My CBS Story

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CBS as an ugly duckling

I came to CBS 6 years ago. As a student of history from University of Copenhagen, I started on my PhD at CBS’ Centre for Business History. I never envisioned myself working at a business school—and in my first years as a PhD, my learning curve was pretty steep. Not only did I need to familiarise myself with the ideas and terminologies of business administration and strategy. I also had to familiarise myself with the very large and complex organisation that CBS is.

Sitting at department meetings in the first years, I honestly had a hard time getting my head around the organisational structure, all the different departments, units, acronyms and organisational policies. To me CBS seemed as a veritable maze. Sometimes I got the feeling that, as a newcomer, I was merely looking through the peephole in a complex structure. I could only get a vague idea of the organisational contours but not get a clear picture of the organisation’s inner workings. These things take time in any organisation I guess. Years, even.

Luckily, in the beginning of 2015, having now finished my PhD, I was given the task to write up an anniversary book on the first 100 years of CBS’ history. Together with my colleague professor Kurt Jacobsen, I laboured for about two years to write up this history.

Now, after two years of going to archives, interviewing students, presidents and employees, I can honestly say, that I have a much better idea of CBS. I know why it looks the way it does, and I now understand the events and structures that shaped CBS as we know it today.

It has been a quite remarkable journey! I am not just saying this because I am an historian in the CBS payroll. During the span of 100 years, CBS has evolved from a modest series of evening lectures in the back rooms of the old Merchant School to become one of the world’s leading business universities. For most parts of this journey, it has been a bottom up process driven by engaged and visionary employees and students. My co-author and I discussed many times if we should use the metaphor of the Ugly Duckling to characterise CBS’ development. In the end, we decided not to because it came across as a bit tacky. Although I still recognise the tackiness of the claim, in some ways, it has really been the story of the ugly duckling growing up to be a beautiful swan.

It is my hope that the CBS book will help present and future students and employees to understand this CBS-journey. Instead of looking for the peephole for years, they can now browse through CBS’ anniversary book to get an idea of where CBS is coming from—and where CBS might be in the future.