A Latin American Vision: New HBS Research Center Opens

With the President of Argentina as guest of honor, the School’s new Latin America Research Center formally opened in August in Buenos Aires with an inaugural dinner and a two-day research conference. The conference, called Partnering for Knowledge Creation, brought together 130 top academics and business leaders from all over Latin America, as well as a number of HBS faculty, to discuss new research and abundant opportunities for collaborative efforts in the future.
by Martha Lagace

Fernando de la Rua, the President of Argentina noted, "This is an historic day," about the opening of the School's new Latin America Research Center in Buenos Aires.

Speaking as guest of honor at the Center's inaugural dinner on August 3rd at the Park Hyatt Buenos Aires Hotel, President de la Rua praised the Center's potential for forging links for education, research and mutual support between Latin America and the Harvard Business School.

"We have opened the Latin America Research Center with a Latin American vision and universal concepts and techniques," de la Rua said. "We are opening up communication. This Center will be the beginning of something that will grow and become a beacon of light.

"Knowledge is the factor that produces change and freedom."

The opening of the Center, located on Cerrito Street in downtown Buenos Aires, was celebrated August 3rd-4th in Buenos Aires with a multi-faceted research conference at the Caesar Park Hotel. The 130 participants at the conference, "Partnering for Knowledge Creation," included prominent university academics and top business leaders from 10 countries, as well as a number of HBS faculty who conduct research in Latin America.

photo of Kim B. Clark and Fernando de la Rua
Argentine President Fernando de la Rua and HBS Dean Kim B. Clark

Highlights included a classic case discussion (on Embraer, the Brazilian aircraft manufacturer, see related article), presentations and analysis of new research, and smaller group discussions on the complexities of case writing throughout the region. Conversations also focused on work that the new Center can foster between, and among, Latin American academics and HBS faculty.

(The conference in Buenos Aires was preceded by a colloquium at HBS on July 16-28. Called the Colloquium on Participant-Centered Learning, it was a program for 60 Latin American academics on case-method teaching, field-based research and case writing, especially with an eye to tailoring materials for unique management issues of Latin America.)

"combining Strengths"

The director of the LARC, Gustavo Herrero (MBA '76), noted in an opening session in Buenos Aires that the Center is striving to "combine strengths" among different institutions throughout the region and at HBS.

Part of its mission, he explained, will be to assist faculty demand at HBS: generating case leads and identifying management issues that may be of interest to faculty. At the same time, the Center will also listen to faculty ideas, assist with pure research, and work with people from the region on topics of mutual interest. "We view ourselves as a hinge, a link between HBS faculty and the region," said Herrero.

HBS Professor Howard H. Stevenson, chair of the HBS Latin America Initiative, noted that the entire project was sparked by an idea of Dean Kim Clark's two years ago. The Latin America Research Center has been a key element of the School's Globalization Initiative. HBS already has offices in Silicon Valley and Hong Kong. As for Latin America, in addition to the new Center in Buenos Aires, according to Stevenson, there is also a satellite office in Rio de Janeiro and may soon be one in Mexico.

"Our purpose with the Center is to develop intellectual capital. Intellectual capital is to be shared. This is not a commercial venture. Our purpose is developing research as well as course development that will be available for teaching at HBS and at other institutions throughout the world.

"We also hope to have an impact on the region," continued Stevenson. "As I've talked with many of the deans and professors from the region, one of the things we've discovered is that there is a desire for up-to-date, relevant material."One long-term goal of the Center is to develop a clearinghouse for cases written in Spanish or Portuguese, so regional universities will be able to share in the intellectual capital they have created. "We believe that over time, the quality of the work being created throughout the region merits sharing and merits utilization."

In the Center's early planning phases, noted Stevenson, the faculty advisory group found that there have already been 144 HBS cases written on Latin American companies. "So this is not a new effort," he said. "It's just a more organized effort, and we are trying to lower the barriers for our faculty being involved."

A Changing World

Dean Kim B. Clark said the Center and conference are HBS endeavors to connect in a deeper way with academics and businesses. "It goes beyond learning about a particular kind of company and region of the world. Think about two decades from now," said Clark. "If we were to come back together and think about what we have accomplished as a community, my dream is that we will be able to talk about ideas and new insights because we had ventured out into the world in a far deeper way.

"As we start the Latin America Research Center, our focus will be on ideas, cases, material, good output. But it will also be on people, building relationships, building acommunity that will help us pursue the great mission to educate leaders."

HBS Professor and conference co-chair James E. Austin referred to his own personal experience in the area as well. When he got on the plane to come to Buenos Aires, he said, he recalled a similar trip he had made in the opposite direction 34 years previously, after having lived for two years in Chile. At that time, he was going to Boston to study at Harvard.

"When the plane took off, it flew over the Andes," Austin told the conference group. "It was early morning, and all the mountains were covered with a white blanket of snow. In the first rays of the morning sun they looked full of diamonds. And I thought, 'How beautiful.'

"After three decades, the beauty of Latin America has not changed," Austin observed. "But everything else has changed.

"This Center is a recognition of the fact that we are living in a very changed world. And we have to study it, investigate it, learn, and teach."

About the Author

Martha Lagace is senior editor of Working Knowledge.