Campus & Community

Srikant Datar named dean of Business School

Senior associate dean and professor will take office on Jan. 1

7 min read
Srikant Datar.

Srikant Datar will become the 11th dean in the Business School’s 112-year history.

Srikant Datar, the Arthur Lowes Dickinson Professor of Business Administration and the senior associate dean for University affairs at Harvard Business School (HBS), will become the School’s next dean, President Larry Bacow announced today. Datar will begin his service on Jan. 1.

“Srikant Datar is an innovative educator, a distinguished scholar, and a deeply experienced academic leader,” said Bacow in announcing the appointment. “He is a leading thinker about the future of business education, and he has recently played an essential role in HBS’s creative response to the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. He has served with distinction in a range of leadership positions over his nearly 25 years at HBS, while also forging novel collaborations with other Harvard Schools.

“Srikant will come to the deanship with a broad international perspective, decades of close engagement with business practice, and a strong commitment to building an increasingly diverse and inclusive HBS community,” Bacow added. “He is also a warm, generous, and thoughtful colleague and mentor — someone whose leadership experience, intimate knowledge of HBS, deep devotion to the institution, and talent for catalyzing constructive change all promise to serve the School and the University well, at a pivotal moment for business education.”

Since joining the HBS faculty in 1996, Datar has held a series of key positions, as the School’s senior associate dean responsible for faculty recruiting, for faculty development, for executive education, for research, and currently for University affairs. He has served since 2015 as faculty chair of the Harvard Innovation Labs, or i-lab. He has written and spoken extensively on the future of business education, and his wide-ranging academic interests encompass design thinking, data science, artificial intelligence, innovative problem solving, strategy implementation, and cost management. Most recently, he has been intensively engaged in envisioning and implementing the innovative hybrid teaching and learning model that HBS has adopted in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I am equal measures humbled and honored to take on this role,” said Datar. “Harvard Business School is an institution with a remarkable legacy of impact in research, education, and practice.  Yet the events of the past year have hastened our passage to an unforeseen future. I look forward to working with colleagues and friends of the School — including throughout Harvard, in our Boston community, and around the world — to realize our mission in what undoubtedly will be an exciting new era.”

Datar will become the 11th dean in the Business School’s 112-year history. He will succeed Nitin Nohria, who last November announced his plans to conclude his deanship at the end of June 2020, after 10 years of distinguished service, but agreed to continue through this December in view of the pandemic.

“Srikant is an outstanding choice as Harvard Business School’s next dean,” said Nohria. “He has thought deeply about the challenges and opportunities facing management education, and has a proven record of collaboration, innovation, and leadership — not only within HBS, but across Harvard and at other organizations. He is deeply respected for his judgment, admired for the genuine enthusiasm he brings to his research and teaching, and beloved as a colleague. I am confident, through the remainder of the pandemic and beyond, he will chart an inspired course for the School.”

Datar received his bachelor’s degree, with distinction, from the University of Bombay in 1973. A chartered accountant, he went on to receive a postgraduate diploma in business management from the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, before completing master’s degrees in statistics (1983) and economics (1984) and a Ph.D. in business (1985), all from Stanford University. From 1984 to 1989, he was an assistant professor and then associate professor at the Carnegie Mellon Graduate School of Industrial Administration, where he was honored with the George Leland Bach Teaching Award. From 1989 to 1996, he served on the faculty of the Stanford Graduate School of Business, where he rose to become the Littlefield Professor of Accounting and Management and was recognized with the school’s Distinguished Teaching Award.

Over more than a decade, Datar has emerged as a prominent thinker and innovator on the future of business education and in strengthening HBS’s educational ties with other parts of Harvard. He was co-author, with David Garvin and Patrick Cullen, of “Rethinking the MBA: Business Education at a Crossroads” (2010). More recently, he has developed new courses on “Developing Mindsets for Innovative Problem Solving” and “Managing with Data Science,” both of which have included students from other Harvard Schools as well as HBS. He had a guiding hand in launching both the M.S.-M.B.A. in biotechnology and life sciences (with the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and Harvard Medical School) and the M.S.-M.B.A. in engineering sciences (with the Harvard Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences) joint degree programs. He helped shape the Harvard Business Analytics Program, a collaborative certificate program (jointly taught by HBS, FAS, and SEAS faculty) designed for professionals interested in better analyzing, understanding, and using data.

“In multiple roles over the years, Srikant has been remarkably effective at moving HBS forward,” said Provost Alan M. Garber. “Among other things, he has strengthened the i-lab’s role as a nucleus of innovation, guided the creation of an executive-education program in data science, and brought together colleagues across Schools to launch new joint-degree programs in biotech and engineering sciences. He consistently builds bridges across disciplines and organizations, he understands HBS’s challenges and opportunities, and he has his sights set firmly on its success in a time of disruptive change.”

Datar’s own research interests cover a wide terrain. His initial areas of focus included cost management and control, strategy implementation, and governance. In more recent times, beyond his work on the future of business education, he has turned his attention to such areas as design thinking and innovative problem solving, as well as machine learning and artificial intelligence. He has published numerous articles in scholarly journals on such topics as activity-based management, quality, productivity, time-based competition, new product development, bottleneck management, incentives, and performance evaluation. He has also served on several editorial boards.

As a native of India who has traveled widely on HBS’s behalf, Datar brings a broad international perspective to his work. He has presented his research to audiences of academics and executives in North America, South America, Asia, Africa, and Europe. He has led discussions and workshops on management education on several continents, has written numerous papers and cases focused on enterprises based abroad, and is faculty co-chair of the HBS Senior Executive Program–Africa, which was launched in 2016 and has since offered programs for executives in South Africa, Rwanda, Ghana, and Mauritius. He also serves on the governing body of the Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta.

Through research, executive education, case development, and consulting, he has engaged with business practice across a wide span of industries. He also has a record of distinguished service on various corporate boards, and in August the National Association of Corporate Directors honored him as its Public Company Director of the Year. He currently serves on the boards of ICF International, Novartis AG, Stryker Corporation, and T-Mobile US.

In a message introducing Datar as HBS’s next dean, Bacow extended his thanks to the many members of the HBS community who offered advice on the search.

He also renewed his gratitude to Nohria, “who has led HBS with such wisdom, integrity, and foresight for the past decade — and whose willingness to extend his deanship through the end of 2020 has done so much to help HBS and Harvard navigate these challenging times.”

Founded in 1908, the Business School is located on a 40-acre campus in Boston. Its faculty of more than 200 offer full-time programs leading to the M.B.A. and doctoral degrees, as well as more than 70 open-enrollment executive-education programs and 55 custom programs, and Harvard Business School Online, the digital-learning platform. For more than a century, HBS faculty have drawn on their research, their experience in working with organizations worldwide, and their passion for teaching to educate leaders who make a difference, shaping the practice of business and entrepreneurship around the globe.