SMS Educational Impact Award

We are pleased to announce the inauguration of this award to be presented by the Strategic Management Society!

The Educational Impact Award recognizes excellence in contributing to the teaching mission in Strategic Management. It will be given annually to an individual who has made an exemplary contribution to quality and innovation in the teaching of strategic management, either through their own teaching and mentoring activities and/or by empowering other teachers with innovations and high-quality teaching materials.

Award Timeline

Nominations for the SMS Educational Impact Award will be accepted until March 31 of each year and should be sent to the SMS Executive Office at:

Inaugural Recipient of the Award: Anita McGahan

From the Award Selection Committee:

"For 25 years, Anita has been on the cutting edge of curriculum development and pedagogical advances. During her years at the Harvard Business School, Anita developed more than 70 cases, teaching notes, and related pedagogical materials. Several of these – such as Sunrise Medical Inc.’ Wheelchair Products and Saturn: A Different Kind of Car Company – became basic staples of the core strategy curriculum taught worldwide. She was one of the early producers of CD-ROM-based case-related material.

Anita is a superb teacher herself, winning countless teaching awards at the various institutions where she has worked, for example the Excellence in Teaching Award at the Rotman School and Professor of the Year at Boston University.

She has also dedicated enormous amounts of time to improve the teaching skills of others. She has served as a Teaching Fellow in the Rotman School’s Teaching Effectiveness Center, and has worked tirelessly with virtually all junior colleagues at Rotman and Boston University (and even many at other institutions) to help them improve their teaching prowess – coaching them on lesson plans, observing them as they teach, and debriefing with them afterward to develop effective educational strategies."

Anita will be presented with this award at the Awards Luncheon, Tuesday afternoon at the SMS Annual Conference in Paris. As a recipient of the award, she will also be organizing a session on Monday at the conference! Click here for session details.

Below is an interview with Anita McGahan and SMS Board Member Julian Birkinshaw

Teaching cases are rarely about only the issue immediately at hand when the project of writing the case begins. For example, when I wrote the Sunrise Medical case, the question that the CEO and I had on the table as we began was whether Guardian should drop prices. In the end, the case was about the challenges of managing a company with two different divisions, each pursuing a different strategy, in the same industry. Pricing was just the tip of the iceberg. I’ve learned that cases work best when they expose the whole iceberg using the tools of the course.

Oh my goodness, yes. At the outset, I used to grill my students for case facts and march through the frameworks with military precision. At this stage of my career, I try to work with the students to figure out which facts are relevant to the truly paradoxical questions that the company’s leadership team faces. I’m most interested in working with my students to figure out how to break the tradeoffs that a CEO faces.

This is a hard question to answer in a few sentences because technology changes how and what we teach pervasively. First, technologies such as machine learning and advanced analytics create fascinating opportunities for creating value for stakeholders around the world. So what I teach is changing. Second, search technologies enable students to learn about and study organizations much more efficiently than in the past. That means that we don’t need as many formal case studies to convey information about important strategy situations. Third, my classrooms continue to tilt toward field-based experiences (see, for example, and interdisciplinary learning, which wouldn’t be possible without the communication technology that we have today. One of my favorite people – a student in a year-long interdisciplinary course on food security that included a field trip to implement project ideas in Delhi, India – told me that he had no idea how little he knew about strategy until he tried to implement solutions. That course would not have been possible without the technologies that the students used to work with their field partners and with the Toronto faculty simultaneously. Finally, technologies are changing our institutions pervasively. Thinking through the implications with students in the classroom is what interests me these days.

The younger colleagues that I’ve mentored are my friends. I care about them. I try to listen to and hear what they are dealing with. Almost all the advice that I’ve given involves encouraging them to be themselves, and to trust the students to respect their authority and to want to learn. I remember getting that advice myself from my Mike Porter on my first day of teaching: If anything goes wrong, just let the students work it out for you. The key is to care about their learning above all else, and to convey your belief in and love for the material, and everything else follows along. If you have great academic values that put student learning above everything else, then the students trust you, and if they trust you, then they learn.

Executives tend to be oriented in their thinking by the organizations they lead, whereas MBA students tend to be oriented by their career plans and ambitions. In my experience, executives tend to be hungry for insights about how to use novel ideas, technologies, and frameworks to make their organizations perform better. MBA candidates tend to be looking for ways to realize their ambitions; to make a difference; and to actualize. There are lots of commonalities across the two groups as well.

Nominees for this award will be judged according to the following criteria:

  • Innovation in the teaching of strategic management (e.g. new pedagogies, new media for learning and knowledge sharing)
  • Development and dissemination of teaching materials, such as texts, case studies and digital materials
  • Writing and publishing on pedagogy
  • Evidence of excellence in teaching at their home institution and other places they have taught (e.g. teaching awards, reference letters from administrators or peers, etc.)

The Award will be presented at the SMS Annual Conference and accompanied by a plaque and a $5,000 monetary prize. In addition, the recipient is invited to present in a special session that is part of the Teaching Community Track at the conference.

The selection committee for this award includes members of the Board of Directors and the leadership of the SMS Teaching Community. The committee is chaired by the SMS Past President.

Nominations –including self-nominations- are invited from any member of the SMS.

Award Nominations

Nominations must include:

  • A nomination letter of not more than two pages in length specifically addressing the nominee’s achievements vis-à-vis the above criteria
  • Two additional letters of recommendation for the nominated individual
  • A full current CV for the nominated individual