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Management research mourns Ghoshal

By Simon Hooper for CNN

Sumantra Ghoshal
Ghoshal pioneered the concepts of the transnational and individualized corporation.

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LONDON, England -- The death of London Business School professor Sumantra Ghoshal has denied management research of one of its most innovative and influential thinkers.

Ghoshal, who died following a brain hemorrhage at the age of 55 earlier this month, was best known for developing the concept of the "transnational corporation" in his 1989 book "Managing without Borders," which he co-authored with Harvard professor Christopher Bartlett.

Henry Mintzberg, the Cleghorn Professor of Management Studies at Montreal's McGill University, told CNN: "What a wonderful world this would be if there were more Sumantra Ghoshals. The cause of sensible management has suffered a great loss."

Translated into nine languages, "Managing without Borders" was named as one of the 50 most influential books on management by the Financial Times.

Ghoshal and Bartlett examined how multinational corporations were being forced to become both more globalized and more localized simultaneously, resulting in a breakdown of traditional corporate hierarchies in favor of a seamless, harmonious international network.

Regular collaborators in the Harvard Business Review, Ghoshal and Bartlett teamed up once again in 1997 to produce the ground-breaking "The Individualized Corporation."

Taking individual employees as their focus, Ghoshal and Bartlett argued that corporations were getting it wrong because of their adherence to preconceived management theory stereotypes of what a company should be and how employees should behave.

Creative talents

Rather, they suggested, successful corporations were increasingly shaping their organizational structure to fit the talents and motivations of their employees, releasing their creative and entrepreneurial talents while investing them with a shared purpose.

Ghoshal and Bartlett described the shift in emphasis as the "unfolding of the most profound change in management in a lifetime."

Born in Kolkata, India, in 1948, Ghoshal joined the London Business School in 1994 as the Robert P. Baumann Professor of Strategic Leadership after previously working at the Insead management school in France.

He studied physics at Delhi University and then worked for the Indian Oil Corporation, before turning his attention to management when he went to study in the U.S. in 1981, earning doctoral degrees at both MIT School of Management and Harvard Business School.

"Sumantra Ghoshal exemplified management research at its best," said Dr. Julian Birkinshaw, Chair of Strategic and International Management at the London Business School.

"He had a razor-sharp and creative mind; he was a charismatic and inspiring speaker; and he was unstinting in his drive for excellence in management education and research."

In addition to his work at the London Business School, Ghoshal was a member of the Board of Overseers of Harvard Business School and maintained teaching and consulting relationships with a wide range of American, European and Asian companies.

He also helped establish the Indian School of Business in Hyderabad, and was a fellow of the Advanced Institute of Management Research, the Academy of Management, the Academy of International Business and the World Economic Forum.


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