Chief DEI Officer Élida Bautista leads a team building a learning environment where everyone belongs and everyone can thrive.

When Harrison joined as dean, she made Diversity Equity Justice and Belonging (DEIJB) a priority by meeting with student leaders; significantly increasing student support; modifying the core MBA curriculum to require a course on leading diverse teams; and diversifying the Haas faculty and Haas School Board.

Haas also appointed Chief DEI Officer Élida Bautista to oversee a six-person team focusing on admissions, community-related DEIJB issues, and, uniquely, faculty support

Building on the Defining Leadership Principles, the school’s DEI Strategic Plan, first drafted in 2018 and updated in 2021, outlines aspirations for a learning environment where everyone belongs and everyone can thrive. The plan aims to equip all members of the Haas community to effectively lead diverse teams. (Research from Haas faculty and the work of the Center for Equity, Gender, and Leadership (EGAL) makes the business case that diversity on teams can drive performance.)

The Heart of What’s Next

Looking forward, Haas continues to build on its academic strength in undergraduate, graduate, and non-degree executive education offerings.

The school also continues to embrace new ideas. The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the school’s foray to digital education, inspired by Berkeley Executive Education’s early adoption of virtual classroom teaching.

Students from the top-ranked Berkeley Haas Master of Financial Engineering Program in the classroom. Linda Kreitzman launched the program in 2001 with John O’Brien. Photo: Noah Berger


The virtual classrooms now anchor the Flex MBA program,—now in its second year—which combines academic courses in a live online environment with the option to come to campus for electives. At the undergraduate level, the school’s two-year program is expanding  to become the four-year Spieker Undergraduate Program. The first four-year cohort will enroll in August of 2024.  

Stepping up to address the severity of climate change, Haas created the Office of Sustainability and Climate Change to support teaching and research across agriculture, real estate, energy, finance, and corporate sectors. The school’s investment in sustainability includes the greenest academic building in the U.S., Chou Hall, having earned TRUE Zero Waste certification at the highest possible level along with a LEED Platinum certification for its energy efficient design and operation. Plans are now underway to launch a joint MBA/master’s in climate solutions degree with Berkeley’s Rausser College of Natural Resources.

Grads at 2022 MBA Commencement at the Greek Theatre.

Many of the school’s advancements have been made possible through the support of its loyal alumni, who continue to make Haas stronger through their engagement as teachers, mentors, employers, partners, and donors to the school.

Harrison said she is looking forward to celebrating the school’s many milestones and to what the future will bring, noting, “We look back with pride, but we move forward to have impact.”

Watch for more details about the anniversary in the forthcoming summer issue of the Berkeley Haas Magazine or read more Haas history on the website.

5th Berkeley Culture Conference focuses on building strong organizations in a post-pandemic world

Prof. Sameer Srivastava (right) listens as Danielle Feinblum of Deloitte Consulting presents on post-merger cultural integration. (Photo: Brittany Hosea-Small)

Strategies to build organizational culture in a world fundamentally changed by the pandemic were the focus as academics and executives came together at this year’s Berkeley Culture Conference

The fifth annual conference, back in person after two years of virtual gatherings, was launched by Professors Jennifer Chatman and Sameer Srivastava in 2019. It is the flagship event of their new initiative to build a center of gravity for a new generation of organizational culture research—and ultimately, to help organizations function more effectively. Since then, the initiative has offered research partnerships and grants, forums and speaker events, and evolved to become the Berkeley Culture Center (BCC). 

“Looking back at our start in 2019, we couldn’t have known that we were about to experience a global pandemic, widespread social upheaval, and massive changes in the world of work,” said Chatman, who is the Paul J. Cortese Distinguished Professor of Management and serves as Associate Dean for Academic Affairs. “With these rapid changes, it is more important than ever to understand how to help organizations build the most inclusive and effective cultures that will not only provide strategic clarity about ‘how we do things around here,’ but also help people stay connected to the mission and values of the company.” 

“Looking back at our start in 2019, we couldn’t have known that we were about to experience a global pandemic, widespread social upheaval, and massive changes in the world of work.” —Jennifer Chatman

Prof. Jennifer Chatman (Photo: Brittany Hosea-Small)

“Our goal from the start has been not only to advance scientific understanding, with new data sources and methods, but also to make this work relevant to leaders at organizations around the nation and world,” added Srivastava, who co-directs the center with Chatman and is the Ewald T. Grether Professor of Business Administration and Public Policy. “As workplaces grow ever more diverse, and people work together in new ways, senior executives need to understand how to address the challenges that arise and how to lead change—particularly as they navigate the rapid technological and structural changes to workplaces that we expect in the next five years.” 

Conference attendees listening to a presentation (Photo: Brittany Hosea-Small)

To support these objectives, Srivastava said BCC is in the process of launching two “megastudies”—randomized controlled trials of different culture-change interventions that are simultaneously implemented across multiple organizations. These will “yield rigorous insights into how leaders can proactively shape culture in the context of a rapidly evolving workplace.”

Srivastava and Chatman interview Ed Catmull, co-founder and former president of Pixar Animation. (Photo: Brittany Hosea-Small)

The 2023 conference included more than 25 presentations, with the first day focused on scholars from the fields of economics, psychology, sociology, and strategy. Day two brought together industry leaders with presentations on managing cultural change in hybrid environments, coaching leaders to be change agents, and the most effective approaches to diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging. Speakers included Scott Uzell, CEO of Converse; Harvard College Dean Rakesh Khurana; and Pixar Animation Studios Co-founder, Ed Catmull. 

Chatman and Srivastava also introduced the Berkeley Culture Center’s first Executive Director, Kristen Barbarics. “I’m excited to see the center grow into its potential and, ultimately, create positive and powerful shifts in company culture across the nation and the world,” Barbarics said.

Conference organizers received a record 75 paper submissions this year, reflecting its reputation as a “go to” place for academics to share their latest research. They awarded the Edgar Schein Best Student Paper Prize to two doctoral students: 1st place went to Victoria Yiluan Zhang of MIT Sloan for “The Class Gap in Organizational Culture;” Laura Fritsch and Alan D. Morrison of the University of Oxford won second place for their paper “Organizational Culture, Vocabularies, and Attention: An Experimental Approach.”

Check out more photos of the conference. (All photos by Brittany Hosea-Small.)

Victoria Yiluan Zhang of MIT Sloan presents her award-winning paper.
Converse CEO & President Scott Uzell shared stories about building culture at the company.
Professor Juliana Schroeder shares her research on reducing polarization.
Sa Kiera_20230110_CultureConference_bhs_045
Assistant Professor Sa-Kiera Hudson chats with other attendees during a breakout session.
Haas Lecturer Bree Jenkins, MBA 19, asks a question.
Monica Stevens, MBA 96, of Spencer Stuart, discusses new DEI strategies.
Chatman and Srivastava with student paper winner Victoria Yiluan Zhang.
2nd place_20230110_CultureConference_bhs_059
Chatman and Srivastava with 2nd place student paper winner Laura Fritsch.
Harvard College Dean and Professor Rakesh Khurana presents on elite colleges and social class.
Harvard College Dean and Professor Rakesh Khurana chats with Haas COO Courtney Chandler, who presented her research on university culture and faculty governance.
Srivastava and Chatman interviewing Pixar Co-founder and Former President Ed Catmull
Ed Catmull, co-founder and former president of Pixar Animation

Find out more about the Berkeley Culture Center.

From virtual birthday parties to yoga, Haasies stay connected as life shifts online

Lauren Graminis practices yoga
Lauren Grimanis (left) practices yoga with a student during her time in Ghana.

When Lauren Grimanis ran a rural education organization in a remote community in Ghana with no running water or electricity, she turned to yoga and meditation to handle the stresses of daily life.

“While I had community around me, I still felt socially isolated,” said Grimanis, MBA 20, who founded the nonprofit Akaa Project in 2008. “I had to climb a hill into a tomato farm behind my house to get cell service so it was difficult to connect with friends and family.”

Grimanis had no idea that what she’d learned about the value of mindfulness in Africa might prove a handy tool for both helping herself and her tight-knit MBA class cope with the isolation and frustrations of social distancing under the COVID-19 outbreak. As head of the Haas Mindfulness Club, Grimanis not only exercises online with her MBA friends; she’s also put together a Google doc listing everything from free meditation apps to CorePower Yoga classes and shared the doc with both FTMBA classes.

“Last week people were feeling really frustrated and anxious, both understandable feelings. I wanted to help, so we jumped into action,” she said. “We really want to get people to think more positively and use mindfulness in their new daily routines.”

Cheering each other up

Chris Lee's birthday party on zoom chat
Chris Lee celebrated his 30th birthday with classmates online. Photo: Chris Lee.

Under COVID-19 restrictions, student life has continued online. Joey Parker, MBA 21, organized a toast on Zoom at 9 pm on St. Patrick’s Day for all MBA students. Chris Lee, MBA 20, celebrated his recent 30th birthday online, surrounded by about 50 of his MBA friends. The new reality won’t replace the in-person courtyard lunches, cohort parties, or Tahoe weekends, students say, but they’re working hard to use tech to keep their communities together and stay focused on their work.

The same rings true for evening and weekend students. Terrell Baptiste, EWMBA 20, said his classmates are phoning each other and tapping into the class’ WhatsApp chat group to keep in touch. About 40 classmates are using the app to cheer each other up or initiate discussions about the pros and cons of a shelter-in-place order and whether a stimulus package would help stabilize the U.S. economy. 

Haas undergraduates, too, are finding ways to stay virtually connected.

Four women talk via Zoom, a video chat platform.
Shun Lei Sin, BS 20, (bottom right) chats with friends via Zoom.

Shun Lei Sin, BS 20, uses Zoom and has joined a Slack channel called SF Entourage, a private virtual community, where she can participate in cooking competitions, play games online or start a book club with friends. Zaheer Ebtikar, BS 20, uses Slack, Instagram, and Twitter to connect with friends while he finishes the semester at home. Neha Dubey, BS 21, sends Google hangout links to classmates, inviting them to virtual lunches. She’s also tapping into Berkeley’s Student Environmental Resource Center (SERC) to stay in touch with friends.

“One of my friends is the community engagement associate for SERC and she’s hosting virtual study sessions every Tuesday and organizing baking classes and Netflix parties. It’s just another way to have that human interaction,” Dubey said. 

Despite not being able to see her friends in person, Dubey said life under COVID-19 has brought her friends closer together.

“All of my friends have really bonded through this. We’re all making an effort to be a larger part of our everyday lives,” said Dubey. “It’s a lot less texting and a lot more calling.” 

Saying goodbye

Two Haas students work on school project.
Thais Esteves, MBA 21, (right) with classmate Maria del Mar Londono Jaramillo, returned home to Brazil for the summer after her FTMBA friends threw her an impromptu birthday party online. Photo: Jim Block

For some international students in countries where borders are shutting, the decision to stay on campus or go home, depending on border and visa situations, is difficult. Before Thais Esteves, MBA 21, returned home for the summer to Brazil this week her friends threw her one last impromptu party. The party, initiated by a handful of classmates who were playing an online board game together, started after they sent a few photos to WhatsApp with a link to the virtual celebration. A bunch more classmates joined in to celebrate Esteves’ birthday, and to say goodbye before she boarded the plane. They donned costumes, as they often do at MBA parties, including a polar bear, a viking hat, a unicorn, and a ship’s captain.

A sari, never worn

Ije wearing a sari in India.
Ije Durga, MBA 20, who lived in India prior to coming to Haas, planned to wear a special sari to commencement.

Many students are grappling with the possibility of  a virtual commencement. Ije Durga, MBA 20, said she understands why commencement can’t be held in-person, but is hurt that she won’t be able to say goodbye to her friends. Durga, who worked in India before coming to Haas, is also disappointed that she won’t be wearing a special sari she’d picked out for the ceremony and ordered from India.  “I was looking forward to putting that on and surprising everyone—an African woman in a sari,” she said. She said the friend who was going to bring it to her can’t even travel to the U.S. now. “The world has changed so much in just two weeks,” she added.

April staycation

Ana Alanis and classmates.
Ana Alanis (front, middle) spent the morning canceling a spring break trip to Colombia.

For many students, spring break meant canceling planned trips, and treks, and suddenly wondering what to do with all that time off. On Thursday, Ana Christina Alanis, MBA 21 and the class’ VP of social, was canceling a web of spring break flights to Colombia. She’d planned to visit Medellin and then scuba dive in Cartagena with a group of 12 students, including her roommate. She was looking forward to relaxing for nine days and a break from her job search. “Spring break starts tomorrow and I have absolutely nothing to do,” she said. The upside? She might teach an online cooking class to Haasies—and she might be able to reschedule her trip with her Colombian classmates, who couldn’t go with her this time. 

Get your Zumba on!

Six students do Zumba online.
Lipika Grover, MBA 20, hosted a virtual Zumba class for FTMBA students.

After in-person classes stopped, the FTMBA Association and Alex D’Agostino and Annie Powers, both MBA 20, got together and worked on a spreadsheet of classes that could be taught by students for students. Lipika Grover, MBA 20, is one of the first to go for it. She taught her first Zumba class ever on Zoom on Thursday morning. Grover, who had taken many Bollywood classes and loves to dance, was live teaching by 10 am from her home in Houston, where she returned to be with her family. 

“It will hopefully lift people’s moods and we’ll get some exercise—wherever we are,” said Grover. “Virtual is the best way to be together and to be strong now. We have to make the best of what we have and come together as a community.”  


OneHaas: a podcast for students by students

Portrait of Sean Li
Sean Li, EWMBA 20, is the creator and co-producer of the OneHaas podcast.

This is the first in a series of articles we’ll be writing throughout the year to mark the 10th anniversary of the Haas Defining Leadership Principles by showcasing community members who embody our culture.

When Sean Li, EWMBA 20, asks Haas students to come on his podcast, there’s usually some hesitation. 

“Many people tell me, ‘I don’t think that I’m that interesting,’” he said. “But trust me, everybody has a story.”

And he’s right. Tune into Li’s OneHaas podcast and you’ll hear from a U.S. kickboxing champ, a former Marine turned sommelier, and an entrepreneur who created caffeinated gum.

Produced by Li and Raymond Guan, EWMBA 22, OneHaas takes about 25 minutes to tell stories of current students to foster community among all MBAs on campus. Since launching in March 2018, Li has interviewed more than 50 students, and many people are listening. OneHaas has been downloaded more than 7,300 times in more than 50 countries.  

With so many people tuning in, Li tries to interview a diverse mix of students from all degree programs and backgrounds. One interviewee, Dana Zhang, EWMBA 21, said the podcast has helped her to get to know fellow classmates. 

“As evening and weekend students, we don’t have the luxury to spend as much time as we’d like on campus to get to know each other, so the OneHaas podcast has been a useful forum for me personally to get to hear from my classmates,” she said.

Two students participate in a podcast.
Sean Li interviews Bree Jenkins, MBA 19, for his podcast in April 2019.

Not only are current students tuning into OneHaas, but so are prospective students, which is part of the reason why Li created it. 

“I’ve had at least 20 prospective students reach out to me,” Li said. “They’ll write and say, ‘You know, this one episode that I heard really convinced me to come to Haas. Thank you.’ That really moved me.” 

Creating the podcast wasn’t difficult for Li. He’d produced DIY videos for two automotive e-commerce businesses that he co-founded prior to coming to Haas. 

Asking the right questions and convincing students to share their stories were the hard parts. 

“In the beginning, it was like pulling teeth to get someone on,” he said. “But once I produced the first five episodes, people started to realize that I was serious and that the podcast sounded pretty professional.” 

Now that OneHaas is gaining traction and helping to strengthen ties among students, Li is receiving more support from campus leaders. 

This past fall, Li received $1,000 from the Evening & Weekend MBA Association, the student body government association, and a $5,000 grant from the Berkeley Haas Culture Fund for audio equipment.   

Li will graduate this May, but he plans to support the continuation of the podcast long after he’s gone. 

“I feel so privileged to have had this platform to interview all these amazing students and hear their stories. I hope more students will join the team and help carry the torch.”


Celebrating the first decade of the Defining Leadership Principles

Dean Ann Harrison in the courtyard, where the Defining Leadership Principles are installed on the stones nearby. Photo: Noah Berger

It’s the 10-year anniversary of the Berkeley Haas Defining Leadership Principles: Question the Status Quo, Confidence Without Attitude, Students Always and Beyond Yourself, and Dean Ann Harrison is reflecting on their continued success.

“These principles codify so much of what sets Haas apart,” says Harrison, as she looks out her window at the four principles etched into the building above the entrance to the school. “They’ve grown stronger over the years and are now woven into everything that we do.”

Spearheaded a decade ago by former dean Rich Lyons, the principles put into words the culture that had always been a part of the school. A 2018 Poets & Quants article “Where Culture Really Matters,” noted that the principles have since become a significant symbol of what the school believes and stands for, and that “There is no doubt that Haas stands alone among business schools in consciously defining and shaping a strong culture to its competitive advantage.”

Cupcakes decorated with the DLPs.
Culture Day cupcakes decorated with the principles.

Today, the principles influence everything from how students are selected and staff and faculty are hired, to how the Haas leadership team works together, to how the budget is crafted. Harrison does not miss an opportunity to speak of why the principles are a key reason why she came to Haas. She’ll be celebrating them at events throughout the year.

“So much more than just words”

Harrison says her role as dean relates most to the principle Beyond Yourself.  “One of the great aspects of being dean is that it gives me the opportunity to give back to an incredible institution that changes so many student lives for the better,” she says.

For Senior Assistant Dean, Chief Strategy and Operating Officer Courtney Chandler, the principles have become “so much more than just words.” They’re aligned tightly to the school’s strategy and execution.

“Powerful leaders think about culture all the time,” she says. “If done well, everything relates back to the culture, from how we set priorities to how we get buy-in from people to how we show up as a community.”

Chandler says the principles impact how she personally leads at Haas, and play an integral role in how the administration responds to big challenges—such as the drop in African American student enrollment in the MBA program two years ago. “Even with a major initiative like diversity, equity and inclusion, we looked at it through our culture lens,” she says. “Our DLPs helped us to question the status quo and work through this challenge with our community using a student always mindset in a way that we never could have done as well without them.”

Developing leaders

Delphine Sherman, the school’s chief financial officer, cites numerous examples of how the principles guide her in her job. For example, she says that when filling open positions, her department always questions the status quo to find the best possible solution. “Rather than just automatically refilling that role, we ask if there is some way to change the way that work is done,” Sherman says.

Students have also become enthusiastic champions of the principles, which are increasingly embedded in Haas classrooms. Seventy-five percent of students from all three MBA programs and the undergraduate program now cite the DLPs as a strong reason for choosing Haas.

Several years ago, the school began a mapping project to “link and label” ways that core and elective MBA courses connect to the principles, says Jay Stowsky, senior assistant dean for instruction.

For example, in the Haas@Work course, students learned to “influence without authority,” which embodies Confidence Without Attitude. A Brand Strategy Boot Camp taught students to evaluate qualitative and quantitative research and turn that into actionable decisions, which reflects Students Always.

Building a community around culture

On the faculty side, Profs. Jenny Chatman and Sameer Srivistava are making the school an epicenter for culture research through the Berkeley Haas Culture Initiative and an annual conference in January. Their goal is to build a community of academics and practitioners to pioneer new research methods, spark research collaborations, and develop new tools for managing culture as a strategic asset. Chatman has also written two culture cases on the school’s culture and the history of the principles with Lyons.

Professors Jennifer Chatman and Sameer Srivastava interview Golden State Warriors Coach (center) during the Berkeley Haas Culture Conference. Photo: Brittany Hosea-Small

The first case, which documents the culture’s origin story, is used in many ways to continue to build the culture, including teaching it in Haas classes and providing it to campus recruiters. The case is also used during faculty onboarding. “Tenure-track faculty—especially those who join Haas right after graduating from their PhD program—typically have never been part of an organization that is intentional about culture, so this material is particularly eye-opening for them,” Chatman wrote in the case.

The second case, published last year, asked what the new dean and the school need to do to keep the culture strong and valuable. Among many efforts, Chatman pointed to the Culture Leadership Fund. “Not only did the fund spark many conversations with important constituents, it also surpassed its target, raising just over $230,000 to be used for additional, culture-strengthening,” she says.

“Just getting started”

Many alumni share how the principles have influenced both their work and personal lives over the past 10 years, says Tenny Frost, executive director of development & alumni relations. School surveys have found that more than 90% of alums from the past decade are familiar with the principles and frequently cite them.

“The principles have been incredibly powerful and energizing to our alumni as they feel them deeply,” she says, noting that Haas’ lifelong learning opportunities (offered both online and in-person) support the Student Always principle.

Alumni are also honored for embodying the principles. An example is Constance Moore, MBA 80, a distinguished real estate veteran and volunteer board member for numerous organizations, who recently received a Lifetime Achievement Award.

The award recognizes members of the Berkeley Haas community who embody Haas’ Defining Leadership Principles and who have made a significant impact in their field and through their professional accomplishments. Moore is the eighth person to be given a Lifetime Achievement Award from Haas, and its second female recipient.

Former Haas Dean Rich Lyons
Former Haas Dean Rich Lyons led the effort to codify the school’s DLPs, which are visible on the building behind him. Photo: Jim Block

Lyons, who is now UC Berkeley’s chief innovation & entrepreneurship officer, says he’s thrilled to mark the 10-year anniversary, but believes that Haas is just getting started. “Ten years is a long time for an organizational change, but it is a drop in the bucket in terms of institutional identity,” he says. “Institutions that are the most intentional about culture evolve over 30, 40, or 50 years, which is what I’d like to see for Haas.”


Dean Harrison to share her vision for Haas

<em>Haas Dean Ann Harrison. Photo: Noah Berger</em>
Haas Dean Ann Harrison. Photo: Noah Berger

Dean Ann E. Harrison will share her priorities for her first 90 days in a discussion with former Dean Laura Tyson to kick off the spring Dean’s Speaker Series next month.

The event, planned during the anniversary week of the Haas Defining Leadership Principles, will be held Tuesday, Feb. 5, at 12:30pm in Chou Hall’s Spieker Forum.

It’s the 9th  anniversary of the principles: Question the Status Quo, Confidence Without Attitude, Students Always and Beyond Yourself, four phrases that have come to be widely associated with Berkeley Haas.

In conversation with Tyson, Harrison will share her vision for Haas, her take on the Defining Leadership Principles, and her leadership approach.

Harrison began her tenure as Haas dean this month. The former William H. Wurster Professor of Multinational Management and Professor of Business Economics and Public Policy at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, Harrison has a deep Berkeley history. She earned her bachelor’s degree from UC Berkeley with a double major in economics and history in 1982. She also served as a professor of Berkeley’s Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics from 2001 to 2011.

A Q&A will follow the talk, which will be posted after the event on the DSS web page.

Registration is required for the free event, which is open to the Haas community and invited guests.

Doors will open at noon and a light lunch will be served.

Upcoming events in the Dean’s Speaker Series include:

Laurene Powell Jobs

(First Annual Chris Boskin Deans’ Speaker Series in Business and Journalism)
A conversation with Laurene Powell Jobs, Founder and President of Emerson Collective

Thursday, February 7
Spieker Forum

David Aaker

Professor Emeritus, Haas School of Business

Tuesday, March 5
Spieker Forum

So sue me: Why narcissistic CEOs can get their firms in legal trouble

Research by Berkeley Haas Prof. Jennifer Chatman shows that narcissistic CEOs are more likely to engage in protracted lawsuits—and are no more likely to win.

Berkeley Haas research found narcissistic CEOs more likely to engage in lawsuits.

In the classic myth of Narcissus, a handsome hunter falls in love with his reflection in pool. Unable to tear himself away, he wastes away and dies. In business, the real problem with excessive self-regard comes less from inaction than from reckless action—such as plunging into the dangerous waters of litigation.

“People who exhibit high levels of narcissism can make charming, extroverted leaders who are bold in taking risks and persisting against formidable odds,” says organizational culture and leadership expert Jennifer Chatman, Paul J. Cortese Distinguished Professor of Management at the Haas School of Business. “The downside is they are overconfident and tend to focus on the potential benefits and minimize the costs of risky actions. One manifestation of this is that narcissistic CEOs are more likely to lead their organizations into court.”

The dark sides of narcissism

Prof. Jennifer Chatman
Prof. Jennifer Chatman

In a new paper published in The Leadership Quarterly, Chatman and her colleagues found that narcissistic CEOs are significantly more likely to engage their firms in lawsuits and less likely to settle cases. The paper, co-authored by Stanford’s Charles O’Reilly (Berkeley MBA 71 and PhD 75) and UC Berkeley researcher Bernadette Doerr, is part of a series of four studies that examine the effects that narcissistic leaders have on their organizations.

“It’s true that some level of narcissism can help a leader succeed,” Chatman says. “But there are some very real problems with excessive narcissism that can have drastically negative consequences for companies.”

Those dark sides—according to a growing body of research—include a greater tendency to cross ethical lines, such as engaging in financial fraud or tax avoidance, as well as toxic behaviors such as aggression, bullying, or sexual harassment. In an earlier study, Chatman and her colleagues found that narcissistic CEOs also command significantly higher salaries, winning over boards with their confidence of success, and that the gap between narcissistic CEOs’ compensation and those of their top management teams widened over time.

Employees rate their CEOs

Past research has characterized narcissism with such traits as a sense of personal superiority, overconfidence, a desire for power and admiration, a willingness to manipulate others for personal gain, and an inclination toward hostility when faced with criticism. To gauge the narcissism of CEOs, Chatman and her colleagues went straight to those most likely to feel its effects: their employees. Surveying a sample of 250 employees from 32 of the largest publicly traded US hardware and software firms, the researchers asked employees to rate how much on a scale of 1 to 7 their bosses were “arrogant,” “egotistical,” “temperamental,” “extroverted,”and other adjectives that describe narcissistic personalities.

In addition, the researchers cross-referenced these scores with other measures, such as the number of times CEOs used first-person pronouns in letters and the size of their signatures—both measures associated with narcissism—in order to develop a narcissism score for each executive.

Chatman and her colleagues then correlated these numbers with the number and length of lawsuits each firm noted in its annual report. They found that CEOs who were rated as more highly narcissistic led firms that were more likely to be named as defendants in a lawsuit. Lawsuits involving narcissistic CEOs also lasted longer, implying that those leaders were less willing to settle suits quickly—even though they were no more likely to win them.

Why do narcissistic CEOs engage in lawsuits?

In order to better understand why narcissistic CEOs were more likely to become involved in lawsuits, Chatman and her colleagues also ran two experiments. They used a personality test to gauge participants’ degree of narcissism and then they randomly assigned them to imagine one of two different scenarios: what would they do if they were a CEO launching a new product, and the company’s lawyers said there was either low chance or a high chance they would be sued?

The researchers found a striking difference between those who scored low on narcissistic traits and those who scored high. When the chances of being sued were 20 percent, the narcissists and non-narcissists were equally likely to proceed. Yet when told there was an 80 percent chance of being sued, the narcissists were almost three times as likely to go forward with the launch, with about 62 percent saying they’d proceed.

“Narcissists appear to be both less sensitive to high risk and less likely to listen to advice from expert advisors, especially when there’s a chance of a high payoff,” says Chatman. “Further, this greater propensity for risk reflects narcissists’ confidence in their own judgment and suggests that they may be more likely to engage in extremely risky behavior.”

In another experiment, the researchers found a similar pattern in participants’ likelihood of settling a lawsuit. When told the risk of losing was high, 79 percent of non-narcissistic individuals were willing to settle, while only 40 percent of the narcissists said they’d settle.

Harmful to the bottom line

Taken together, Chatman and her colleagues’ research joins a growing body of literature that shows that narcissism isn’t merely an annoying personality trait that carries with it some ancillary benefits; rather, it can be dangerous to a company’s long-term stability and bottom line.

“We already know that most people—and even the boards of directors who hire CEOs—confuse strong leadership attributes and some of the key attributes of narcissists, such as grandiosity and overconfidence, so CEOs are significantly more likely to be higher in narcissism,” Chatman says. “It’s important to pay attention to the difference, because narcissists appear to have a significant, and negative, impact on the organizations they lead.”

Chatman adds that boards should look for CEOs who have a track record of incorporating expert views into their own thinking, and those who can develop inspiring and strategically relevant visions that bring others along with them, and avoid hiring those with narcissistic personalities.


More research by Jennifer Chatman

How Himalayan mountain climbers teach us to work better together

New case study examines how Haas can sustain its culture

Three research-based ways to reduce unconscious gender bias in your organization

The Opposite of Complacent: How Risky Businesses Avoid Disaster

This article is published jointly with Vanderbilt University’s Owen Graduate School of Management.

When a high-profile disaster occurs—from the BP Deepwater Horizon spill to Pacific Gas & Electric’s San Bruno pipeline explosion­—the public scramble for answers and accountability begins. Oftentimes, among the teams of investigators called in from law enforcement and government agencies, you’ll find organizational behavior experts Berkeley Haas Prof. Emeritus Karlene Roberts or Vanderbilt Owen’s Prof. Rangaraj Ramanujam.

Prof. Emeritus Karlene Roberts
Prof. Emeritus Karlene Roberts

That’s because about three decades ago, researchers at Berkeley pioneered a new way to understand man-made disasters, looking beyond human error and technical glitches to the organizational causes of catastrophes. Roberts was one of these trailblazers—her early aha moments came on Navy ships, where she observed a culture and systems that allowed for risky, technical work while minimizing errors.

A new field was born: the study of high reliability, and the practices that “highly reliable organizations” use to avoid disasters before they start. Researchers went on to apply this new lens to the study nuclear power plants, commercial aviation, utilities, the health care system, and other industries.

Roberts, chair of UC Berkeley’s Center for Catastrophic Risk Management, and Ramanujam, a leading researcher in the field who specializes in health care systems, decided it was time to take stock of the past 30 years of research. The new book they co-edited, “Organizing for Reliability – A Guide for Research and Practice,” was released last month.

We sat down with Roberts and Ramanujam to get a better understanding of the field, the special qualities of highly reliable organizations, and the work that has taken them to the aftermath of disasters around the world.

Prof. Rangaraj Ramanujam of Vanderbilt’s Owen School

Q: First off, what is a “highly reliable organization”?

KR: The original definition was an organization that operates in technically demanding conditions and prevents errors that lead to catastrophic consequences. My former Berkeley Haas dean, Ray Miles, once said to me, “High reliability is nothing but good management.” And I’d agree with that in part, but it’s good management in a particular direction. It’s not the same as saying “Our production was much higher this week.” It’s saying, “Our production levels are fine and we did it in a very safe manner.”

RR: There were originally two main features that make an organization highly reliable: It had an extended track record of avoiding errors and adverse outcomes, and it accomplished this despite operating in environments which were extremely challenging and where you’d have expected to see far more errors and adverse outcomes.

Q: How did this field get started?

KR: Accident research, as it was in those years, was mostly about slips, trips and falls. Those are things individuals do, and they’re usually linked to technological issues, such as stairs that weren’t built well, rather than any organizational process. This approach is different from that: if you see a really good thing in the organization going on consistently, then you have to look deep below the surface to see how that happens. You need to look at the individual embedded in the organization. How are pilots able to consistently land on aircraft carriers and rarely crash? That’s where I started off. You have to look into the culture, the decision-making, the communication, the training.

“If you see a really good thing in the organization going on consistently, then you have to look deep below the surface to see how that happens.” —Karlene Roberts

RR: There had been prior work which did look at an organizational approach to accidents, but without a doubt Karlene was one of the pioneers in drawing attention to the exceptional ability of some organizations to be so highly reliable for over such a long period of time.

Expanding the definition of Highly Reliable Organizations

Q: How this definition changed over time?

RR:  It continues to evolve and expand. The original focus was on reliability-attaining organizations, whereas it’s pretty clear right now most organizations are seeking reliability without always attaining it. The definition has also expanded beyond preventing major accidents to also include recovering effectively from accidents and shocks. More and more industries face a shrinking public tolerance for error and coming to terms with reliability as an imperative.

BH: Could you give a couple of examples of the most successful HROs, and some that are not?

KR: Commercial aviation, as an industry, has been successful. There have been accidents, yes, but you couldn’t sell airline tickets if planes kept dropping out of the sky. Ranga can speak to the healthcare industry—I think there’s minimal success there.

RR: I would say that healthcare as a whole cannot be characterized as a highly reliable organization, but there are pockets or islands of high reliability for sure. For example, anesthesiology has been ahead of the curve when it comes to minimizing harm from preventable errors. I study patient safety and medical errors, so people sometimes ask me, when they have a family member who is in the hospital for a serious procedure, “What should we do to make sure they are safe?” My answer is, “If you’re very concerned about the risks from a complicated procedure, that’s probably the part that is much better managed from a reliability viewpoint. Be much more alert to the seemingly simple parts of the post-op care such as medication administration and hand-wash compliance.” An especially frequent kind of medical error is the inability of the system to provide the right doses of the right drug to the right patient at the right time. The point here is you could have an organization with some parts that are highly reliable and some that are not. Reliability is highly local.

Q: That doesn’t give me a lot of confidence in the healthcare system. What sets these organizations apart from other organizations? What do they have in common?

Prof. Ramanujam teaching EMBA students.
Prof. Ramanujam teaching (Vanderbilt Photo / Daniel Dubois)

RR: Actually, healthcare has been one industry that has been especially receptive to new ideas for enhancing reliability, and therefore, patient safety. In fact, the edited volume has an entire chapter about reliability in healthcare.  So, the situation in healthcare in the U.S. is much more encouraging now.  As for your question about what is different or distinctive about highly reliable organizations, I’d first of all note they have an explicit organizational or team-level commitment to outcomes of reliability, such as safety. The second is they put a lot of emphasis on training and deliberately cultivating practices within teams so that they are continuously aware of the situation around them and very alert to the possibility of risk.

Mindful organizing

Q: One concept that’s highlighted in the book is “mindful organizing.” What is it?

RR: The idea of mindful organizing originated in the work that Karlene did with Karl Weick on board aircraft carriers, in what is a now classic paper in the field called “Collective Mind in Organizations: Heedful Interrelating on Flight Decks.” It’s a very highly cited and widely admired piece about what enables nuclear aircraft carrier operations to be highly reliable. In it, Karl and Karlene pointed to the quality of interactions among team members as an important part of the answer. Later on, Karl Weick and his colleague Kathy Sutcliffe have worked on—she wrote a chapter in our volume—have continued to formally study and refine the idea of mindful organizing. In essence, they have identified five distinct collective practices that constitute mindful organizing: a preoccupation with failure; a reluctance to simplify interpretations; sensitivity to operations—which means a good awareness of who knows what, in real time; commitment to resilience; and deference to expertise, rather than to authority. Karlene’s paper on “heedful interrelating” has a memorable example about deference to expertise.

Deference to expertise over authority

KR: I was just getting used to being aboard ships at the time, so this struck me. On aircraft carriers, planes land very rapidly. Unlike in commercial aviation where planes slow down to land, these guys speed up, because they’re going to get caught by the arresting gear. This pilot was coming in full steam ahead and suddenly the landing was called off. He pulled up and got out. Well, there was a kid on the deck who waved him off because he found a tool left on the deck. This was the lowest-level guy on the deck who called off the landing. What happened next is the air boss, who controls the aviation tower, shouts out over a loudspeaker to get this kid up to the tower quickly. I was thinking, “I’m going to get to witness this kid being drummed out of the Navy.” The 18-year-old shows up in the tower shaking, and I’m trying to be a fly on the wall watching the whole thing. The air boss congratulated him and told him he did a wonderful job, and he rewarded all the kid’s buddies on the deck as well. If that tool had gotten sucked up into an engine, it was going  to cause a pretty dramatic accident. The engine could have been destroyed, the plane could have crashed. If the enemy had been near, they would have taken advantage of it.

It was very powerful. I saw that stuff over and over and over again in the time I spent on Navy ships. And until I understood how the organization really worked I was surprised by it.  So that is one of the fundamentals that feed into the mindful organizing features: deference to the person who knows what is going on.

The importance of citizenship behaviors

Q: Wow, really interesting. Ranga, you’ve also talked about how the quality of social interactions affects the reliability of the outcomes.

RR: Yes, it takes lots of things for operations to be reliable. Clearly, technology matters a lot, design matters a lot, procedures matter a lot. But the reality is, even the best-designed technology, when put into operation, can produce situations which cannot be anticipated. Therefore, you depend on people to respond collectively rather than as individuals. If all everyone did was just to follow rules and comply with rules, lots of things will go wrong. As systems become more technologically complex, people must consistently go beyond the call of duty. That’s what we call citizenship behaviors, and people are much more likely to do it when they are part of a team because of team cohesion or motivation.

I did a study with a collaborator on patient safety in hospitals and the concept of silence—specifically the silence of nurses. Oftentimes frontline providers observe something that they think is unsafe or potentially harmful, but they choose not to speak because they think they have low status. And their inability to speak up can lead to a very bad outcome. Silence is not passive. This is a voluntary choice. We found that nurses were more likely to choose to remain silent if they feel their manager is unfair, procedurally. In this sense, a safe culture is also a fair culture.

KR: That’s why if I were to list the top predictors of reliability, I would put communication right at the very top of that kind of list. Open communication is extremely important.

RR: It’s communication in two ways. One is voluntary speaking of every individual in the system, and the other is communication within teams or amongst teams. Number two I would say is respectful interactions. I know it sounds very soft or fluffy, but I do really think that the extent to which people are respectful of one another in their interactions goes to the heart of the organization. And third is a clear commitment to reliability. It sounds very obvious, but I think most organizations or leaders take reliability for granted and think of it as something that folks at the lower levels of the operation do.

I know it sounds very soft or fluffy, but I do really think that the extent to which people are respectful of one another in their interactions goes to the heart of the organization. —Rangaraj Ramanujam


Why do we still have so many catastrophes?

Q: If we know these things about creating reliability, and organizations are spending a lot of money on it, why do we still have so many catastrophes?

KR: A simple answer is that people don’t implement all the things we tell them they should implement. I get called in on a lot of accidents, and all I have to do is look at it and say, “There it goes again.”

Q: What’s the “it” there?

KR: Well, it’s a lot of things and the same things over and over. Take PG&E in the San Bruno explosion, for example, there’s a long list: they didn’t have a good understanding of where their pipes were or what condition the pipes were in. Within the company, there was a lack of coordination and thought given to this issue. Then, if you look a little bit broader, they had never thought about or coordinated with the California Highway Patrol. It was rush hour when the accident happened, and they couldn’t get the cops and firetrucks up there quickly.

RR: Another thing is the scale of operations and the technology are getting more and more complex. It’s quite possible that, like the Red Queen says in Through the Looking Glass, that to stay in the same place you need to keep running. The growth and scale in technology is outpacing organizations’ ability to adopt these practices.

And one more important thing is a reality of life in corporate American today, where any efforts towards reliability happens in the context of escalating pressures for profits and speed. Even organizations that are aware of high-reliability principles might be subordinating reliability to profits and speed.

Increasing complexity

Q: Has technology made us safer?

KR: Yes and no.

RR: Exactly. Ultimately, we need a socio-technical system. The social and technical have to work in tandem.

KR: Very frequently they don’t. We have people right now looking at the Oroville Dam. The government report was written by engineers and no one else. But the problem on the face of that dam wasn’t just caused by engineers not taking into consideration weaknesses. The question is, why didn’t they take those things into consideration? I think it’s pretty clear that somehow the incentives weren’t there to do it. Now, they’re focusing on a large number of other dams where the problem may be the same. I’m glad I don’t live at the bottom of any of those dams.

RR: That’s true. I can think of several examples where technology has made things safer. One of the statistics I think doesn’t get as much respect as it should get is the decrease in car fatalities. There are certain models of cars, like Volvo, for example, where the fatalities are near zero for one or two-year periods. The problem is, even if technology is getting safer, that hasn’t stopped people from trying riskier and riskier things. As Karlene said, the challenge is ensuring that the social organization is keeping pace with the technological advances.

KR: It never does.

Beyond highly reliable organizations

Q: You said earlier you wouldn’t necessarily apply most of these principles to a regular organization that is not high risk. But can other organizations benefit from becoming more reliable?

RR: Earlier, Karlene started by talking about her former dean who told her that high reliability is really just good management. And I think that some of that is true, and some of the practices that HRO researchers brought to the surface are really practices or good communication, good coordination, situational awareness and responding to surprises. If you think about it in those general terms, you can see how those practices could enhance not just outcomes like reliability, but also outcomes such as innovation, speed, flexibility. There is some new research that is applying it in that way.

KR: I’d add a caveat that I don’t worry about this stuff in a mom-and-pop grocery store. Frustration or lack of communication is not likely to kill anybody there. We’re talking about organizations where reliability of outcome is really important. It’s an extraordinarily expensive thing for an organization to do, and you wouldn’t be able to put the money into it unless you were getting into very complex organizations.




Celebrating the distinct culture of Haas

It’s the 8th birthday of the Berkeley Haas Defining Leadership Principles: Question the Status Quo, Confidence Without Attitude, Students Always and Beyond Yourself, four succinct phrases that have come to be widely associated with the school and Dean Rich Lyons.

“Leaders set culture,” Lyons said last week at Haas Culture Day, a community celebration of the Defining Leadership Principles (DLPs). “This is an important part of what leaders do. You can’t think about leadership without thinking about setting norms and values.”

That leadership has paid off. A recent Poets & Quants article described Haas as “the archetype for a values-driven MBA program.”

Seventy-five percent of students from all three MBA programs and the undergraduate program cite the DLPs as a strong reason for choosing Haas, while more than 90 percent of alumni surveyed from the past decade said they were familiar with the principles and use them when navigating both their careers and their personal lives.

In this video, we asked members of the Haas community: What’s your favorite Defining Leadership Principle?

To sustain and expand the school’s culture efforts under the current and future deans, the school has launched the new Haas Culture and Leadership Fund. Money from the fund will be applied to, among other things, strengthening the culture content in the curriculum, providing financial aid and awards to students who exemplify the DLPs, giving research support to faculty who exemplify the DLPs, and supporting the existing institutes and centers that represent the culture and Defining Leadership Principles.

The Haas community added culture goals to the board for the new year.
The Haas community came together for Culture Day, adding goals to the culture board.

As he prepares to complete his tenure June 30 and return to his faculty role, we asked Lyons to take a moment to reflect on what has changed since he launched the culture initiative. Lyons recently co-wrote a case with Prof. Jennifer Chatman tracking the history of the DLPs and how the culture was codified at Haas. A second case is forthcoming

You’ve said the principles did not come out of nowhere, but rather codified a culture that has been here for many years. ​Does this make you more hopeful that we will be able to hold on to them after you complete your tenure as dean​?

Yes, it definitely does. Nobody was surprised by those principles. And only very rarely—and rather inconsistently—has anyone suggested that we missed one that is as fundamental as the four we harmonized around.

How has ​the environment at Haas changed since we ​launched the Defining Leadership Principles eight years ago?

I’d say that we are seeing stronger data every year that the DLPs are affecting what we really care about. For example, we have clear data on how the Defining Leadership Principles are helping us win yield battles (i.e., when students choose Haas over other schools they’ve been admitted to). The DLPs are also motivating our donors. Alumni awareness of the principles is way up, and their engagement based on them is way up. We are also bringing in more executive education clients who tell us that they chose us because of the clear culture fit.

Cupcakes at Culture Day
Cupcakes at Culture Day spelled out each of the Defining Leadership Principles.

Can you give a few examples of how alumni, staff, and students are living the principles in their lives and workplaces?

One alum told us that the DLPs have been important for him in thinking about the best way to raise his children. Another named a new company CWA for Confidence Without Attitude. Alums in great numbers nominate other alums as exemplars of one or more of the principles—in fact, the act of nominating is itself quite “beyond yourself.” Staff are increasingly leaning into the professional development opportunities we are providing, an indicator of Students Always. And many tell their colleagues, and potential staff recruits, that they came here because of the DLPs—and that they see them in the people around them. The students are taking notes on readings and sending those notes to their classmates—again an example of Beyond Yourself. They are designing ways to have deeper, more difficult conversations about race and gender and hot political topics (Question the Status Quo). They are using the DLPs to motivate importance advances in the student community, e.g., the ally movement.

Which principle is resonating most with you now?

It has always been hard for me to look at them as anything but a “system” taken all together. The one principle that still seems like it sets us apart the most externally versus our top competition is Confidence Without Attitude. But for me personally, the one resonating the most right now is Beyond Yourself. There’s so much in that one that it’s inexhaustible.

Prof. Andrew Rose receives Williamson Award—highest faculty honor

Prof. Andrew Rose, Williamson Award winnerProf. Andrew Rose, an international finance scholar who has taught macroeconomics to three decades of Berkeley Haas students, has received the Haas School’s highest faculty honor: the Williamson Award.

The award is named after Nobel Laureate and Haas Prof. Emeritus Oliver Williamson, and honors Haas faculty members who exemplify the attitudes and behaviors that differentiate our school. Rose is the fourth recipient of the award.

“Andy is not only a groundbreaking scholar whose economic insights have guided countries around the world; he is also an outstanding teacher and tireless supporter of Haas—both in his formal role as associate dean and chair of the faculty and in his work mentoring rising scholars,” said Dean Rich Lyons. “Indeed, his six years of service as our associate dean are arguably the greatest beyond-yourself service any faculty member has given the school in the last ten years.”

Rose, the Bernard T. Rocca, Jr. Chair in International Business & Trade, has taught and conducted research at Haas since 1986. He served as associate dean of academic affairs and chair of the faculty from 2010 to 2016, and previously as chair of the Economic Analysis & Policy Group and founding director of the Clausen Center for International Business & Policy.

“Only three Haas faculty have received this reward and each, in my opinion, is among the very highest caliber faculty at Haas; the elite of the elite,” said Rose. “Truly, I am both honored and humbled to join their ranks.”

Prolific scholar & frequent advisor

Rose is a prolific and highly cited scholar whose research addresses international trade, finance, currency and exchange rates, and economic crises. Over the course of his career, he has published more than 150 papers, including 90 articles in refereed economics journals; organized over 50 conferences on four continents; edited 15 books and symposia; and served as a visiting scholar at 12 universities.

A native of Canada who holds triple citizenship in his home country, the US, and the UK, Rose has worked as an advisor to a multitude of economic agencies, including the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, as well as central banks in a dozen countries, including the US.

Berkeley Haas Prof. Andrew Rose teaching

Mentor and teacher

Yet amid all that activity, Rose has gone beyond himself to mentor colleagues and give back to the school, according to the award nomination. Rose, who won the Cheit Award for Excellence in Teaching in 1999 and 2011, has been generous in sharing teaching tips through the former Haas Center for Teaching Excellence (now the Compendium for Teaching Excellence). He has also used his research expertise to provide detailed feedback to more junior faculty members, a nominator wrote: “In the way he approaches research, he questions the status quo. I recall every single comment and suggestion that he gave me.”

Award honors Oliver Williamson

Prior winners of the Williamson award are Prof. John Morgan, Prof. Teck Ho, and Prof. Toby Stuart. Winners are selected annually by a committee made up of Williamson, prior winners, and the dean. Rose was named the winner for the 2016-2017 academic year.

Williamson is the winner of the 2009 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences and a beloved teacher and leader at Berkeley Haas. Williamson embodies the spirit of the Haas School articulated in the Defining Leadership Principles: Question the Status Quo, Confidence Without Attitude; Beyond Yourself; and Students Always.

New case study examines how Haas can sustain its culture

During a busy last year as dean, Rich Lyons continues to question the status quo, co-authoring a new case study that takes a candid look at his culture initiative and whether the School’s Defining Leadership Principles will endure.

The study, “The Berkeley Haas School of Business: Codifying, Embedding, and Sustaining Culture,” co-authored with Prof. Jenny Chatman, offers a detailed history of the dean’s initiative, its successes, and the gaps that remain. As all effective cases do, it also asks provocative questions about what will happen when Haas’ chief purpose officer passes the leadership mantle in June 2018.

“The acid test of effective leadership is how well an organization does when a leader is gone,” says Chatman, the Paul J. Cortese Distinguished Professor of Management. “There is some risk that once the champion of the Defining Principles leaves that the principles themselves will evaporate in some way, or at least become less forceful.”

Chatman, an expert on organizational culture, was an early champion of the Defining Principles—now referred to as the Defining Leadership Principles: Question the Status Quo, Confidence without Attitude, Students Always, and Beyond Yourself.

Dean Rich Lyons codified the Defining Leadership Principles
Dean Rich Lyons (Photo: Noah Berger)

“The rudder of the ship”

Keeping the principles going for generations has been top-of-mind for Lyons, who made sure that they were prominent in the job announcement for his replacement.

The Haas School Board, whose input will be important for the selection of the new dean, is one crucial link to future support for the principles. Haas board member Michael Gallagher said that the hiring process will be critical to the dean’s legacy.

“The dean is the rudder of the ship, and if that person comes in and wants to redefine the culture, it would be a grave mistake,” he said. “The dean should be selected on his or her ability to understand, to support, and to have a passion for advancing these Defining Leadership Principles. If that happens, they will be sustainable for a long, long time.”

Prof. Jennifer Chatman
Prof. Jennifer Chatman

The case study grew out of a 2016 lunch meeting between Lyons and Chatman. In addition to being Chatman’s longtime friend and teaching colleague, Lyons had read some of Chatman’s research on culture and developed a deep appreciation for how powerful a tool it can be for organizations.

He was further convinced of culture’s significance after a 20-month stint as the Chief Learning Officer at Goldman Sachs, a position that he left to rejoin Haas as dean in 2008. In recent years, Lyons has been a regular guest speaker on the topic of culture in one of Chatman’s courses in the UC Berkeley Executive Leadership Program.

Chatman says she suggested they co-author the case study because the process behind implementing the culture initiative was ideal for such an analysis, and because she felt that creating an official record of the principles’ development was important to the school’s history and evolution.

The principles’ growing influence

Since 2010, when they were first codified, the Defining Leadership Principles have proven a quantifiable success. About 75 percent of students from all three MBA programs and the undergraduate program cite them as a strong reason for choosing Haas. Similarly, more than 90 percent of alumni surveyed from the past decade said they were familiar with the principles and use them when navigating both their careers and personal lives.

In the MBA programs, the principles influence everything from who is admitted to key elements of the curriculum. For staff, the Annual Outstanding Staff Awards were altered to reflect the principles, among other changes.

While students, staff, and alumni have strongly embraced the principles, faculty acceptance has varied.

“Some of the faculty have always been on board with the principles, and others— including significant skeptics—have come around,” Chatman said. “But I’m still not sure that faculty live by them day to day. Filling in those gaps is, I think, an opportunity for this dean in his final year and for the next dean.”

Perhaps the biggest hurdle for Lyons was how to bring the principles into the faculty’s world, where success is measured by research and teaching—and skepticism is part of the job. As Prof. Steven Tadelis put it, “soft” things like culture, especially 10 years ago, were viewed by some as “fluff and irrelevant.”

Yet Tadelis said that his work experiences with eBay and Amazon helped change his view of the principles. “Before I had that practical wisdom of working at companies, I couldn’t fully grasp the objective of the Defining Principles,” he said. “I now think these are core to being a successful team member in any organization.”

“The kind of people they want to fund”

Feedback from the Berkeley Haas community continues to encourage Lyons that the principles will live on—in part because they have been implicit in the school’s identity for decades.

Stephanie Fujii, former assistant dean of MBA admissions, said over time the fit of the students admitted to Haas increasingly aligned with the principles. Venture capitalists, Lyons said, tell him that “our principles describe the kind of people they want to fund.”

“Recruiters tell me that when they hire for senior positions, it comes down to fit over skills nearly every time,” Lyons added.

Both Lyons and Chatman view the case study as one way to ensure that needed work continues to happen this year and under a new dean. Lyons has already identified 12 “culture champions”—including faculty and staff—who meet regularly to discuss ways to continue the culture-building work.

Lyons and Chatman also plan to follow up with a second case study chronicling what was actually done in Lyons’ final year to further cement the culture.

“Cultures need to change over time; while I don’t feel the four principles should change anytime soon, the specifics of how they impact the way we do our work should change,” said Lyons. “There are a lot of institutions that maintain very strong cultures over many leader successions because organic support is so strong.”


Rich Lyons begins final year as dean

Rich Lyons, dean of UC Berkeley's Haas School of Business (photo: Copyright Noah Berger)Dean Rich Lyons, who for 11 years has led the Haas School of Business through a defining culture initiative, construction of a state-of-the-art academic building, and the creation of two new degree programs, will step down at the end of his second term in June 2018.

Noting that it’s customary for deans to transition out after two terms, Lyons—who also served one year as interim dean—said it’s the right time to welcome new leadership and return to his faculty role.

“Serving as your dean has been the most fulfilling job of my career, and I plan to remain engaged with Haas for years to come,” he wrote in a message to the community. “And we still have a lot to accomplish together this coming year!”

Dean Rich Lyons codified the school's unique culture into four Defining Principles
Dean Rich Lyons shows off his Defining Principles t-shirt at the 2014 Berkeley-Haas Alumni Conference.

Strong footing

Lyons, BS 82, will leave the school on strong footing. Its academic programs are in the top 10 in all major rankings: the new Connie & Kevin Chou Hall will open for classes this summer; the first class of students will start this fall in the Management, Entrepreneurship, & Technology (M.E.T.) program—a unique dual-degree offering from Haas and Berkeley Engineering. And the four Defining Principles at the heart of Lyons’ culture initiative—Question the Status Quo, Confidence Without Attitude, Students Always, and Beyond Yourself—have become deeply embedded in all aspects of the school and alumni experience.

“Rich is a visionary and a path-bending leader who has led Haas to a different level of competitiveness and impact. Perhaps his most important contribution was understanding his role as ‘chief purpose officer’ and the power of culture to transform,” said Haas School Board Chair Jack Russi, BS 82, a national managing partner for Deloitte. “Rich treats everything from a ‘servant-leader’ lens, going out of his way to attend nearly every event. Besides being an outstanding dean, he is a wonderful human being. He leaves some big shoes to fill!”

Search committee formed

Lyons, an economist with a charismatic personality known for livening up events with his considerable guitar-playing chops, is much loved by Haas alumni, students, and faculty. A campus search committee, made up of Berkeley-Haas board members, faculty, staff, and students along with UC Berkeley representatives, has begun work earlier than usual to ensure that a new dean is in place when Lyons wraps up his term.

“In so many respects, Dean Lyons has gone beyond himself,” said Prof. Toby Stuart, the Leo Helzel Chair in Entrepreneurship and Innovation, who will serve on the search committee. “He has worked tirelessly to the benefit of Haas and the university. He has done so with an infectious enthusiasm and optimism. His service to Haas will long be remembered.”

Dean Rich Lyons performs for MBA students at the annual Dean’s Scotch Tasting fundraiser in February 2017. (Photo by Jim Block)

A career tied to Berkeley

Lyons has devoted most of his career to the school he credits with transforming his own life. After earning his bachelor’s degree with highest honors from Berkeley-Haas in 1982, followed by a PhD in economics from MIT in 1987, Lyons spent six years on the Columbia Business School faculty before returning to Haas in 1993 as an assistant professor of finance and economics. He gained tenure three years later, served as associate dean for academic affairs in 2004, and acting dean from 2004-2005.

As an international finance professor, Lyons was a six-time recipient the Cheit Award for Excellence in Teaching—the school’s top teaching honor—and also won UC Berkeley’s highest teaching award in 1998. From 2006 to 2008, he took a leave to serve as chief learning officer for Goldman Sachs, developing leadership among managing directors and partners.

Berkeley-Haas Defining Principles Question the Status Quo
The Defining Principles are deeply embedded in the school—and in the courtyard, renovated in 2013.

Upon his appointment as the Bank of America Dean in 2008, a board member told him, “leaders set culture.” Lyons took the advice to heart, plunging into a strategic planning effort that led to the overhaul of the MBA curriculum and—after an extensive process involving input from alumni, students, faculty, and staff—launching the Defining Principles in 2010.

“We codified the culture of Berkeley-Haas—which had been latent in the school for generations,” Lyons said.

Culture as differentiator

The Defining Principles have since become a strong differentiator. In surveys, students say the school’s distinctive culture is one of the top reasons they chose Berkeley-Haas, and more than 90 percent of graduates from the past decade say they are familiar with them, and frequently share how they have served as beacons in navigating their careers.

“The Defining Principles distinguish Haas as a school that values and produces leaders who are capable, curious, community-minded, creative, and humble,” said Prof. Jenny Chatman,  the Paul J. Cortese Distinguished Professor of Management and an expert on culture. “Sharpening that message has been an essential source of the Haas School’s growing success, and we have Dean Lyons to thank for that.”

Below: Dean Rich Lyons broke out his guitar for the 2015 Big Give fundraising blitz.

Growth in gifts

A talented fundraiser, Lyons has helped bring in eight of the school’s nine largest gifts and galvanized donors to record levels of participation and engagement. He is responsible for the school’s largest fundraising years on record, and during his tenure, the school brought in nearly double the philanthropic contributions of the previous decade.

He also led a transformation of the Haas campus, first with the renovation of the O’Donnell Courtyard into a larger, flexible outdoor space in 2013, and next with the development of Connie & Kevin Chou Hall, which will be entirely devoted to student learning and interaction. The $60 million project was fully funded by donors, including a gift of up to $25 million from Connie Chen and Kevin Chou, BS 02—the largest ever from a UC Berkeley alum under age 40.

Dean Rich Lyons greets Kevin Chou, BS 02, and Connie Chen, naming donors for the Haas school's new academic building.
Dean Rich Lyons greets Kevin Chou, BS 02, and Connie Chen, naming donors for the Haas school’s new academic building. (Photo by Noah Berger)

New programs added

With regard to academics, Lyons oversaw the launch of the Berkeley MBA for Executives Program in 2013, after a joint program with Columbia University was dissolved, and launched new executive education and interdisciplinary programs. He has forged stronger ties with other UC Berkeley colleges and departments. He sees the new M.E.T. program with Berkeley Engineering as a model to expand on, particularly with other science disciplines, eventually leading to a suite of interdisciplinary dual-degree programs at the graduate and undergraduate levels.

“Berkeley and Haas grab you by the collar and insist that you take advantage of all the degrees of freedom you have to live your life and conduct your career,” Lyons told students at last year’s MBA commencement. Now, as he returns to his position on the faculty in July 2018, Lyons says he is interested in exploring opportunities in the digital education or fintech areas.

Undergrad Commencement: “A Sikh’s Speech to Unite the World”

Angad Singh Padda, BS 17

Angad Singh Padda rolled up his sleeves at undergraduate commencement Monday, sat cross-legged on the Greek Theatre stage next to Dean Rich Lyons, and began to beat on classical Indian drums called the Tabla.

“That intense beat right there was everybody’s heartbeat right before we opened our admissions letters,” said Padda, who wore a bright yellow turban that was inspired by Cal colors. “When I got in I was so happy my face was as bright as this turban.”

“On a serious note,” he continued. “for this speech to work I need everybody’s help. For a couple of seconds, please, close your eyes everybody. Think about that one problem that matters most to you, that one issue you really need resolved to make this world a better place. Now open your eyes. That right there is the core of my speech today.”

Six months ago, Padda was among 30 Haas undergrads who auditioned for the honor of undergraduate student speaker. When the undergrad members of the Haas Business School Association chose him, Padda went out and asked more than 70 classmates what mattered to them most.

He said he deeply contemplated their concerns, but he never drafted a formal speech. “If I was to memorize a speech and write it down I wouldn’t be able to feel it and connect with the audience,” said Padda.

So instead of standing behind the podium with paper in hand, Padda pulled off his black gown, grabbed the mic and paced the stage as he spoke from the heart.

Angad plays the drums onstage at commencement

Going beyond ourselves

The talk, which he titled “A Sikh’s graduation speech to unite the world,” centered on the idea that we are all one and can all unite to solve global problems. He spoke of losing two best friends to drugs in his home state of Punjab, and said his plan when coming to the US was to become successful enough to return home and fight the scourge of drug abuse.

Then he turned to some the problems his classmates had shared with him.

“Whenever there’s a kid in Oakland who can’t afford school, that’s a problem,” he said. “Whenever climate change wipes out a species, that’s a problem. Whenever a Muslim woman gets bullied because of her hijab, or a Jewish man because of his yarmulke, or a Sikh man because of his turban, that is a problem. When a father in Syria cries because he lost his entire family to a missile strike, that’s a problem.”

Padda urged the 400 members of the Class of 2017 who attended graduation “to use our education to go beyond ourselves to make this world a better place. We want to unify this world. That’s the core spirit of every student right here. That is who we are.”

He asked the crowd to imagine a beautiful village with farm fields and cattle. The houses of the village—a real village in India called Shani Shingnapur—have no front doors.

“The villagers firmly believe there’s no need for borders or barriers or discrimination,” he said. “That is why in that village, there’s never been a robbery or a single incident of violence. What if all of us can use our education to create a world just like that village? In that world there would be no walls or borders, none. In that world there would be no Muslim ban. In that world, no one would call another person ‘bad hombre.’”

After tassels were turned, Padda said he was moved to tears by the affection of his classmates and their families. “I felt unbelievably honored when I received a standing ovation,” he said.

Noor Abuhamdieh-Gaith, a Palestinian student who became friends with Padda during junior year, said his friend’s heart of gold came across in his words.

“The speech was the greatest of all time,” Gaith said. “His Tabla drum beat represented the passionate heartbeat of Berkeley students, who will create a unified world. He places such importance on values and morals, and we have to remind ourselves of that, especially at a business school.”

Creating a legacy

Padda, who accepted a job at JP Morgan as an investment banker, will leave soon to begin training in New York, and will start working in San Francisco after that.

“Berkeley is like home for me,” he said. At Berkeley, he says he has been protected from much of the harassment that he hears about from his Sikh friends across the country. “I have so many friends across the U.S. who wear turbans. One friend was called Osama Bin Laden and told “Get out. You don’t belong here.”

Padda said that events such as the Syrian civil war and refugee crisis, the Venezuelan hunger problem, rampant global warming, and the 2012 fatal shooting that left six people dead in a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, led Padda to start speaking out about his beliefs and fighting for change.

Padda’s long term plan has always been to fight the drug problem in Punjab, and to bring high quality education and healthcare to India’s villages. He also aims to make a difference in the lives of refugees and civil war victims across the world.

“Everybody talks about legacy, legacy, legacy – our legacy will forever be remembered as the class that not only did good business, but the class that engaged in the business of doing good.”

Padda shared the stage with classmate Grace Lee, president of the Haas Business Students Association, who also spoke and introduced him. Sangeeta Desai, BS 98 and group COO/CEO for emerging markets at FremantleMedia, gave the commencement address. The undergraduate Defining Principles Award Winners were Kyeihong Kim (Confidence Without Attitude); Hsin Hung “Hank” Sze (Students Always); Mitchell Ryan Quon (Beyond Yourself); and Grace Kim Lee (Question the Status Quo).

Angad Singh Padda, BS 17, is a National Jack Kent Cooke Scholar. He is the recipient of Poets & Quants’ Best and Brightest Business Undergraduate Award, and has taught three student-run classes on charisma, public speaking, and finance at Berkeley-Haas. He has also been a golf instructor in the past, and loves to teach children from disadvantaged communities in his spare time.

14 Haas Highlights From 2014

The year kicked off with the historic confirmation of one of our own as the nation’s economic leader, and ended with the start of construction of the state-of-the-art North Academic Building.

As we say goodbye to 2014, here are 14 of the year’s top stories.

Berkeley-Haas Professor Emeritus Janet Yellen sworn in as chair of the Federal Reserve.

The historic appointment made Yellen the first woman to lead the nation’s central banking system and monetary policy. Yellen taught thousands of Berkeley-Haas students in the undergraduate, full-time MBA, and Evening & Weekend MBA programs.

Women make up 43% of the full-time MBA Class of 2016

A record number of women entered the Full-time Berkeley MBA program.

The Class of 2016 is 43 percent women—the highest among top U.S. business schools. The class reflects the record percentage of women who applied (average GMAT scores increases as well). The Executive MBA program also has a record percentage of women, and the percentage of women in the Evening & Weekend MBA program increased as well.

Haas is also attracting record numbers of vets. This year, 61 students in the undergraduate, MBA, and Master of Financial Engineering degree programs are veterans of the U.S. military.Mike Christman, MBA 16, is one of a growing number of vets in the MBA program.

In this video, seven MBA scholars shared stories about their transitions from the military, and the skills they’ve brought with them.

Oakland A’s legend Billy Beane surprised new MBA students.
As incoming Full-Time Berkeley MBA students warmed up with a case about Major League Baseball management during orientation week, little did they know that A’s Moneyball legends Beane and Sandy Alderson were on deck with real-life lessons.

The Evening & Weekend Program was again ranked #1 by U.S. News.

All three Berkeley MBA programs placed among the top 10 schools in U.S. News & World Report’s rankings, and the Evening & Weekend MBA Program topped the list of part-time programs for the second straight year. The Full-time MBA Program ranked #7 among full-time programs for the seventh year in a row, and the new Berkeley MBA for Executives tied for #9 with UNC Chapel Hill, up from #10 last year.

Haas professors’ research revealed surprising insights about liars, gamblers, and political correctness.

New research debunked the stereotype of entrepreneurs as overconfident risk takers, examined how much willpower it can take to be honest, linked betting behaviors to dopamine levels, and found that the unconscious mind can detect a liar—even when the conscious mind fails.

Other highlights: politically correct workplaces may spur creativity, why paid search doesn’t always pay off, and a hefty award to analyze whether federal inspections actually make workplaces safer, and more.

Haas Prof. Homa BahramiHoma Bahrami won the 2014 Best Case Series Best Case Award for her Mozilla employee study.

Bahrami, a senior lecturer in the Management of Organization’s Group, studied Mozilla Corp.’s efforts to manage a diverse base of paid employees and volunteers. The Best Case Award was created to showcase unconventional management strategies and disruptive trends. Bahrami’s paper was published in the Fall 2013 issue of the California Management Review.

YEAH program graduate is first to return to Haas.

The Young Entrepreneurs at Haas (YEAH) Program has been helping underserved Bay Area students go to college for nearly 25 years. This year, Palwasha Khatri, BS 15, became the first YEAH graduate to enroll at Haas as an undergrad. “I’m majoring in business because of the YEAH Program,” she says.

The Dean’s Speaker Series brought  a diverse group of luminaries to speak at Haas—and mingle with students—throughout the year. Speakers included General Bikram Singh, Former Chief of Army Staff, Indian Army; Haas Professor Laura Tyson and Berkeley Economics Professor Emanuel Saez at a panel discussion on income inequality in the 21st Century; Duncan Niederauer, former CEO of the New York Stock Exchange; Deanna Berkeley, president of alice + olivia; James White, CEO and president of Jamba Juice; and U.S. Army Reserve Brigadier General Tammy Smith.

Other fall speakers included Janet Napolitano, president of the University of California & former United States Secretary of Homeland Security, Twitter co-founder Biz Stone.

And here’s the list of the spring 2014 speakers.

The first class of students completed the new Berkeley MBA for Executives program.

Since its launch in May 2013, the new program has held highly successful immersion weeks in Silicon Valley, Washington DC, and Shanghai. Next up? Brazil.

Stuart Bernstein (photo by Noah Berger)

Green tech investor Stuart Bernstein named Business Leader of the Year

Bernstein, BS 86, is a Goldman Sachs managing director and partner who has shaken up investment banking with his passion for clean energy and the environment. He was honored at the 13th Annual Haas Gala in November.

Undergrads won the right to compete nationally with an IBM Watson app.

Berkeley-Haas Team Patent Fox tapped the world’s most powerful supercomputer, IBM Watson, to design an app that makes searching and filing for new patents more efficient. In January, they’ll compete against nine top schools for $100,000 at IBM Watson’s New York City headquarters. The students are enrolled in the course Open Innovation, Leveraging IBM Watson.

The Big Give raised more than a half million for Haas. 

UC Berkeley’s first 24-hour campus-wide online fundraiser was the biggest single-day fundraiser in Haas history. When it ended Nov. 20, Berkeley-Haas raised about $561,000 from 651 donors. Thank you to all our supporters!

Construction of the new North Academic Building began.

The six-story, $60 million building on the north side of our campus will be devoted entirely to student learning and interaction. State-of-the art classrooms and learning labs that reflect the evolution of management education towards hands-on work, an environmentally friendly design, and breathtaking views of the San Francisco Bay are key features. The building is scheduled to be completed for use in the fall term 2016.

Here’s to a #Haasome 2015!

MBA Commencement Speakers on Overcoming Obstacles: Race, Gender, Mobility

Student speakers Álvaro Silberstein and Tiffany Barbour spoke of overcoming obstacles and gaining the confidence to achieve the impossible at the Berkeley MBA Commencement held at the Greek Theatre last Friday.

Alvaro Silberstein, MBA 17, was confined to a wheelchair as a teenager. He left his support system in Chile to pursue an MBA at Haas.
Álvaro Silberstein, MBA 17

Classmates and friends—among a crowd of 500 Full-time and Evening & Weekend graduating MBA students—chanted “Álvaro” as Silberstein, MBA 17, wheeled to the podium to speak in the warmth of the midday sun. Silberstein, MBA 17, who was paralyzed as a teenager in his native Chile, spoke of the fear he felt in leaving behind his supports for the first time to pursue an MBA at Berkeley.

Overcoming barriers

Despite challenges like steep hills and the initial language barrier, he said he felt his fears melt at Haas. “We have shared our most intimate stories, in Leadership Communications class or Story Salon, showing who we really are, and what we have passed through,” he said. “This community pushes everyone to show our most authentic version of ourselves, accepting our differences, our weaknesses and beliefs.”

Last December, Silberstein trekked an iconic route through Patagonia’s Torres Del Paine National Park with a team, including classmate Matan Sela, also MBA 17. Silberstein’s startup, Wheel the World, left a trekking wheelchair behind at the national park, which has already been used by three people. “This place, this program, has transformed all of us, by giving us the tools and the confidence to achieve impossibilities,” he said in his MBA commencement speech.

Tiffany Barbour, EWMBA 17
Tiffany Barbour, EWMBA 17

No “I can’ts” in sight

Barbour, EWMBA 17, an engineer who works in management at Genentech, recalled an encounter 17 years ago when her eighth grade science teacher told her parents that she had neither the aptitude nor the determination to excel in the sciences.

“I was crushed—not because I believed him. I mean, I stand before you an engineer at arguably the best biotech in the world. No, I was crushed because in that moment I realized that there are likely other people in the world who viewed me the way that he did.”

From that moment on, Barbour said her academic career has been “molded by defiance–defiance of the artificial limitation forced upon me by those who were either unable or unwilling to see past my gender or the color of my skin.”

“My dreams, my aspirations—they’re the fire in my soul,” she said. “The words ‘you can’t,’ well, that’s just like fanning the flames with oxygen. It just makes those flames grow.”

When Barbour arrived at Haas three years ago, she asked the question: What do I want to be when I grow up?

“Every workshop, every class, every conversation opened up a world of new possibilities,” she said. “I could be a consultant, an entrepreneur, a strategist, a product manager, a financial analyst. I could be president of the United States. I could be anything. And there were no ‘you can’ts’ in sight.”

Dean Rich Lyons congratulates MBA graduates
Dean Rich Lyons


Dean Rich Lyons (above) spoke of the transformation students make during their time at Haas.

“You have learned a tremendous amount about yourselves and each other, and you’ve built connections for a lifetime,” he said. “Many of you have transformed your career trajectories or your roles within your organizations. More than a few of you are creating new ventures. All of you have been transformed in some way.”

Novartis CEO Joseph Jimenez, MBA 84
Novartis CEO Joseph Jimenez, MBA 84

Purpose, Pathway, People

Commencement speaker Joe Jimenez, MBA 84 and CEO of Novartis (above), spoke of three things he wanted graduates to remember:

  • Purpose: “In your post-business school life, one of the most important things you can do is find a workplace with a purpose that you believe in,” Jimenez said.
  • Pathway: “Many of you will want to over-engineer everything in your life. But resist this. Sometimes the best things in life happen TO you.”
  • People: “No matter how good you are, you can’t achieve success without a strong team around you.”

Full-time MBA award winners


Full-time MBA

  • Question the Status Quo: Patrick Ford
  • Confidence Without Attitude: Hadiatou Barry
  • Students Always: Eddie Gandevia
  • Beyond Yourself: Neha Kumar
  • The Berkeley Leader Award: Kelly Allena Deutermann & Derek Kenmotsu  
  • Outstanding Academic Performance: Thaddeus Robert Stebbins

Evening & Weekend MBA award winners 2017

Evening & Weekend MBA

  • Question the Status Quo: Amrit Sinha
  • Confidence Without Attitude: Andrew Hening
  • Students Always: Alicea Wu
  • Beyond Yourself: Diane Chiang
  • The Berkeley Leader Award: Zen Menon
  • Outstanding Academic Performance: John Delacruz & Elisa Radice

Cheit Award for Excellence in Teaching

  • Full-time MBA: Prof. Omri Even Tov
  • EWMBA (Weekend): Prof. Maximilian Auffhammer
  • EWMBA (Evening): Prof. Panos Patatoukas

Outstanding Graduate Student Instructors

  • Full-time MBA: Alexander Evangelides
  • Evening & Weekend MBA: Laura Boudreau & Henry Laurion


Undergraduate Commencement: “A Sikh’s Speech to Unite the World

Q&A: Five Years of the Haas Defining Principles

When Dean Rich Lyons partnered with faculty, students, alumni, and staff to articulate Berkeley-Haas culture, the aim was to capture the school’s essence.

What emerged were our four Defining Principles: Question the Status Quo, Confidence Without Attitude, Students Always, and Beyond Yourself.

Launched in February 2010, the Defining Principles culture initiative has touched all aspects of Haas: admissions, curriculum, staff hiring and reviews, alumni relations, and day-to-day operations. We asked our chief culture evangelist, Dean Rich Lyons, to reflect on some the shifts that have taken place over these five years, and what lies ahead.

Q: Can you share an example of how the environment at Haas feels different than it did five years ago?

A: One of the things that we’ve had to get used to is what I will call the discomfort in the Defining Principles. Let’s take Question the Status Quo. It’s easy to say we all appreciate it and embrace it, but it’s hard to do. It’s especially hard when somebody questions a status quo that you put in place. Many of us—including me—have asked: “Are we fully ready for this?”

Some people have said that if you go back five or 10 years, we were so consensus-oriented that it was hard to voice a contrarian view. That can lead to groupthink, and to stasis. If we want to be really dynamic, constructive disagreement is part of it. In senior leadership team meetings, I’ve seen more of a willingness to put somebody’s idea out there and say, “Wait a minute. I have a different view.”

This also maps into our interactions with the broader campus. Intellectually, we are very good at questioning the status quo at Berkeley. But operationally, the university can be a pretty bureaucratic place. I think people at Haas are really taking up the challenge and asking the kinds of questions that we talk to our students all the time. Questions like, “Isn’t there a better way to do it?” The campus sees it too. They see us changing the rules by which we’re governed.

Q: Haas now has five years worth of graduates who grew up with the Defining Principles. How are you seeing this reflect back on the school?

A:  I see it all the time. Here’s an example: we hand out our “culture cards” that list the Defining Principles. When I go to see a donor or alum I always ask, “Do you know about the culture work we’ve been doing?”

Many, many of them say, “I’ve got the culture card on my desk.” Or they have it in their wallet or purse. It’s not just that they’re aware of it—they are using it, and they have an appetite to be guided by it. They’re proud of it.

Another example: I was at lunch recently with some venture capitalists who don’t know the school very well, and I handed a culture card to them. They said, “This describes the kind of people we like to fund.”

Questioning the status quo is the first principle on the list, and most entrepreneurs are very good at that. But these VCs also know that if you can’t build a team as an entrepreneur, you won’t be successful. Confidence Without Attitude—they said that’s exactly what they’d like to see more need of. Students Always and Beyond Yourself fit in as well.

Q:  You’ve said the DPs codified a culture that was already here, and also that they are aspirational. Thinking ahead, what’s next?

A: We’ve got a very strong culture, it serves us, we’re proud of it. The question is to what end? If our value proposition is producing a distinctive type of leader, how is our culture driving that outcome?

If the culture is driving what we’re doing at the highest level to produce a distinctive type of leader, it’s a different value proposition. We’re only part of the way there to really linking culture to the leadership profile or leadership archetype that we’re standing by as a school. That’s part of the aspiration for us.

Q:  What’s your top advice for other institutions working on cultural change?

A: There are three bits of advice I give to everybody.

Number one: Culture is a long-cycle project. We are five years in and we are maybe 60 percent of the way to achieving the full benefits.

Number two: You need urgency. Change management efforts founder because there isn’t a sense of urgency or a clear case for why it’s important. You need to establish the case, and maintain that urgency over a long period.

Number three: Who owns it? If somebody senior—preferably the most senior person—isn’t 100 percent committed, you probably won’t get there.