Welcome to the Future

New HBS classroom “hives” and the Harvard Innovation Lab thrust students into a bold experiment in learning and collaborative work.

by Garry Emmons

Batten Hall, on Western Avenue, is the totally renovated and redesigned building formerly occupied by the PBS television station WGBH. Batten Hall’s top two floors, reserved for HBS, are devoted to 10 curved, modular learning spaces (called “hives”) and other areas created with team exercises and creativity in mind. These spaces are designed to enable and facilitate HBS’s new required FIELD course, which focuses on intensive small-group exercises and team dynamics, activity not well-suited for Aldrich-style amphitheater classrooms. On the building’s first floor is the Harvard Innovation Lab (“i-lab”). “The i-lab is a University-wide resource for all Harvard students interested in entrepreneurship and innovation,” explains i-lab director Gordon Jones.

Used daily for discussion groups and exercises, the hives (above is the extra-large “superhive”) have furniture that can easily be reconfigured (as in the rendering below of Batten’s second floor) to accommodate large group discussions or small-team collaborations, with the professor presiding from the center of the oval classroom. Each hive is slightly different in design or capability, and over time, the most effective aspects will be adopted for all. “Perhaps the most fundamental change is that, whereas Aldrich is a half circle, we wanted to create a whole circle,” says MBA Program Chair Professor Youngme Moon.