C.K. Prahalad had a powerful idea: businesses could make a profit while bringing social and material improvements to some of the world’s poorest people. A recent conference at USD, sponsored by the Ahlers Center for International Business and the Center for Peace and Commerce, honored his legacy. I attended, along with over 250 other people, to hear both practitioners and academics speak about the real-world successes and challenges of companies pursuing sustainable growth while playing a role in alleviating poverty.
The message I heard most clearly was the need for creative, integrative solutions to these complex local and global problems. Such solutions call for creativity, integrative thinking, cross-sector and cross-cultural partnerships, and understanding of interconnected systems. In terms of business education, we will serve our students well by providing them with many opportunities for teamwork and collaboration, creative problem solving, and interdisciplinary courses and experiences.
I was thrilled to have a special connection to this conference as well. Some years ago, I taught Mr. Prahalad’s daughter, Deepa, when she was a student at the Tuck Business School. Deepa and her husband attended the conference, along with her mother, Gayatri, and her brother, Murali.