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Nancy F. Koehn
Nancy Koehn is a noted historian and the premier authority for providing analysis on the social and economic impact of entrepreneurship and on leadership in turbulent times. Looking at current economic and political issues facing Americans through a historical lens, she is able to offer solutions tailored to solve today’s problems.

As the James E. Robison Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School, Koehn teaches the MBA elective Entrepreneurial Leadership in Turbulent Times. Her research focuses on entrepreneurial leadership and how leaders, past and present, craft lives of purpose, worth and impact. She has been a Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School since July 2001. From July 1992 through June 1997, she was as Assistant Professor and from July 1997 through June 2001, she was an Associate Professor at Harvard Business School.

Professor Koehn is the author of three books and a contributor to six more. Her most recent work “The Story of American Business: From the Pages of The New York Times” (Harvard Business Press, October 2009) tells the story of American business history as seen through the lens of The New York Times news reporting. The book encompasses more than 100 articles spanning two centuries with a focus on three major themes: the corporation, the changing nature of work, and defining moments in technology. Her second book “Brand New: How Entrepreneurs Earned Consumers’ Trust from Wedgewood to Dell” (Harvard Business Press, March 2001) is a valuable study in brand development and entrepreneurship that is part business book, part marketing manual, and part pattern recognition of key cycles. Her keen insight into six well-know entrepreneurs has made her a sought after and often quoted expert on consumerism and branding.

In addition to numerous books, Koehn has also written and supervised case studies on Bono and U2, Oprah Winfrey, Whole Foods, Starbucks Coffee Company, Ernest Shackleton, Josiah Wedgwood, Estée Lauder, Henry Heinz, Milton Hershey, Celeste Walker, Marshall Field, Dell Computer and other leaders and organizations.

Outside of her career in academia, Koehn works closely with senior executives at a number of large companies on issues including strategic branding and leadership. She has worked extensively as a consultant and executive coach in the advertising and fashion industries. For many years, she has served as an advisor to a range of entrepreneurial enterprises. Koehn has also served as a director for Tempur-Pedic International since 2004 and as a director for the health care company Seniorbridge since 2003. She is a member of ING North Americas Advisory board where she has served since 2004.

An energetic and insightful orator, Koehn’s recent speaking engagements include “Connecting with Customers in Turbulent Times “and “Leading in Turbulent Times.” In the past year, she has presented this work to senior executives in the retail, restaurant, financial and information technology industries.

Koehn has appeared on "Good Morning America," CNBC's "Moneywheel," "Nightly Business Report," and "Street Signs," "The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer," A&E's "Biography," CNN's "Money Line" and many other television programs and is a frequent commentator on National Public Radio. In 2001, Business 2.0 named Ms. Koehn one of 19 leading business gurus in the United States.

She holds a B.A. degree from Stanford University, an M.A. degree in Public Policy from the Harvard University Kennedy School of Government and an M.A. degree and a Ph.D. degree in European History from Harvard University.

Entries by Nancy F. Koehn

Calling All Leaders: Feed and Water Yourself

(0) Comments | Posted March 25, 2014 | 9:00 AM

I have been coaching leaders for a decade. During that time, the landscape has grown ever more turbulent: economic uncertainty, geopolitical instability, technological disruption, and social dislocation. Even our weather patterns are more volatile. As the gales of what the economist Joseph Schumpeter called "creative destruction" intensify, we look long...

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Racing to Win: The Conquest of the South Pole

(0) Comments | Posted January 10, 2014 | 2:43 PM

Last week, as 52 passengers were rescued from a ship stuck in Antarctic ice for 10 days, I was reminded of an earlier expedition to the dangerous, seductive and, at the time, largely unchartered continent of Antarctica: the race to discover the South Pole. In 1911-1912, a rivalry unfolded between...

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Davos Diary: Day Three

(1) Comments | Posted January 28, 2011 | 8:50 AM

The day dawned clear and cold in Davos, but most participants in the World Economic Forum here had little bandwidth for the weather. Typically, Thursday and Friday are the days when some of the most powerful leaders come to town. This means larger entourages (and bigger traffic jams to accommodate...

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Davos Diary: Day Two

(0) Comments | Posted January 27, 2011 | 8:55 AM

I arrived in Davos yesterday, the official opening of the World Economic Forum (in reality, many of the government officials, executives, and reporters have been here for days, meeting formally and in more casual encounters).

Davos itself is a village of 13,000 inhabitants nestled at 5118 feet in the...

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Davos Diary: Day One

(1) Comments | Posted January 26, 2011 | 9:45 AM

I am here in London at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland where 2500 people are gathering this week to brainstorm, network, and take the power pulse for 2011.

I am a newbie to Davos, having been invited as a historian from the Harvard Business...

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Starbucks' Logo Debate Shows Customers' Engagement

(1) Comments | Posted January 11, 2011 | 11:56 AM

Cross-posted from Harvard Business Review

Last Wednesday, Starbucks unveiled a new logo, and the world has not been the same since. I'm kidding, of course, but the change -- a simpler, cleaner version of the mermaid (or, if you will, mythological "siren") minus the border and...

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Leadership Lessons: Oprah's Journey to "OWN" Cableland

(0) Comments | Posted January 3, 2011 | 9:25 AM

This past weekend ushered in a new year, a new cable channel and a new chapter in the fascinating, influential journey of Oprah Winfrey.

The Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) began broadcasting New Year's Day at noon with a range of offerings from "Kidnapped by the Kids," a...

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The Mental Game of Breast Cancer: Part Two

(2) Comments | Posted November 1, 2010 | 10:19 AM

There is an "underground railroad" of support fueling the fight against breast cancer. In the spirit of this vital "railroad" and the amazing community of women that sustains it discussed in my last posting, here are a few insights from having had breast cancer twice in three years....

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The Mental Game of Breast Cancer

(2) Comments | Posted October 29, 2010 | 1:23 PM

October is drawing to a close and with it, much of the large-scale, public activity surrounding Breast Cancer Awareness month. Ah, if only the disease at hand would pack up and leave the national scene when the pink billboards and PSAs come down early next week.

But this is...

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Beyond Disengagement and Anger

(0) Comments | Posted July 1, 2010 | 9:14 AM

Each day in this (still young) summer, it grows harder for many of us to read the front page of the newspaper, listen to the top stories on television or scroll through the links on an Internet news site.

The prospect of almost 1000 barrels of oil seeping into...

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A New Damascus

(0) Comments | Posted May 24, 2010 | 9:16 AM

Might the future of capitalism lie in its roots from the seventh millennium BC? Damascus is said to be the birthplace of capitalism--with scores of famous empires taking advantage of its proximity to the Barada River to build a system of canals and tunnels still in use today. Although these...

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Leaders and Fiduciaries

(0) Comments | Posted May 3, 2010 | 12:03 PM

There is a war of words waging about Goldman Sachs and its role in the larger financial crisis of 2008. The emerging battle lines concern what the bank's leadership did or did not do in betting against mortgage-backed securities - bets that in 2007 alone yielded $4 billion in profit...

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Straight Talk: Oprah's Leadership Lessons

(2) Comments | Posted April 14, 2010 | 9:28 AM

A small tempest is raging now about Kitty Kelley's just-released (and unauthorized) biography of Oprah Winfrey. Pick up a newspaper. Log onto the Internet. Turn on the radio or television. In all these outlets, the eye of the storm is the same: what secrets does Ms. Kelley have...

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Rebooting Households: The View From Davos

(1) Comments | Posted January 29, 2010 | 3:43 PM

The World Economic Forum is in full throttle in Davos, Switzerland this week. There are the usual list of heavy-hitters and loads of conversations about the world's most pressing challenges and the importance of global cooperation and cross-national creativity in meeting them.

Yet, in all the bustle of...

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