Preparing for opportunity

As a former senior economist on the White House Council of Economic Advisors, Professor Aaron “Ronnie” Chatterji has advised on entrepreneurship issues at the highest levels of government. His research in understanding the ecosystem for entrepreneurial success is informed by policymakers, top CEOs, and deep industry connections. Chatterji outlines a framework for how to think about opportunity in a world affected by COVID-19 and the skills business school students will need as a result.

Dean Bill Boulding interviews Aaron “Ronnie” Chatterji on Instagram

Aaron “Ronnie” Chatterji, Professor of Strategy

“What everyone is talking about right now is which industries are going to be transformed. And which industries are going to stay the same. And within those industries, what firms are going to make big moves, maybe through consolidation. And which firms are not going to survive this COVID-19 crisis. For aspiring students, for aspiring entrepreneurs, entrepreneurship is often about a bet. It’s about having a thesis on the direction the world is going to go and aligning your career and company in that direction.”

 

“When you look at various sectors, one is education. And I think it is a really interesting space to look at right now. You think about the way we are communicating right now on Instagram Live. Usually we would be doing this in-person. But because of COVID-19, we are finding other ways to deliver content. And as academic institutions go in that direction, there could be so many business opportunities for our students, alumni and others to develop companies to provide those services. But here is another thing, as a dad of three kids, I am watching my kids interact with technology. And the biggest thing I can think of is how much they miss being in the classroom. And so at the same time, you might be emphasizing these very bespoke technological solutions, I wonder if the emphasis on in-person education might become more important than before. If you are a person thinking about starting a company in the education space, you ought to have a thesis on which one it is. And for who that is true or not true. And that could be the foundation or sign to start a company in one direction or the other. You could do the same exercise across health care, media and a bunch of other industries. Getting deep on what’s changing, figuring out what your thesis is going to be, and thinking about if you do want to start a company or work for a company that is in a space where you want to place your bet. That’s how I have been thinking about the business environment during this period.”

 

“I see a lot of things that are happening at Fuqua that can actually help prepare people to be leaders in this post-COVID world. A couple of things have popped out to me. One is this intense demand for problem solvers in the real world right now. You think about states are trying to process more unemployment claims than they ever have before. It seems like a very boring and technical problem but it is life or death for many people to get those benefits when they are out of work. And what’s happened is organizations like Code for America are providing support to state governments to help them get to speed with all those claims. And develop new algorithms to process those claims more effectively. That kind of organization could be started by one of our MBAs. And that kind of organization is something that people who are interested in social entrepreneurship are studying as a case study. Learning those skills at Fuqua, how to identify an unmet need, how to scale an organization to meet that, and how to run an effective organization are things that are going to be in very big demand going forward.”

 

“When I think about the investment to go to business school, I think about our students developing those problem solving, those leadership skills, that decency quotient that I think are going to be really important in whatever comes next. I think it is as good a time as any to go invest in those skills. And I hope to be part of the generation of faculty to continue to push those skills forward for our students.”

Quick Facts

Area: Strategy

Elective Course: Advanced Corporate Strategy

Researches: strategy, innovation, infrastructure and economic growth

Street Cred:

Senior Economist at the White House Council of Economic Advisers (CEA)

 

Research Associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research

 

2017 Kauffman Prize Medal for Distinguished Research in entrepreneurship

 

Rising Star award from the Aspen Institute

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