Bill Lovejoy, Ross School of Business

Learning from Oceania
Bill Lovejoy


Fall 2017
Lecture Time: 
Friday, November 10, 2017 - 1:30pm to 3:30pm
Lecture Location: 
B0560 Blau Hall
Introduced By: 
Mijeong Kwon


Recent events have reminded the world that significant numbers of people are not better off as a result of the global economy. This is readily apparent in the City of Detroit, where despite a midtown Renaissance there remain neighborhoods that are concentrations of unemployment, poverty, crime and foreclosures. At first Professor Lovejoy attempted to contribute by helping small neighborhood businesses, the standard route to development. But, some neighborhoods currently have little, given their human and physical capital, to offer global markets. Eventually, Professor Lovejoy began thinking in the opposite direction. Instead of gearing up to join the global economy, what if the neighborhood withdrew from it? How would one organize a small scale, small geographic area, self-sufficient society (for the basics of food and housing)? What happens when you embed such a society into the global economy with all of its temptations and constraints?

There are natural models for answering some of these questions in the political-economic history of Oceanic island nations. Many of the islands were the last places settled on earth outside Antarctica, evolved in relative isolation, were self-sufficient and environmentally sustainable for millennia, and were largely undisturbed by western influences until the 19th century. Their cultures were based on concepts of social capital and reciprocity that are now being advocated for positive organizations. While traditional memories are still strong, Oceanic societies are now facing serious challenges being embedded in a global economy, with many of the challenges (obesity, diabetes, heart disease, drug and alcohol abuses, crime) facing many marginalized communities. This talk will outline some organizational lessons that we can take from the Oceanic experience for potential transplantation into modern urban neighborhoods.

Additional Notes

Professor Lovejoy’s background is in manufacturing, product and process innovation, and health care, and he has worked with many companies, hospitals and clinics on customer/patient and information flows and process assessment and improvements. His new product development course, taught jointly with Art and Design and Engineering, has enjoyed coverage by CNN, the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. Over the past five years his work in product development has matured into small business development and then small economy development. He was the business co-director of the Masters of Entrepreneurship program (also joint with Engineering) at the University of Michigan from 2012 to 2015. His current interests are business startups in Detroit, and organizing networks of organizations into small scale economies in urban centers. His past editorial activities include Department Editor for the Operations and Supply Chains department of the academic journal, Management Science, and Senior Editor for Manufacturing and Services Operations Management.