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by Erica Price
Freelance Writer

The Johns Hopkins Carey Business School has been educating business leaders since 1916 with a celebrated specialty in “creating innovative programs that anticipate and reflect global business trends.” To learn more about the innovative programs highlighted recently in USA Today, intern Erica Price interviewed assistant professor Beatrice Laffer to learn more.

Cronk News: Your program is described as innovative, yet we’ve been talking about things like customers being important in business for a long time. Can you highlight what’s new and different at the Carey Business School from what we’ve already been discussing for so long?

Laffer: Yes, we’ve been talking about customers for a while, but the innovative part comes in where JHU is now teaching this as important to business leaders. In the past, we just assumed our students would figure it out on the job. We never heard complaints.

Cronk News: The dean mentioned that “dividing a complex system into smaller pieces and optimizing those pieces” was the approach in the past. Didn’t that result in all kinds of problems when parts of the organization weren’t working together?

Laffer: Well, the best part about the old approach was that we were pitting departments against each other in the spirit of good old-fashioned competition. Sure, it would result in changes being made in one area that make things change in the other area without them knowing. It may sound harsh, but it really kept people on their toes. All this “let’s collaborate” focus coming to the business world might just make people soft. I’m worried.

Cronk News: The “let’s collaborate” focus you mention isn’t exactly new. You teach a course called “Organizational Dynamics and Change.” How is it possible that you haven’t talked about collaboration before?

Laffer: There was always a reference to it in Module 3 called “Success Despite Others.” The text would mention collaboration, but classroom discussion used to focus about how other people tend to be more of an obstacle to realizing goals for your area. Students also used to complete a writing assignment called “Get Out of My Way” that would profile someone in the organization that is an obstacle and use strategy to get around them. I’m thinking the dean is going to insist that I refocus that section but he’s going to have to convince me.

Cronk News: My background is in student affairs administration, and we’ve been constantly reminded of the priority on learning to collaborate with others for success. Could your work be the starting point of possible collaboration between faculty and student affairs administrators that we’ve been looking for?

Laffer: Your background is what again?

Yes, Dean Gupta, we are hoping you will be successful in encouraging Professor Laffer to refocus her curriculum. We’re pulling for you.