Skip to main content

Student Experience

Signs of Optimism? WSB Experts Point to Resilience, Business Innovation

By Wisconsin School of Business

May 20, 2020

In early May, the Wisconsin School of Business conducted a virtual panel for current full-time MBA students and new full-time MBA admits. The panel served as a way to give incoming MBA students a chance to hear directly from faculty, build community, discuss COVID-19’s wide-ranging impacts, and explore the ever-changing business landscape in which professionals find themselves.

Wisconsin School of Business faculty members Joan Schmit, Greg DeCroix, Hart Posen, and Brad Chandler participated in the panel, lending their perspectives from risk management, supply chain, strategy, and finance. 

While much of the panel’s discussion touched on the uncertainty facing firms of all sizes, each expert addressed what they were most optimistic about for businesses during this time of immense uncertainty. 

Take a listen to the faculty members’ points of optimism in this audio clip from the panel or read their responses below. 

Joan Schmit on innovation and coming together

Joan Schmit

“I think in this process we are learning quite a lot about what’s important, what will be successful, what people care about, and some of what is less important—how can we be more efficient and more effective? For instance, in my field with risk management and insurance, there’s a lot of fintech and insurtech activity going on. I think that there’s going to be a big push in this area, and it’s going to be valuable for the world. It’s going to make the systems more effective, more efficient and we’ll be able to function better. It just generates more revenues for the world and more opportunities for the world. Across the board this is a time of tremendous innovation and activity and creativity, and the opportunities for the world to improve are tremendous. My second item is just how resilient I’ve seen humanity be … And to see across the board, the populous, in this time of great distress, banding together, of really being able to move ahead to understand the importance of the isolation and the need to be considering not just yourselves but of our neighbors.”

Joan Schmit, Department Chair for Risk and Insurance, American Family Insurance Distinguished Chair in Risk Management and Insurance

Greg DeCroix on rising to the challenge and doing what needs to be done

Greg Decroix

“I’ve seen such energy and generosity pouring into this problem … I’ve been working a little bit with the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and know colleagues either with the business school or others on campus working closely with designers and engineers and health care startups and figuring out how do we make face shields for health care workers? How do we make masks? How do we pitch in and help out in many cases 100s of hours outside of their day jobs to try to solve things? It’s the energy, it’s the intellectual curiosity, the goodwill to try to make this work … I see so much of, ‘well this just needs to be done, let’s help out,’ and that gives me so much optimism for this current crisis and others.”

Greg Decroix, Academic Director, Grainger Center for Supply Chain Management and Professor of Operations and Information Management

Hart Posen on investing in infrastructure

Hart Posen

“What Amazon has shown us—because they are now the backbone of retail in America during this crisis—is that investments in infrastructure are tremendously important. They have substantial short-run costs, but they also have substantial long-run benefits. And I am optimistic, perhaps naively, that we as a society will recognize the need to begin investing in infrastructure, because that is the foundation on which all of our firms function. And I think in some ways we have forgotten about that as we’ve thought only about IT infrastructure and ignored all of the other infrastructure. Amazon is not an IT business. This is a firm that runs the biggest, most complex physical infrastructure in the country. The whole infrastructure of what they do, including the technology, has proven to be so incredibly resilient—putting aside some of the other issues with safety that they’ve encountered. I think as a society we need to take it seriously, and I am strongly hopeful that we’ll learn from it.”

Hart Posen, Richard G. and Julie J. Diermeier Professor in Business and Professor of Management and Human Resources

Brad Chandler on the next generation of business leaders

Brad Chandler

“I am very hopeful about the next generation of business leaders—the people coming to business school right now and the people going out into the workforce who are going to be our young and rising executives. I have seen what they can do through this crisis. In many ways, crisis reveals character. We have consulting projects in my specialization that we do with clients—they’re with CEOs and CFOs— that are real business issues. When this crisis hit, many of those companies said ‘I know you were doing this consulting project and it’s a lot of work, do you want to cancel it given COVID-19?’ I went back and asked our students and every project team said ‘absolutely not, we’re going to deliver exactly what we said we were going to … this is a great opportunity for us to show that despite the lack of face-to-face final presentation and meeting, we can still do this project and do it well.’ That really energizes me as a teacher and leader of these students.”

Brad Chandler, director of the Nicholas Center for Corporate Finance and Investment Banking and Faculty Associate in Finance