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May 3, 201812:36 PMMaking Madison

with Buckley Brinkman

Serious message from the East Coast — engage!

(page 1 of 2)

Many of you chide me about my connections to the Harvard Business School — most of time deservedly so. It’s a unique place moderately connected to reality, especially our reality here in the Midwest. There’s definitely an East Coast bias and many times the graduates focus on money over other matters. It can be an elitist place that can get stuck in its own thinking.

Still, there’s an allure.

I returned to HBS for a boardroom exercise last month, which gave me a chance to share my experience and teach some of the present MBA candidates. The visit reminded me of HBS’ positive qualities — a long tradition, great talent, and the ability to convene diverse talented groups. My visit also reinforced the impact exponential change will have on all of us and the critical need for each of us to make intense lifelong learning a part of our routine.

Harvard is a fascinating place. It’s the oldest college in the U.S. and HBS is the oldest business school. One of HBS’s monikers is the “West Point of Capitalism.” That comparison calls up images of the long grey line of West Point cadets through the centuries and the similar lineage of HBS graduates. That long line of history binds many of us to each other and makes the school a lightning rod for great people, organizations, and ideas to come together. The case method — the Socratic method — provides the base for spirited and respectful discussion.

This engagement reinforced the link between exponential change, continuous learning, and constant engagement. We discussed Alphabet’s (Google’s parent) X initiatives with the organization’s CFO. They are tackling tough world issues the way only Google can — with substantial resources and unique collaborations. The case we discussed involved their efforts to turn seawater into carbon-neutral fuel. After that, we engaged around what’s next for X. All the activity clearly illustrated the complexity, speed of change, and the diverse expertise needed to effectively address the most important issues facing us.

Exponential change is not just a Google issue. It affects every single one of us. The alumni present brought a cacophony of issues, ideas, and challenges to the meetings. It was very clear that every person and every business faces transformational change. It was also clear that these leaders are moving quickly with substantial resources to reposition themselves in this new world.

It was great fun to see how this movement parallels our activities here in Wisconsin. Our pace and collaboration on many key issues matches anything I saw in Boston. Many different people lead our charge with the respect and dignity great ideas and personalities deserve. Plenty of our initiatives lead the nation, though many lag. All of this reconfirmed a basic belief many of us share: Not all good ideas come from Wisconsin, just most of them.

(Continued)

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About This Blog

Buckley Brinkman is executive director and CEO of the Wisconsin Center for Manufacturing & Productivity and writes about the manufacturing sector in Greater Madison and throughout Wisconsin. He has a breadth of experience in helping companies drive growth, world-class competitiveness, and performance excellence, and has led efforts to save dozens of operations in the U.S. by finding new ways for them to compete. A Wisconsin native, Brinkman holds a business degree from the University of Wisconsin and an MBA from the Harvard Business School.

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