“I tell my students that they’ll get a better framework in this 14-week course than I got in 14 years at the school of hard knocks,” Huber says. “General Motors spent a billion dollars on my tuition. That was the negative cash flow we invested in OnStar before it turned profitable.”
The HBS Class of 1979 produced a raft of high-profile executives, including Meg Whitman, president and CEO of Hewlett-Packard; Dan Bricklin, co-creator of the VisiCalc spreadsheet program; John Thain, chairman and CEO of CIT Group; Elaine L. Chao, the 24th US Secretary of Labor; and, fortuitously, Clay Christensen, the Kim B. Clark Professor of Business Administration at HBS, and the world’s foremost authority on disruptive innovation.
“Clay was always that guy in class who would say these off-the-wall things, and we’d say to ourselves, ‘That was either really brilliant or really stupid,’ but we couldn’t figure out which one,” Huber recalls. “And of course they were all brilliant. But unfortunately for most of us normal humans, we never wrote them down. We could have stolen his ideas back then, but we didn’t know they’d become famous.”
After graduation, Huber didn’t expect their career paths to cross again. But several years later, Christensen would realize that the OnStar story was a great example of navigating innovation within a large company.