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Five minutes with David B  Yoffie

David B. Yoffie, Max and Doris Starr Professor of International Business Administration at Harvard Business School

Andy Grove

Who or what has been the biggest influence on your career?

Probably the biggest influence on my career as well as my intellectual development was Andy Grove, the CEO of Intel Corporation

Silicon Valley

When I was 34 years old, Andy asked me to join the Intel board and over the next 15 years, I had an inside view into one of the great managers and strategists of the late 20th century. Furthermore, Grove introduced me to Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and many other leading figures in Silicon Valley, which influenced my writing, my teaching, and my intellectual lens for viewing the world.

Of all your outstanding achievements so far as a writer, educator and business leader, which makes you most proud and why?

One of my proudest accomplishments in recent years is my tenure as senior associate dean and chair of executive education at Harvard. Over six years, which included the global financial crisis, we almost doubled our revenues and contributions, built educational facilities in China and India, and established HBS as the clear leader in executive education worldwide. 

In the process, we fundamentally altered the business of HBS and built a platform for faculty ideas to influence the world.

You are equally successful in the world of academia and in the world of business. How important is it for an academic to be active in the business world?

My activities outside of Harvard, such as serving on boards of directors or consulting to global organisations, have been highly synergistic with my research and my teaching. As a newly minted PhD out of Stanford in the early 1980s, I had no real business experience. 


As I gained more familiarity with real managers dealing with real-time situations, I discovered new problems to research, new ideas to write, and better ways to teach the future leaders of the business world.

You’re an award-winning case writer and teacher. If you had to convert a case method sceptic, what would you say?

Case writing and case teaching have two important advantages for teaching MBAs:  first, writing a case can give you a deep understanding of managerial problems. Appreciating theory while discovering its limitations is a wonderful learning experience for a professor.

Second, teaching a case to well-prepared students can be one of the most gratifying experiences for a professor in the classroom. You can see the learning and engagement unfold as the discussion evolves.


How do you relax?

I like to ski in the winter, play golf in the summer, and take hikes to exotic places such as Bhutan, Nepal, Morocco, and Patagonia in the spring and fall. 


Do you have a favourite inspirational quotation or guiding principle?

‘You must be the change you wish to see in the world’ – Mahatma Gandhi

David B. Yoffie is the Max and Doris Starr Professor of International Business Administration at Harvard Business School. He won The Case Centre’s 2015 Overall Award for his case Cola Wars Continue: Coke and Pepsi in 2010, co-written with Renee Kim. His latest book, co-written with Michael A. Cusumano, is Strategy Rules: Five Timeless Lessons from Bill Gates, Andy Grove and Steve Jobs

e dyoffie@hbs.edu
tw @dyoffie

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