Rebecca Henderson

Inquire About This Speaker

Foremost Authority on Sustainable Business, Technology and Innovation; Author, “Reimagining Capitalism” (Hachette, 2019); Professor, Harvard Business School

Biography

Rebecca Henderson believes business enterprise is one of the most powerful forces on the planet when it comes to effecting positive change – but that it must move quickly if we are to successfully address the problems the world faces. One of the most articulate and insightful academic scholars on the influential role business can play in ensuring a more sustainable future, her research explores the strategic and organizational forces that lead to sustainable business.

The John and Natty McArthur University Professor at Harvard University, Professor Henderson has a joint appointment at the Harvard Business School (HBS) in the General Management and Strategy units and is the Co-Chair of the Business and Environment Initiative. She is also a research fellow at the National Bureau of Economic Research, and in 2018 was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. For many years, her work focused on the difficulties large, successful organizations experience in attempting to respond to large-scale technological shifts. In this context she worked with some of the world’s leading pharmaceutical, IT, materials and CPG firms to build a rich understanding of the ways in which effective leadership can enable strategic renewal. Her most recent research explores the ways in which firms can successfully respond to the next great challenge of building a sustainable economy. She is particularly interested in the role of organizational purpose in supporting accelerated innovation and exceptional productivity.

Professor Henderson teaches two MBA level courses “Innovation in Business, Energy and Environment” and “Reimagining Capitalism,” and also teaches in HBS’s Executive Education program. She is an advisor to some of the world’s leading companies in the sustainability space and a board member of Amgen and IDEXX Laboratories. Her work has been featured in a range of scholarly journals including Administrative Science Quarterly, The Quarterly Journal of Economic and the Strategic Management Journal. She speaks frequently to companies and in public forums around the world. A book she has edited entitled “Leading Sustainable Change: An Organizational Perspective” was published by Oxford University Press in March 2015. It centers on how large complex organizations are undertaking changes in their business as they move to become more sustainable. She also contributed to “Accelerating Energy Innovation: Insights from Multiple Sectors (University of Chicago Press, May 2011). Currently, she is writing her next book, “Reimagining Capitalism” (Hachette, 2019), which will offer a new intellectual framing for a capitalism that has lost credibility and its moral and ethical foundation in the single-minded pursuit of maximizing shareholder value, to one that can simultaneously make a positive societal impact and deliver sustained financial performance to ensure economic growth, bringing prosperity and well-being to society as a whole.

Previously, she was the Eastman Kodak Professor of Management at the Sloan School of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) where she ran the strategy group and taught courses in technology, strategy and sustainability. She received an undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering from MIT and a doctorate in business economics from Harvard.

Rebecca Henderson is available for paid speaking engagements, including keynote addresses, speeches, panels, and conference talks, and advisory/consulting services, through the exclusive representation of Stern Speakers, a division of Stern Strategy Group®.

Videos

Books & Research

Leading Sustainable Change: An Organizational Perspective

(Oxford University Press, March 2015)

Accelerating Energy Innovation

(University of Chicago Press, May 2011)

Making the Business Case for Environmental Sustainability

(Harvard Business School, February 2015)

Biography

Rebecca Henderson believes business enterprise is one of the most powerful forces on the planet when it comes to effecting positive change – but that it must move quickly if we are to successfully address the problems the world faces. One of the most articulate and insightful academic scholars on the influential role business can play in ensuring a more sustainable future, her research explores the strategic and organizational forces that lead to sustainable business.

The John and Natty McArthur University Professor at Harvard University, Professor Henderson has a joint appointment at the Harvard Business School (HBS) in the General Management and Strategy units and is the Co-Chair of the Business and Environment Initiative. She is also a research fellow at the National Bureau of Economic Research, and in 2018 was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. For many years, her work focused on the difficulties large, successful organizations experience in attempting to respond to large-scale technological shifts. In this context she worked with some of the world’s leading pharmaceutical, IT, materials and CPG firms to build a rich understanding of the ways in which effective leadership can enable strategic renewal. Her most recent research explores the ways in which firms can successfully respond to the next great challenge of building a sustainable economy. She is particularly interested in the role of organizational purpose in supporting accelerated innovation and exceptional productivity.

Professor Henderson teaches two MBA level courses “Innovation in Business, Energy and Environment” and “Reimagining Capitalism,” and also teaches in HBS’s Executive Education program. She is an advisor to some of the world’s leading companies in the sustainability space and a board member of Amgen and IDEXX Laboratories. Her work has been featured in a range of scholarly journals including Administrative Science Quarterly, The Quarterly Journal of Economic and the Strategic Management Journal. She speaks frequently to companies and in public forums around the world. A book she has edited entitled “Leading Sustainable Change: An Organizational Perspective” was published by Oxford University Press in March 2015. It centers on how large complex organizations are undertaking changes in their business as they move to become more sustainable. She also contributed to “Accelerating Energy Innovation: Insights from Multiple Sectors (University of Chicago Press, May 2011). Currently, she is writing her next book, “Reimagining Capitalism” (Hachette, 2019), which will offer a new intellectual framing for a capitalism that has lost credibility and its moral and ethical foundation in the single-minded pursuit of maximizing shareholder value, to one that can simultaneously make a positive societal impact and deliver sustained financial performance to ensure economic growth, bringing prosperity and well-being to society as a whole.

Previously, she was the Eastman Kodak Professor of Management at the Sloan School of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) where she ran the strategy group and taught courses in technology, strategy and sustainability. She received an undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering from MIT and a doctorate in business economics from Harvard.

Rebecca Henderson is available for paid speaking engagements, including keynote addresses, speeches, panels, and conference talks, and advisory/consulting services, through the exclusive representation of Stern Speakers, a division of Stern Strategy Group®.

Speech Topics

Reimagining Capitalism

The emergence of capitalism as the primary system for organizing economies and generating prosperity has taken root across the globe. But can it be a force for tackling the biggest challenges our burgeoning population faces, namely the threats posed by global climate change and finite resources on the planet? Rebecca Henderson believes that not only does capitalism have a role to play, but it is uniquely qualified to harness the enormous intellectual, technological, financial and motivational resources that humankind can bring to bear on these challenges. However, the framework of private enterprise, along with enlightened state and intergovernmental factors, require a fundamental re-imagination. Professor Henderson illuminates how this important debate is unfolding and its impact on the future of sustainable business.

Sustainability as a Fulcrum for Corporate Innovation

Driving innovation for organic growth is always challenging for companies, says Rebecca Henderson. But it is especially hard when new markets often look less profitable than existing ones and all organizations become increasingly comfortable with the status quo. Yet, leading companies are finding that the immense challenges posed by climate change and the need to use resources more efficiently provide the essential stimulus to focus and act in new ways. Professor Henderson explains how business’ commitment to solving “big problems” can unlock not only tremendous enthusiasm amongst employees, but also exactly the kind of creative thinking and commitment to work across organizational boundaries that is at the root of most significant innovation. She shares stories of companies such as Unilever that are getting it right—often using a big overarching game plan, like becoming a leader in creating sustainable solutions—to catapult the company into a new direction.

Coaxing Organizations to Do New Things

Throughout her career, Rebecca Henderson has been fascinated by the difficulties that large, well-established companies encounter as they attempt to leverage technological innovation to reinvent themselves. In many industries, incumbents have seen new entrants come in, either entrepreneurial firms or established players from other industries, and yet they cannot respond effectively to these disruptors. Professor Henderson digs deep to uncover why it is so hard, examining the strategic, organizational and behavioral shifts that can help managers create the right conditions for discontinuous change to occur.

Media

Array

Books & Research

Array

Similar Speakers

Array

A-Z Name

Henderson, Rebecca

Intro Video

Video Thumbnail