“I use ‘disruptive’ in both its good and bad connotations. Disruptive scientific and technological progress is not to me inherently good or inherently evil. But its arc is for us to shape. Technology’s progress is furthermore in my judgment unstoppable. But it is quite incorrect that it unfolds inexorably according to its own internal logic and the laws of nature.”
Nancy F. Koehn is a historian at the Harvard Business School where she holds the James E. Robison chair of Business Administration. Koehn's research focuses on entrepreneurial leadership and how leaders, past and present, craft lives of purpose, worth, and impact. She is currently working on a book about the most important lessons from six leaders journeys, including Abraham Lincoln, Ernest Shackleton and Rachel Carson. Her most recent book, The Story of American Business: From the Pages of the New York Times (Harvard Business Press, 2009), examines the people, events, and larger forces that have shaped business in the twenty-first century.
Koehn is also the author of Brand New: How Entrepreneurs Earned Consumers' Trust from Wedgwood to Dell (2001) and The Power of Commerce: Economy and Governance in the First British Empire (1994), as well as a contributor to Creative Capitalism: A Conversation with Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and other Economic Leaders (2008); Remember Who You Are: Life Stories That Inspire the Heart and Mind (2004); Beauty and Business (2000); The Intellectual Venture Capitalist: John H. McArthur and the Work of the Harvard Business School, 1980-1995 (1999); Creating Modern Capitalism: How Entrepreneurs, Companies, and Countries Triumphed in Three Industrial Revolutions (1997); and Management Past and Present: A Casebook on American Business History (1995). She has written and supervised cases on Bono and U2, Oprah Winfrey, Whole Foods, Starbucks Coffee Company, Ernest Shackleton, Stonyfield Yogurt, Wedgwood, Este Lauder, Henry Heinz, Milton Hershey, Celeste Walker, Marshall Field, Dell Computer, and other leaders and organizations.
Koehn consults with many companies and speaks frequently before business leaders on a range of issues including leading in turbulent times and visionary entrepreneurs. She has appeared on "Good Morning America," CNBC's "Moneywheel," "Nightly Business Report," and "Street Signs," "The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer," A&E's "Biography," CNN's "Money Line" and many other television programs. She writes regularly for the New York Times and the Washington Post and is a frequent commentator on National Public Radio. In 2012, Poets and Quants ranked Koehn as one of the Worlds 50 Best Business School Professors.
Before coming to HBS, Koehn was a member of Harvard University's Faculty of Arts and Sciences for seven years, first as a graduate student in history and then as a lecturer in the History and Literature concentration and the Department of Economics. A Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Stanford University, Koehn earned a Master of Public Policy from Harvard's Kennedy School of Government before taking her MA and PhD in History from Harvard.
Koehn lives outside Boston and is an avid equestrian.Last Updated: Jan 17, 2018, 2:02pm