Julian Birkinshaw has been named the next Dean of Ivey Business School. His five-year appointment is effective Aug. 1, 2024.
“We’re delighted to welcome Julian, an internationally renowned scholar in business research and education,” Western President Alan Shepard said. “His expertise on innovation, digital transformation, and the agility of large multinational firms will be invaluable as Ivey and Western continue to engage with society to make a global impact.”
Birkinshaw joins Western from the London Business School in the U.K., where he’s held a variety of posts for the past 25 years, most recently as Vice-Dean.
Heralded as an academic thinker with real-world practice, Birkinshaw, MBA’91, PhD’95, embraces Ivey’s case-based teaching approach as a proud graduate of the school.
“What excites me most about Ivey is what I experienced in terms of my learning about the business world – a commitment to a pedagogy that helps people understand the world of business properly, and to good quality research, which also influences the world of practice. Those are values I’ve held and pushed for throughout my career and are central to what Ivey has always done.”
A Fellow of the British Academy, Strategic Management Society and the (American) Academy of Management, Birkinshaw holds honorary degrees from Copenhagen Business School and the Stockholm School of Economics. He has authored 15 books, including Fast/Forward: Make Your Company Fit for the Future and Becoming A Better Boss, and more than 90 articles including those featured in Harvard Business Review and The Wall Street Journal. An established expert on large-scale change and digital disruption in the private sector, he is regularly quoted in international media, including on CNN, the BBC and in The Economist and Sloan Management Review.
Born for business
Born in Hexham, Northumberland, Great Britain, Birkinshaw caught the bug for business early on. He recalls studying the progress of his father’s financial portfolio. “I monitored the daily movements of prices and speculated on why some shares were going up and others were going down,” he said. “It piqued my interest in the business world from a young age.”
That interest remained as he earned his bachelor’s degree in geology and worked for a brief time in IT consulting.
When he decided to advance his studies in business, he was keen to study in North America, “the home of the MBA.” He applied to U.S. schools but is glad for the advice of a family friend in Canada, who positioned Western as “the place” to go, given it’s also where he met his wife, Laura (MacLellan), HBA’91. Her father, Allister MacLellan, HBA’68, also attended Western.
“Doing my MBA at Ivey was very formative. I loved it,” Birkinshaw said. So much so that he remained at Western to pursue his PhD in business administration. His doctoral work saw him place as a finalist for the Richard N. Farmer international business award in 1995 and as winner of the Barry M. Richman award in 1996.
It also marked Birkinshaw’s beginnings as “a believer in innovation and agility,” key aspects he believes business firms ─ and business schools ─ should embrace to stay relevant in a time of rapid change and disruption.
“There are opportunities to evolve the world of business education and Ivey is in a better place to deliver because the school has always been about leadership. Using the case method puts the student in the shoes of the decision-maker, asking them to take on the complexities of being a leader.”
Passion for innovation
His passion for innovation and continuous improvement is something he’s brought to his leadership roles, steering the creation of London Business School’s early career masters in management program in 2010 and the masters in analytics management in 2019. He also led the school’s digital development from 2017 to 2020, creating a suite of courses with digital content to help students gain jobs in tech companies, and later as part of a blended learning experience, which proved invaluable when the COVID-19 pandemic struck.
As Ivey continues to chart its course with a new strategic plan to address critical issues facing businesses and society, Birkinshaw, who’s regularly ranked amongst the thinkers50 list of global management thinkers, brings critical experience and insights to the role.
“Geopolitically, business schools are in a highly competitive, maturing market, and today, our graduates need to have an understanding of many issues like climate change, sustainability, EDI and artificial intelligence to be successful in their roles,” he said.
“One thing I’ve missed in being part of an independent business school is not having access to all the other cognate disciplines. If you want to teach about climate change, you don’t have the environmental sciences. If you want to teach about artificial intelligence, you don’t have computer scientists. I’m excited Ivey is part of a full-fledged university, with experts in these areas.”
On a recent campus visit, he was also heartened to see work underway for the new Ronald D. Schmeichel Building for Entrepreneurship and Innovation.
“I love to see that Western is offering entrepreneurship opportunities for students across disciplines, because ultimately, value creation, growth and development in a country like Canada requires people to be entrepreneurs.”
Birkinshaw is looking forward to stepping into the role and learning more to help chart Ivey’s next chapter at Western and in the world.
“I’m eager to help consolidate Ivey’s position as the number one business school in Canada and to raise its prominence globally. Ivey really helped shape my worldview, so the opportunity to help craft the school’s next stage of development is hugely exciting,” he said.
President Shepard thanked current Ivey Dean Sharon Hodgson, who retires on June 30. An Acting Dean will be named to provide support to Ivey until Birkinshaw’s arrival on Aug. 1.
“Under Sharon’s leadership, Ivey not only successfully navigated the challenges of the pandemic but thrived – with improved student outcomes, expansion of its world-class programs, the launch of the Ivey Next strategic plan and celebration of its 100th anniversary. We are grateful for her dedication to Ivey and to Western, and we wish her the very best as she prepares for retirement.”
President Shepard also thanked Provost and Vice-President (Academic) Florentine Strzelczyk and members of the Ivey decanal selection committee for their dedication and commitment throughout the international search process.