As I sit down to write this, I recall the words of the regional manager of a fictional midsized office-supply company: “A blank piece of paper equals endless possibilities.” That’s supposed to be motivational, but it’s also kind of intimidating. Great ideas rarely pop out of our minds and onto the page fully formed and ready to change the world. More often, they’re the product of hours of preparation and iteration, as well as a fair amount of perspiration.
The hard work that goes into the pursuit of bold ideas comes up a lot in this issue. Our profile of Professor Guido Imbens, who shared the 2021 Nobel Prize in economics, is a story of intense curiosity and patient collaboration. Those are also hallmarks of the creative process followed by Jason Mayden, MS ’11, a designer who draws inspiration from everything from birds to Batman. It begins, he says, by asking “big questions.”
Big questions are at the heart of Business and Government, a new class in which Professor Anat Admati and lecturer Robert Siegel, MBA ’94, push students to interrogate their responses to contemporary problems. That, in turn, echoes a lesson from Professor Deborah Gruenfeld about how effective teams succeed by challenging assumptions.
Our cover story takes a bite out of a complex topic that we will undoubtedly come back to. It presents bullish and cautious perspectives on the growing movement to link profits and growth with societal and planetary progress. It’s a provocative idea, and its proponents acknowledge it’s hard to get right. But, they argue, inaction poses a much greater risk. Sometimes, leaving the page blank is not an option.
Have some constructive criticism? Praise? Story ideas? We welcome your input. Email the editors.
— Dave Gilson