A Strategy of Inspired Growth at Kellogg

Kellogg Dean Blount

This week, Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management announced it has reached several key milestones in its Envision Kellogg plan for transformation, including a new brand strategy focused on “inspiring growth.”

The new brand strategy, “brave leaders inspire growth in people, organizations and markets,” sharpens how the school articulates the Kellogg difference in developing growth-minded leaders.

“Growth has long been the imperative and continues to be the biggest challenge that every organization faces,” says Kellogg Dean Sally Blount. “But the rules have changed since 2000. Bigger is not always better.”

Kellogg has also announced the launch of a new global experiential learning program entitled International Growth Lab, a course where students from Kellogg and a network school will collaborate remotely and on the ground to develop international growth strategies for global companies. This program provides the opportunity to gain real-world experience managing diverse teams across geographic boundaries and time zones.

Blount notes that currently 125 to 150 of Kellogg’s MBA candidates are doing a quarter abroad at a partner or exchange school, while another 200 do a two-week experiential learning course abroad. “About 50% of all our MBA students are choosing to participate in these options,” the dean tells Poets & Quants.

Additionally, Kellogg has increased the size of its One-Year MBA Program by nearly 20 percent over the past two years, and will continue to evolve with the market. The two-year program will shrink slightly in what Blount calls a rebalancing of the portfolio to meet market demands.

A core tenet of the Kellogg strategic plan is its distinctive approach to thought leadership that integrates foundational departments with four cross-disciplinary initiatives: Markets and Customers; Architectures of Collaboration; Innovation and Entrepreneurship; and Public-Private Interface.

Thomas Hubbard, senior associate dean of strategic initiatives and professor of strategy at Kellogg, says, “This thought leadership translates directly into what and how we teach.” In three years, Kellogg has launched more than 55 new courses, focused on innovation and entrepreneurship, growth and scaling, and data analytics, comprising 25 percent of its total curriculum.

This includes six new courses focused on growth and scaling, ranging from scaling operations to personnel management in a rapidly growing organization, as well as three new courses in data analytics. Kellogg today offers 11 elective courses in data analytics across six foundational departments, the most robust curriculum in the industry.

Although universally known for its strength in marketing, these bold moves show Blount’s mission to change the public’s perception of the school. “We have always been a general management school,” Blount explains in Poets & Quants. “There were people in the market who tried to portray us as just a this-or-that school. That was a defensive tactic by competitors. Yes, we had stronger marketing relative to our peers, but it was a market-created perspective to categorize Kellogg as a marketing school and not make us as fierce a competitor. We have to push back on that by showing that we have never been just that.”

All of these milestones in Kellogg’s strategic plan have been enabled, at least in part, by its campaign. During the 2013-2014 academic year, Kellogg raised $47 million, bringing the capital campaign to $215 million under Dean Blount’s leadership that began in 2010. The Kellogg campaign is focused on enhancing thought leadership, increasing scholarships, expanding global connectivity and building a lakefront global hub.

“Sometimes growth means pulling back to attain greater clarity and focus,” says Dean Blount. “Our ‘inspiring growth’ brand strategy highlights the important dual meaning of the English word ‘growth’ – both in terms of increasing economic value and increasing self-knowledge and insight.”

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