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Indiana University Bloomington

Operations & Decision Technologies

Preparing Students for 21st-Century Business

F. Robert Jacobs

Chase Faculty Fellow and Professor of Operations Management, Indiana University

F. Robert Jacobs

“Today’s companies want their employees to be able to work on diverse teams, to pull from different perspectives to come up with decisions, strategies, and products.”

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Bob Jacobs plays well with others, and he believes that’s one of the most important lessons he can impart to his students.

“Today’s companies want their employees to be able to work on diverse teams, to pull from different perspectives, backgrounds, and functional areas to come up with decisions, strategies, and products,” says Jacobs, professor of operations management and Chase Faculty Fellow.

Jacobs knows firsthand. He recently finished a multiyear project for Honeywell Aerospace that was funded by the 21st-Century Research and Technology Fund, a program created by the state of Indiana to promote new technology, grow jobs, and diversify the local economy. To help commercialize Honeywell’s new carbon-based airplane brake technology, Jacobs brought his supply-chain expertise and analysis to a team of engineers from Purdue University, chemists from Notre Dame, and scientists from Honeywell.

So he understands exactly what he and his faculty team are asking of their honors students when they place them in teams as part of the Kelley School’s renowned Integrated Core (I-Core)—and why.

“It’s the best way to teach. It’s the best way to learn,” says Jacobs, who is the coordinator for the honors I-Core faculty team and who can back his pedagogical stance with a long list of the top-selling textbooks in his field, including Operations and Supply Chain Management (McGraw-Hill/Irwin Series), which is now in its thirteenth edition, and Manufacturing Planning and Control for Supply Chains (McGraw-Hill/Irwin Series) now in its sixth edition. (See a complete list of his books.)

I-Core and its team-based projects require students to find their strengths and rely on those of others to get the work done. It also forces students to look at a problem from multiple perspectives—from the lens of finance, marketing, operations, and strategy and from the diverse and often global backgrounds of their team members.

“It’s how work gets down in the ‘real world’—and it’s one of the reasons why corporate recruiters come to the Kelley School,” says Jacobs.

The rewards of such teamwork go well beyond the classroom walls.

“I watch students come in to my class on the first day and not say a word to each other,” says Jacobs. But six weeks into the course, he enters the same classroom to see his students huddled up in their teams, trying to figure out a complex case or working on their capstone business plans.

“I-Core builds a kind of camaraderie that will benefit students well past the end of the semester or even their time at the Kelley School,” he says. “These are the lessons, the business connections, the colleagues, the friends that they’ll carry with them for the rest of their lives.”

In Brief

What I do for fun

“Fly airplanes, specifically a Mooney 201, a single-engine plane.”

Favorite Bloomington haunt

“I’m a Nick’s guy. I go up to the second floor, watch football or basketball games, and nosh on one of those famous Nick’s burgers.”

Books I’m reading right now

“I read biographies mostly—Chuck Yeager, Jimmy Doolittle, George Washington, Neil Armstrong. I like to see what they did, how they did it, what their background was.”

My dream job

“This is it. When I started my graduate degree, my goal was to land a position at the Kelley School. I love this place.”

Published April 28, 2011