Boston University, Questrom School of Business
“Professor Hannah made learning about innovation fun and exciting. I was always looking forward to class. This was one of the first classes I took at Questrom Business School and it left me excited for my future classes. I ended up switching my major into Business with a minor in innovation largely due to the passion his class sparked.” – Christa Campbell
Douglas Hannah, 40, is Assistant Professor of Strategy and Innovation at Boston University’s Questrom School of Business.
His research focuses on entrepreneurial strategy in dynamic and uncertain contexts, such as solar, digital health, social media, and pandemic response. Questions that motivate his work include how individuals can identify opportunities, navigate interdependent decisions required to form an effective strategy, and coordinate an effective venture and ecosystem. He has been published in leading journals such as Strategic Management Journal, Strategy Science, and Advances in Strategic Management.
This year, he was named the Emerging Scholar in Innovation and Entrepreneurship by the Industry Studies Association. He’s also won numerous teaching awards including the Trammel/CBA Foundation Teaching Award for Assistant Professors.
At current institution since what year? 2020
Education: BA Dartmouth College, MS and PhD Stanford University
List of Undergraduate courses you teach: Ideas to Impact, a multi-disciplinary undergraduate entrepreneurship course that explores how to create change in our own lives and in society
TELL US ABOUT LIFE AS A BUSINESS SCHOOL PROFESSOR
What are you currently researching and what is the most significant discovery you’ve made from it? The work that I’m most excited about right now traces the role that crisis entrepreneurs played in addressing the personal protective equipment (PPE) and medical device shortages during the early days of the covid pandemic. Across the globe, tens of thousands of individuals stepped up to solve an issue that was threatening their families and their communities; by the end of 2020, these entrepreneurs had sourced or manufactured hundreds of millions of units of PPE and complex medical devices. It’s an amazing story of human ingenuity and effort, and understanding what made it possible is critical to ensure that we’re ready to meet the next crisis
If I weren’t a business school professor, I’d be… A product designer
What do you think makes you stand out as a professor? I honestly don’t know. I care, but so many of us do. I put thought and care into my lessons – as we all do.
One word that describes my first time teaching: Awkward
Professor I most admire and why: I can’t NOT say my advisor, Kathy Eisenhardt. Kathy taught me how to ask interesting questions, how to conduct rigorous research, and how to take every moment in the classroom as an opportunity to learn and grow.
TEACHING BUSINESS SCHOOL STUDENTS
What do you enjoy most about teaching business students? Honestly, I love the hubris. Business school students are taught that they can use their savvy and creative thinking skills to solve important problems and build meaningful things. And I love that they charge into problems, trying to put their skills to use. Of course it doesn’t always work. But indecision and apathy do far more damage than people ending up over their heads.
What is most challenging? I’m a firm believer that nothing we teach in business schools is actually about business. It’s often set in the context of business, but I see our mission as fundamentally about teaching students how to navigate complex problems lead effectively in any organizational context – teams, families, clubs, society, etc
In one word, describe your favorite type of student: Willing to try
When it comes to grading, I think students would describe me as… Surprisingly hard
LIFE OUTSIDE THE CLASSROOM
What are your hobbies? I like building things and solving problems with my hands. Otherwise, I’ve played ultimate frisbee at a competitive level for longer than I’d like to admit.
How will you spend your summer? There’s research to be done – no rest for the weary
Favorite place(s) to vacation: There is no place like the upper valley of New Hampshire in the summer
Favorite book(s): Shop Class as Soulcraft. Cloud Atlas. The Way Things Work. Stumbling into Happiness. The Righteous Mind. Wind-up Bird Chronicle. Desert Solitaire.
What is currently your favorite movie and/or show and what is it about the film or program that you enjoy so much? I’m slowly working through “Alone” on Netflix, and I am absolutely in awe of the survival skills and creativity the contestants bring to bear
THOUGHTS AND REFLECTIONS
If I had my way, the business school of the future would have much more of this… We need to do a better job preparing students to make progress on the massive social and environmental problems that face our world today: climate change, inequality, food security and nutrition, misinformation, mental health, economic resilience. These are fundamentally organizational and economic problems, which mean that business schools need to play a central role in resolving them
I’m grateful for… The chance to do what I do. This isn’t a path many get to walk, and I am thankful that I am able to.
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