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
“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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.”
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
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.
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!
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.”
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.
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.”
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.”
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.”
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 [email protected] 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.
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.
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 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
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.
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 expertJennifer 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
In a new paper published inThe 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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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, 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.
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.
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 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.
“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.”
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.”
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!”
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 (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.”
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.
People may associate political correctness with conformity. But new research finds it also correlates with creativity in work settings. Imposing a norm that sets clear expectations of how women and men should interact with each other into a work environment unexpectedly encourages creativity among mixed-sex work groups by reducing uncertainty in relationships.
The study highlights a paradoxical consequence of the political correctness (PC) norm. While PC behavior is often thought to threaten the free expression of ideas, Professor Jennifer Chatman of the Haas School’s Management of Organizations Group and her co-authors found that positioning such PC norms as the office standard provides a layer of safety in the workplace that fosters creativity.
“Creativity is essential to organizational innovation and growth. But our research departs from the prevailing theory of group creativity by showing that creativity in mixed-sex groups emerges, not by removing behavioral constraints, but by imposing them. Setting a norm that both clarifies expectations for appropriate behavior and makes salient the social sanctions that result from using sexist language unleashes creative expression by countering the uncertainty that arises in mixed-sex work groups,” says Chatman.
“Creativity from constraint: How the PC Norm Influences Creativity in Mixed-Sex Work Groups,” forthcoming in Administrative Science Quarterly, is co-authored by Chatman and two Haas PhD graduates, Jack Goncalo, who now teaches at Cornell University, and Jessica Kennedy, now at Vanderbilt University, as well as Michelle Duguid of Washington University.
“Our contention is controversial because many have argued that imposing the PC norm might not just eliminate offensive behavior and language but will also cause people to filter out and withhold potentially valuable ideas and perspectives,” says Chatman, “We suggest that this critical view of the PC norm reflects a deeply rooted theoretical assumption that normative constraints inevitably stifle creative expression—an assumption we challenge.”
The authors designed their experiments taking into account the different incentives men and women have for adhering to the PC norm. Men said they were motivated to adhere to a PC norm because of concerns about not being overbearing and offending women. Whereas one might expect women to perceive a PC norm as emblematic of weakness or conformity, women in the experiment became more confident about expressing their ideas out loud when the PC norm was salient or prominent. In contrast, in work groups that were homogeneous – all men or all women – a salient PC norm had no impact on the group’s creativity compared to the control group.
Study participants were randomly divided into mixed sex groups and same sex groups. Next, researchers asked the groups to describe the value of PC behavior before being instructed to work together on a creative task. The control groups were not exposed to the PC norm before beginning their creative task. The task involved brainstorming ideas on a new business entity to be housed in a property left vacated by a mismanaged restaurant –by design, a project that has no right or wrong strategy.
Instead of stifling their ideas, mixed-sex groups exposed to the PC norm performed more creatively by generating a significantly higher number of divergent and novel ideas than the control group. As expected, same sex groups generated fewer creative outcomes. (Previous studies have found that homogenous groups are less creative because people in these groups are similar to one another with similar ideas and therefore, less divergent thinking occurs.)
People may associate political correctness with conformity but new research by Jennifer Chatmanfinds it also correlates with creativity in work settings. Imposing a norm that sets clear expectations of how women and men should interact with each other into a work environment unexpectedly encourages creativity among mixed-sex work groups by reducing uncertainty in relationships. The study highlights a paradoxical consequence of the political correctness (PC) norm.