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HBX Business Blog

5 Key Takeaways From My Day at HBS

Posted by Kayla Lewkowicz on May 18, 2017 at 3:33 PM

A compilation of photos from HBX ConneXt, featuring Meghan Joyce, Professor Bharat Anand, Professor Mihir Desai, Mark Hardie, and Professor Rebecca Henderson

I recently got the chance to attend HBX ConneXt for the second year, meeting my fellow alumni and taking the opportunity to ask questions and learn from our professors. Here are my top takeaways from an incredible day of knowledge:

“Technology is only a tool, it’s not an end in itself. Online learning won’t magically improve learning.”
—Bharat Anand, HBX Faculty Chair

Bharat Anand kicked off the day by adding context around HBX and what it means to the world, not just to us as students. HBX pioneers a model of teaching that’s pushing the boundaries of what education can be.

Look at the age distribution of HBX students—from 17-60! With technology, we can provide access to anyone willing to learn. The boundary, then, is not privilege, but the motivation and commitment of students.  

“Finance is about information and incentives, not money.”
—Mihir Desai, Professor, Leading with Finance

As a past CORe participant, one of the best parts of HBX ConneXt is getting a taste of the many different courses available. Being a marketer, I rarely get the chance to talk to my CFO or know what they’re thinking about during the day. Participating in Professor Desai’s financial policy case discussion on Apple was eye-opening (not to mention outside of my comfort zone!).

Like any business, Apple’s industry plays a major role in financial policy, and talking through some of the unique challenges in tech—fear of missing the product lifecycle, a brand-intensive marketing play, and a mandate for innovation—introduced me to the concept of cash flow, and why it’s worth paying attention to, especially for big players like Apple and Google.

“In order to change the world, you have to be up against problems that no one has been able to crack before.”
—Megan Joyce, East Coast General Manager at Uber

No matter what our role or industry, we all seek to make an impact. At Uber, they’re not just trying to build a successful business—they’re trying to solve big, hairy problems like global climate change. 

Joyce also talked about a different way to make an impact: through others. As a manager, it’s your job to bring out the best in the people around you and helping them dream bigger. And though we’d like to think we always know what to do, when you’re trying to make an impact, you might not have the right answer. In fact, you might not have any answers. And that’s okay. It’s not always your job to have the answers—instead, pull great ideas out of your team to make an impact on the world.

“How do you deal with no’s? Move on. You don’t have time to dwell on it.”
—Mark Hardie, HBS Career and Professional Development

Mark Hardie’s incredible afternoon workshop for aspiring entrepreneurs talked through a complete case study of a business idea. But knowing the partners, activities, and personas you have to target to create a business plan is only half the battle.

The other half? Getting your voice heard. To be able to get funding (not to mention customers), you have to build a story. Articulating your idea quickly allows you to capitalize on whatever opportunities might come your way—and if someone says no, that’s okay. Learn from it and move on so you don’t miss the next opportunity.

“Business can save the world.”
—Rebecca Henderson, Harvard Professor

To finish out the day, we heard from the brilliant minds of Rebecca Henderson and Michael Sandel discussing the future of capitalism. Capitalism, Henderson argues, is a fabulous tool but a bad master, which has caused problems like environmental issues, increasing inequality, and firms fixing regulation to benefit themselves.

We’ve become a market society, where market values and market thinking dominates every aspect of life, not just goods and services.  At times of major crisis, business leaders have stepped up to solve these kinds of problems for the greater good—the question is, will they now?

If Rebecca Henderson is right, I know that HBX’ers are ready, willing, and able to tackle the world’s biggest problems head on.

The amount of knowledge packed into one day at ConneXt was overwhelming, but it was also inspiring. Whether it was debating Apple’s financial strategy or outlining a business plan, I got the chance to meet HBX’ers from all over the world, learn from them, and be inspired by their dreams and plans—because the only way we’ll save the world is together.

About the Author

KaylaKayla Lewkowicz participated in the January 2016 cohort of HBX CORe. She is the marketing coordinator for a tech start-up in Cambridge, MA who took CORe to better understand her company. Her reflections on the program can be found on her blog.


Topics: HBX ConneXt

A Look Back at HBX ConneXt 2017

Posted by HBX on May 8, 2017 at 1:25 AM

A group of students who've participated in HBX CORe pose for a group photo at HBX ConneXt

On Saturday, more than 400 HBX students from nearly 40 countries gathered on the Harvard Business School campus to meet their classmates and participate in a day of learning, networking, and exploration.

Half of the participants came from more than 1,000 miles away, with some traveling from as far as China, South Africa, Australia, and India. Every HBX course was represented, including a handful of students from the June 2014 pioneer cohort of HBX CORe.

Professor Bharat Anand stands at the podium on stage and welcomes an auditorium full of students to HBX ConneXt

HBX Faculty Chair Bharat Anand started the day by welcoming learners to campus, looking back at the first three years of HBX programming, and giving a sneak peek of the new HBX Mobile Platform that is currently in development.

"The promise of digital learning is not about reach, it's about engagement."

– Professor Bharat Anand,
HBX Faculty Chair

Students laugh during the morning keynote session at HBX ConneXt

Next, HBX Executive Director Patrick Mullane introduced Meghan Joyce, the East Coast General Manager for Uber and HBS MBA ('13), who explained how her experiences in the HBS classroom – especially the use of the case method – have informed her work at Uber and helped her solve real-world problems.

Professor Mike Wheeler leads a case discussion in a Harvard Business School classroom during HBX ConneXt

After the morning keynote, participants made their way to their assigned classrooms for faculty-led case discussions with Professors Bharat Anand, Ethan Bernstein, Mihir Desai, Jan Hammond, V.G. Narayanan, and Mike Wheeler.

Case topics ranged from financial policy at Apple to a challenging negotiation from the Civil War and a Napa Valley winery's dilemma about when to harvest its grapes.

Professor Jan Hammond leads a case discussion at HBX ConneXt while dressed in her iconic blue suit

During these sessions, students got the chance to experience the famed HBS case study method (and dreaded cold call) in person, most for the first time.

Mark Hardie leads a discussion about entrepreneurship at HBX ConneXt

After lunch, students made their way to the Harvard University Innovation Lab for breakout sessions, including entrepreneurship and design thinking workshops, presentations on the HBS MBA program, resume tips and tricks, and charting a career path, professional headshot stations, and campus tours.


Participants were also invited into the HBX Innovation Room, where they tested content and provided feedback on various ideas and designs, shared ideas for new courses, took a quiz to discover their spirit faculty, and more.

Harvard Professors Rebecca Henderson and Michael Sandel sit on stage discussing the future of capitalism at HBX ConneXt

In the afternoon keynote, Harvard Professors Rebecca Henderson and Michael Sandel discussed the future of capitalism.

"You don't have to make a choice between believing in capitalism and caring about the world – Businesses can make money and do good at the same time." 

– Professor Rebecca Henderson

Harvard Business School Dean Nitin Nohria reflects on the loss of colleague David Garvin

Later in the afternoon, HBS Dean Nitin Nohria reflected on the recent loss of a beloved member of the Harvard Business School faculty and the author of our newest HBX course, Professor David Garvin

"David was the kindest, most wonderful human I know," he said. "He was a teacher's teacher."

The dean went on to describe a recent email he received from Professor Garvin, who was trying to instill a greater sense of urgency in the HBX team to complete work on his new course. Due to his declining health, Professor Garvin worried he wouldn't have enough time left to see it through.

"I was amazed that a colleague, in his final days, wanted so badly to create a course that you can benefit from for the rest of your lives." 

–Nitin Nohria,
Harvard Business School Dean

The HBX team is immensely proud to be associated with Professor Garvin's Becoming a Better Manager course, which will be officially announced in the coming weeks.


After the closing remarks, participants wrapped up their HBX ConneXt experience with a networking reception.

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Many people lingered at the end of the evening, still actively engaged in conversations and hesitant to acknowledge that HBX ConneXt had come to a close. Perhaps none more so than Professor Bharat Anand. 

Professor Bharat Anand at HBX ConneXt.jpg

Want to see more from HBX ConneXt? We will be sharing additional photos, videos, student stories, and reflections throughout the week. 

Topics: HBX ConneXt

HBX ConneXt - The Power of Community

Posted by Patrick Mullane on May 14, 2016 at 10:30 AM


This past Saturday, May 7th, I had the privilege of being involved in something that at first glance is replete with contradictions. I gathered with people I knew, but didn’t. I talked with students of an institution who had finished their program of study but who were, in many cases, making their first visit to that institution’s campus. I saw men and women who had taken a course together interact as if they were long lost classmates from an in-residence, multi-year program despite never having been in the same room. And I saw this from people who had to make travel arrangements and purchase tickets to come from all areas of the globe: from Australia to India, from Colombia to Qatar.  

HBX ConneXt was wonderful in its own right but it was most important in the evidence it offered of what an online education program can be. When we set out to create HBX, we started by putting ourselves in the student’s shoes and thinking about the pedagogy (for HBS, this means the case method of study). In starting there, we realized quickly how important interaction between members of the community would be if the case study would be at the center of the learning experience. After all, the case method relies on students questioning and challenging each other. Through this back-and-forth, they come to induce principles and, in having to work for the answer to a problem, they come away with a more fundamental understanding of how to apply their thinking to a host of situations. 

So our efforts to include a community in the platform had much to do with our pedagogy. What wasn’t anticipated at the time but which, in retrospect, should have been obvious, is that this online community that engaged to solve a real-world problem would form bonds that would transcend the course platform. That is what we saw at HBX ConneXt.

We saw digital world relationships become physical world friendships. We saw how helping peers online led to bonding with colleagues offline. We saw what I believe is the beginning of something very special.

As an employee and graduate of the school, I had an amplified sense of pride in what I saw. The employee in me thought about how well the team here executed in creating a wonderful platform and the courses that go on it. The graduate in me took pride in seeing the extension of the school’s mission – to educate leaders that make a difference in the world – take root in so many lives across so much of the world. HBS Dean Nitin Nohria noted to the HBXers assembled during one of the day’s sessions that the world is in desperate need of leadership everywhere. After seeing the enthusiasm of the HBX students, relatively early pioneers in the new world of digital education, I think I can say with confidence that we have many who are ready to answer that call of leadership.



About the Author

Patrick Mullane is the Executive Director of HBX and is responsible for managing HBX’s growth, expansion in global markets, and long-term success.

Topics: Leadership, HBX Insights, Executive Insights, HBX ConneXt

The 5 Most Inspiring Moments From HBX ConneXt

Posted by Kayla Lewkowicz on May 12, 2016 at 1:16 PM


When I think of a traditional residential college, I picture ivy-covered brick buildings, stately Greco-Roman facades, and checkered-floor libraries filled floor-to-ceiling with books. Essentially, I picture Harvard’s stately campus.

When I signed up for HBX CORe, Harvard Business School’s online-only cohort focused on business fundamentals, I didn’t think much about community. After all, it was “just something I was taking online.”

I couldn’t have been more wrong. Hundreds of HBX past participants gathered at Harvard Business School this past Saturday for HBX ConneXt to celebrate exactly that. After engaging in spirited online debates, e-meeting people from Bangalore to Baltimore, and messaging directly with my fellow cohort, I was able to put faces to names, hear their stories, and make real, in-person connections with people I had interacted with for months.

Between student panels, a campus tour, and faculty sessions throughout the day, I felt inspired—and ready—to take on the mission of HBS: making a difference in the world.

Here are a few of the moments that inspired me the most from HBX ConneXt:

“With [online education], the constraint is only the motivation and talent of individuals looking to better themselves.”  

--Professor Bharat Anand

Professor Bharat Anand opened the day by discussing the transformational power of education. He explained that traditional education is a privilege because of scarcity, and that scarcity comes only from the literal, physical constraints of a college campus. With online, that’s completely changed.

If you’re motivated to make yourself better and to learn, you’re able to more than ever. He reminded us that it’s ok to never have done something before. HBX ConneXt was “the first time we’ve had a gathering of students we’ve taught…but never met.”


“Trying to understand the customer is the wrong unit of analysis. You need to understand the job that needs to be done.”

--Professor Clay Christensen

As a marketer, I constantly focus on customer demographics: who are they, what they care about, and their daily habits. Professor Christensen flipped this on its head during his faculty session and spoke of instead the job that needs to be done. What problem does your product solve?

Rather than focusing on differentiating by product, differentiate by solution. Ultimately, our characteristics don’t cause us to buy something—the flow of daily life does.

“As much as I love math and analysis, the hard stuff is what we traditionally call the ‘soft stuff’: managing people.”

--Professor Jan Hammond

HBX CORe provides a common language of business: how to understand your finances, analyze trends and performance, and bring your product to market. But the next step for all of us is the soft skills.

Professor Hammond emphasized learning how to lead an organization in skills like analytics, but also in mindset. She also encouraged us to push ourselves and each other to be the bestwe can be, and to gather people around us who will always ask why.


“Be substantive, not superficial. It’s real results that matter.”

--Larry Culp, Senior Lecturer of Business Administration at HBS and former CEO of Danaher Corporation

As a former CEO, Larry’s advice gave great insight into what real business leaders care about day-to-day. He focused on education as an important self-investment and the sense that people are more important than numbers. Encouraging us to take the long view on issues and on our careers, he talked about maintaining a “continuous improvement” mindset.

We can no longer pretend that doing things as we’ve always done them will be successful. By building a culture where you can say, “I don’t know—but I’ll go find out,” and positioning problems as opportunities, not failures, makes a difference in the success of your company, but also of your career.

“Management is doing things right. Leadership is doing the right things.”

--Anne Dwane, Partner & Co-Founder, GSV Acceleration

For the closing panel, Anne emphasized the opportunity education provides us to become more knowledgeable, but also to become better people. She encouraged us to “create more value than you take,” and to continually give back to our communities. 

Today’s workforce is changing, and traditional ways to select for talent aren’t working. We all need to remember that it’s not just about doing everything correctly, but about seeking a path forward—particularly as we start to co-work more frequently with machines.

The real value of HBX was the ability to learn and meet new people completely different from me. I met a fellow from Singapore raving about his first-ever lobster roll, a native New Yorker visiting Boston for the first time, and an intelligence officer from D.C who couldn’t really talk about what he did every day.

Alumni traveled from as far as Australia and as close as Allston, from all walks of life, work experiences, and backgrounds. Together in one room, you could really see how much we had to learn from one another.

As Professor Anand told us in closing, “The story of HBX is still being written—and you will shape that narrative.”

The success of any training program isn’t what happens during it; it’s what happens after. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate the completion of the program—and the start of my “after.”


About the Author

Kayla Lewkowicz participated in the January 2016 cohort of HBX CORe. She is the marketing coordinator for a tech start-up in Cambridge, MA who took CORe to better understand her company. Her reflections on the program can be found on her blog.

Topics: Student Bloggers, HBX ConneXt

HBX ConneXt - Welcome to Campus!

Posted by Patrick Mullane on May 5, 2016 at 11:31 AM


Hello HBXers! After months of planning and preparation, HBXConneXt is finally here. We are excited to meet many of you in person for the first time this weekend!

We weren't sure what to expect when we sent out the invitations for this event, but we were absolutely blown away by your response: More than 600 people from over 30 countries RSVP'd, jumping at the chance to travel to the Harvard Business School campus for a day of continued learning, networking, and exploration into the future of online education. 

We started talking about HBXConneXt about five months ago. We wanted to help you, as a community, strengthen the bonds that begin on the platform and give you a sneak peak into Harvard Business School. 

Beyond that, we wanted to share with you what we have learned in developing and delivering CORe and Disruptive Strategy with Clay Christensen. As many of you have noted in feedback to us and each other, HBX is "not just another online course."

We believe that the three C's (community, career, and connections) set HBX apart from many other online courses and make it a truly special learning experience. We look forward to hearing how you have been impacted in those areas and discovering ways that we can improve on your experiences.

In the weeks dedicated to preparing for the event, I have been reminded of something German writer Johann Wofgang von Goethe once wrote:

“The world is so empty if one thinks only of mountains, rivers and cities; but to know someone who thinks and feels with us, and who, though distant, is close to us in spirit, this makes the earth for us an inhabited garden.” 

We hope that HBX has succeeded in making the earth a bit more of an inhabited garden for you through the connections it helped foster and look forward to hearing your stories on Saturday. Please come ready to be inspired and make connections with the incredible community of HBXers that will be traveling from around the world to our hometown of Boston. 

For those who cannot make it to the event, know that you have as much to do with creating that inhabited garden as those who will physically be here!

Whether you're able to join us in Boston or are following along from afar, please visit our social media channels for updates and highlights throughout the weekend and join in the conversation using #HBXConneXt.



About the Author

Patrick Mullane is the Executive Director of HBX and is responsible for managing HBX’s growth, expansion in global markets, and long-term success.

Topics: Executive Insights, HBX ConneXt