A Force for Good: Alison Davis-Blake - Y Magazine
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A Force for Good: Alison Davis-Blake

RISE: Thoughts from an inspiring alum

Alison Davis-Blake (BS ’79, MOB ’82), dean of the Stephen M. Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan, is an expert on strategic human-resource management and organizational design. While she has been at Ross, the school has adopted a new motto: “We develop leaders who make a positive difference in the world.”

“My freshman year, I was in an honors seminar . . . taught by faculty from biology, economics, organizational behavior, and literature. . . . That experience of a multidisciplinary group of faculty, thinking of common problems from multiple angles . . . has stayed with me my whole life. The lesson I took away is the power of looking at problems from different perspectives, and I still believe that many of the interesting ideas and solutions come at the edges between people who are very different.”

“An important pitfall for BYU graduates to understand is that if you get on the treadmill that says, ‘Very best in school, very best job, best promotion,’ you may end up being somebody you don’t want to be. You can quickly lose sight of you. You need to avoid being on the treadmill of success mindlessly. You need to constantly ask, ‘What is my purpose?’”

“Most people who commit fraud do not start out committing fraud. They start somewhere that encourages pushing the system just a little bit. But that little push was a lie, and they start crossing more lines.”

“Organizations have vast power. Each of the top five Fortune 500 firms . . . has more revenue than the GDP of countries like Ireland and Portugal. Firms can use their power more agilely than countries because of the lack of a political process. These companies need to ask themselves, ‘How will I use this vast power?’ It is their sacred obligation to use that power for good. If you are Coca-Cola, and you use a ton of water, then it means working on the global water supply. Since you know about water, then you bring your expertise to the global problem. There are so many different ways of doing this to engage the firm and its resources.”

“If you want to be a force for good, the very first thing you need to have is a vision of what it looks like for an individual, team, or organization to be a force for good. If you can’t conceptualize what that looks like in your organization or for you personally, you cannot persuade others to be a force for good. For me as a dean, I can be a force for good by being mindful that students are at this very transformational moment in their lives. I had a transformational moment my freshman year at BYU, and I want to design experiences that change the course of students’ histories in a positive way, to help them imagine things they never thought possible. Changing the course of someone’s life for the better is being a force for good.”

“‘Enter to learn; go forth to serve’ means that every person you interact with in any meaningful way is better because you interacted with them. They could have more opportunities, be more thoughtful, be able to perform better, be better parents, or be more compassionate. When you turn out the lights and close the door, you should be able to say, ‘Because I was here, this organization is better.’”


Share an Alumni Story: Through its RISE initiative, BYU Alumni is highlighting inspirational alums—from the grad who started wrestling at age 60 for his health to an organizer of World Cups and Olympics. Share and read stories at rise.byu.edu.