Gaurab Bhardwaj is an Associate Professor of Strategy and Management at Babson College, a business school in Massachusetts, where he teaches in the undergraduate, MBA, and executive education programs. Along with strategy courses, he teaches an elective course called Solving Big Problems which covers difficult, consequential problems that affect the lives of many in various societies and how they might be solved. His recent research and writing are about maternal mortality, creating good quality women’s hospitals in low and middle income countries, how an organization creates employment and enables economic independence for women who have escaped human trafficking, an inventor-entrepreneur who greatly improved cervical cancer testing, how healthcare capacity can be expanded in resource-constrained countries, and what can be learned from the global response to the 2014-16 Ebola epidemic. Professor Bhardwaj’s research has been funded by the National Science Foundation and the Eleutherian Mills – Hagley Foundation. In 2016, he received the Aspen Institute’s Faculty Pioneer Award for his teaching and writings on solving big problems. He has also received the Deans’ Award for Excellence in Teaching across all Babson programs.
What do you do best?
As someone who teaches about and studies how we can solve big societal problems, I gravitate towards issues and problems that are consequential but neglected by society and which have been little studied from a decision making perspective. I stay with these issues and problems for years, learning about them, identifying puzzles and oddities, searching for answers and data. I am a slow thinker, to use a term made popular by Daniel Kahneman’s book ‘Thinking, Fast and Slow.’ I like to read a lot and widely, and think. I don’t rush. It helps me identify patterns, form connections, and think conceptually. I have to persuade myself that my work is good, and doing good work is demanding and takes time.
What makes you the best?
I study things that bother me. Caring about them makes me persistent and allows me to take some career risks, which is inevitable when you investigate new things and deviate from the norm.
I have always read across disciplines – business, social sciences, arts, humanities, science, medicine – to satisfy some curiosity but it also helps in generating ideas and insights, and form non-obvious connections. Everyone wants to connect dots but we have to first collect them.
I value qualitative data, the sort historians gather. I am not deterred by massive amounts of data. In fact, I seek it because it is necessary to do good work.
What are your aspirations?
To advance knowledge on solving big societal problems and take it to a wide audience.
My most recent big success was being awarded The Aspen Institute’s Faculty Pioneer Award in 2016. A long-shot success that was life-changing was being awarded a graduate student assistantship to study for an MBA in the United States, which I could not have done otherwise, which I am grateful for, and which changed my career possibilities.
Most Challenging Moment?
Being there for geographically-scattered family members in their times of need.
Developing a small understanding of big problems is better than developing a thorough understanding of minor ones.
Favorite People/Role Models?
People who are the best in their fields. People who advance their disciplines in new directions. Some of my professors, for being inspiring thinkers and for recognizing and supporting good thinking in their students. My parents, for so many things that made all the difference.
Boston, Singapore, Rome, Paris, Amsterdam. Others yet to be discovered. Home.
Smooth writing paper. A pen that makes you happy using it. Books.
Not just current but an always passion: reading. As part of an ongoing project, I am reading about fields and topics that are new to me: epidemics, pandemics, epidemiology, public health, and global health. I am also reading books by accomplished authors and editors about writing non-fiction. It is something I intend to do in the near future to reach a wider audience for my work on solving big societal problems.