The last time academic, author and tech expert Soumitra Dutta spoke to the IndUS Business Journal it was almost exactly three years ago and he was on a book tour for "Throwing Sheep in the Boardroom: How Online Social Networking Will Transform Your Life, Work and World." Now, Dutta caught up with the newspaper to talk about the continual social media revolution and how an Ivy League business school has tapped him to lead it into a new age of technology, e-learning and innovation.
If anyone ever deserved a big case of "I told you so" it is Dutta who predicted in print just how strong social media revolution would become. "Throwing Sheep in the Boardroom" examines the powerful trend of the Web 2.0 social networking revolution in a number of areas, including politics, music and business. It argues that while the Web 2.0 revolution has become de facto for younger members of society, it is facing resistance inside organizations — especially corporations and government bureaucracies and makes the case that senior executives must embrace and understand the dynamics of the Web 2.0 revolution "before it's too late" and "before it will be sweeping their corridors and into their boardrooms."
The thesis seems like common knowledge today, but it wasn't quite so when Dutta first starting tossing out these theories as a professor at INSEAD business school in Fontainebleau Cedex, France. No matter, his insight has long-since been proven spot on.
As such, it is no wonder that as a tech expert and long-time academic — he has been at INSEAD for 22 years, holding such positions as dean of technology and e-learning, and founded the school's eLab — Dutta will be coming to the cradle of university education as dean of the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell University. Cornell, as part of the Ancient Eight, can lay claim to helping launch higher education in the first place and now the school is banking that Dutta can do something similar with its e-learning efforts.
Dutta will take over as dean of the graduate management school in July.
One can bet that Dutta's plans for Cornell will be nothing short of an innovative new blend of technology and education. "Technology can purely help create new models in education," he said.
While Dutta, professes to being very happy with his career at INSEAD and did not actively pursue opportunities to leave, he said that Cornell approached him and after five months of discussion he made the choice to move based on what he calls "a unique opportunity to have an impact."
"When they made me an offer in the end of December it was very difficult to turn down," Dutta said. "Clearly Cornell is a very unique university and a global brand. It has many strengths, many strong colleges and a strong faculty."
He also said he is excited by the opportunity to create something new, while integrating the strengths of a school such as Cornell.
Located in Ithaca in upstate New York, Dutta said that Cornell is already on the leading edge in some areas of e-learning and has been forced to look at education offerings in a more creative way because of the distance from major cities. He points out that the school already has a very successful e-learning division, eCornell, as well as an executive MBA program that is only 30 percent face-to-face teaching, with 70 percent of the program distance learning using new technology.
"You have a number of cases were Cornell is doing extremely well with these new technologies, but some other areas where they can do even more," Dutta said.
Cornell also has a technology campus in New York City — a place Dutta believes can lead the way in coming up with new models of media and technology applications that enable new entrepreneurship and new growth and new jobs. "It is a very interesting way to impact the New York area and also create a new model that other areas can integrate," he said.
As a member of the Davos Circle, an association of long-time participants in the Annual Davos meeting of the World Economic Forum, Dutta and has engaged in a number of multi-stakeholder initiatives to shape global, regional and industry agendas. And also, as the co-editor and author of the Global Information Technology Report and the Global Innovation Index, Dutta's vision is always looking beyond borders and considering the type of technology and innovation policies that can change how the world operates. So it is no surprise that his vision for Cornell is that the university can lead the way in the future of e-learning and technology integration into academia. He firmly believes that a global impact is possible from the hallowed Ivy League halls and that business schools can help make and change the world in a positive way.
"There is an opportunity also to rethink some of the kind of research areas," Dutta said. "The business schools have to be at the center of these discussion processes and solutions.
"Technology will be an essential part of the new business models," he added. "I think business schools and universities in general have not exploited the power that exists today — 80 percent of world uses social media • We have to think through these things. The solutions are not always obvious."
In addition to his long tenure at INSEAD, Dutta has served as a visiting professor in the Haas School at University of California at Berkeley, Oxford Internet Institute at the University of Oxford, and Judge School at the University of Cambridge in England. He joined INSEAD in 1989 after working for Schlumberger Ltd. in Japan and General Electric Co. in the United States. He has also authored close to a dozen books, many focusing on the intersection between business and technology, including "The Bright Stuff," "Embracing the Net," and "Process Reengineering, Organizational Change and Performance Improvement."
He has a doctoral degree in computer science and a master's degree in business administration from the University of California at Berkeley, as well as a bachelor's degree in computer science from the Indian Institute of Technology Delhi.