In 1961, at the invitation of Dean Stanley F. Teele, George Lodge came to Harvard Business School to complete his first book, Spearheads of Democracy: Labor in the Developing Countries. He didn't have a master's or a Ph.D. and never expected to become a professor. But after some thirty years at HBS, he believes his lack of graduate degrees may have proved an advantage, allowing him to transcend the confines of particular disciplines and think holistically.
Whether the subject is Third-World development or national competitiveness, Lodge has exercised his talent for seeing the big picture in a prolific outpouring of twelve books as well as a host of cases and articles (including two McKinsey Awards for best article of the year in Harvard Business Review). In addition, he was one of the chief architects of Business, Government, and the International Economy (BGIE), a cornerstone of the School's required curriculum.
Lodge's early career plans pointed him toward journalism. After serving in the U.S. Navy and graduating with honors from Harvard College in 1950, he signed on as a reporter with the old Boston Herald, then the city's leading paper. He covered several beats, including labor. One day in 1954, he was assigned to interview James P. Mitchell, President Eisenhower's secretary of labor.
Mitchell was so impressed that he asked the young journalist to join him in Washington. Lodge accepted and soon became the Labor Department's director of information. In 1958, Eisenhower named him assistant secretary of labor for international affairs, a position to which he was reappointed several years later by President Kennedy.
In 1962, Lodge, who had strong views about issues such as foreign aid, unemployment, and civil rights, entered Massachusetts politics. Having finished Spearheads of Democracy (inspired by his Labor Department duties, which had taken him to Latin America, Africa, and Asia), he decided to leave the School to run for the U.S. Senate as the Republican candidate against Edward M. Kennedy.
Lodge lost the election but was invited back to Soldiers Field by the new Dean, George P. Baker. He then turned his energies to teaching and launching the Central American Institute of Business Administration (INCAE), a project driven by the missionary idealism of the time. Lodge solicited support from Central American managers, researched their companies, and led a team that wrote hundreds of cases for the new school, now flourishing in Costa Rica and Nicaragua.
At the same time, Lodge undertook a three-year research project in the remote province of Veraguas in Panama to study the process of change in a developing country at close quarters. With the help of some HBS students, he gathered local statistics and followed the development of a peasant cooperative movement. Lodge found that economic development was more accurately seen as psychological and political change. It was therefore intensely controversial. In a book titled Engines of Change: United States Interests and Revolution in Latin America, published in 1970, Lodge argued that "development equals change of a systemic nature because it involves reallocation of power." This volume inspired the U.S. Congress to establish the Inter-American Foundation, an independent agency devoted to fueling change engines, with Lodge as vice chairman.
In Central America, Lodge began to perceive ideology as "the collection of ideas that a society uses to make values explicit." Considering this concept further upon his return to HBS in 1968, he realized that ideology could be used as a multidisciplinary analytical tool for comparing countries and understanding change within a particular nation.
In his award-winning 1975 book, The New American Ideology, and nine years later in The American Disease, Lodge urged Americans, especially managers, to recognize and accept the fact that events had forced this country's institutions to depart significantly from their preferred ideology of individualism. Furthermore, he called on them to manage more effectively the new ideology toward which they had drifted, which he dubbed communitarianism to reflect the view that "the community as a whole has special and urgent needs that go beyond the needs of its individual members."
A 1987 book with Harvard University professor Ezra F. Vogel, titled Ideology and National Competitiveness, looked at the relationship between ideology and economic performance in nine countries. The authors concluded that a doctrinaire "free market" approach was not necessarily the best route for a nation to follow. And in the mid-1980s he joined HBS professor Bruce R. Scott in contributing to and editing U.S. Competitiveness in the World Economy, which brought the same argument to bear in a consideration of America's burgeoning trade deficit.
Lodge taught a wide range of courses in the MBA and Executive Education Programs at the School. Working with Scott and former HBS professor John W. Rosenblum, he helped focus BGIE on comparing national economic strategies and understanding relations among them. Lodge served as head of this landmark course for several years. In the early 1980s, he developed Comparative Business-Government Relations, an MBA elective examining the roles of government and business in this country and abroad. Later in the decade, he was a leading figure in teaching a new required module in Decision Making and Ethical Values.
Although he retired from the active faculty four years ago, Lodge continues to work on issues such as globalization and the development of emerging nations. When asked what achievement he is most proud of, he talks about his work as a teacher, stimulating those who took his classes and "even upsetting them now and again." Lodge's amiability belies the latter comment—but there's no question he challenged generations of Business School students to the best of their abilities.