Batten Institute

Ideas To Action

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Outreach: Business and Society


In the Ideas to Action Speakers Forum, highly acclaimed scholars from the Darden School will engage alumni and other professionals in a series of discussions about the role of entrepreneurship and innovation in business and society. The seminars, sponsored by the Batten Institute and Darden's Alumni Relations office, will take place in various U.S. and international cities, and they will include talks by the following members of the Darden faculty:

Greg Fairchild, an associate professor at Darden, studies entrepreneurship and business development in inner cities and other underserved areas. He has researched and published extensively on such topics as the effects of residential segregation on entrepreneurship and the role of social brokers in urban labor markets. In 2007, Fairchild won a grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation to support a multiyear research project on the evolution and best practices of successful community development financial institutions (CDFIs). His work on CDFIs, which provide financial products and services to economically distressed communities, has yielded significant insights into a host of pressing social and business issues.

Ed Hess, a former investment banker and strategy consultant and now a professor at the Darden School, has spent the past seven years interviewing the CEOs of high-growth companies in the United States. In his new book, Smart Growth, forthcoming from Columbia University Press, Hess questions the "grow or die" mentality that dominates both private and public companies, and he offers best practices for scaling an enterprise. Business growth, Hess notes, is a risky and complex process that can stress a company's systems, threaten its culture, distract its leaders and transform the competitive landscape in ways the company may not be ready to handle. Instead of pursuing ever-increasing quarterly earnings, business leaders should focus on improvement.

Mike Lenox, executive director of the Batten Institute, is exploring the public and private drivers of innovation and entrepreneurship in green technology-a sector that has seen an increase in venture capital investment, despite the economic downturn. Lenox, who was named an Emerging Scholar for 2009 by the Strategic Management Society, has long focused on the intersection between business strategy and public policy, especially regarding issues of environmental sustainability. In his new research undertaking, he is exploring such questions as, Where is innovation occurring geographically? Are established firms or new ventures more likely to introduce green products? How are firms positioning themselves in the green technology market? And what is the role of public policy?

Jeanne Liedtka, a professor at the Darden School and a former chief learning officer at United Technologies Corporation, is a coauthor of The Catalyst: How You Can Become an Extraordinary Growth Leader (Crown Business, 2009). The culmination of a three-year study, The Catalyst tells the stories of managers at such companies as Best Buy, Corning and ING who achieved top-line revenue growth, or organic growth, from within their organizations. Growth isn't necessarily the result of far-sighted corporate strategies or radical new products and technologies, Liedtka found. Successful, sustainable growth is often driven by managers within a business who leverage existing resources to create better value propositions for customers, often without substantial capital investments or corporate support.

The Ideas to Action series is dedicated to the memory of the Batten Institute's benefactor, Frank Batten, Sr., who believed in the power of ideas to motivate and inspire entrepreneurial leadership.

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