A ‘Quantum’ Leap For Company Leaders

Stewart Thornhill. Courtesy photo

Stewart Thornhill. Courtesy photo

Megan Driscoll, founder and president of PharmaLogics, a top bio-pharmaceutical recruiting company, had never had any formal business school training. Wanting to learn more from leaders like herself, she found what she was looking for in the newest program for entrepreneurs at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, held in partnership with professional services and accounting firm KPMG.

The program, called Quantum Shift, was created and designed by Stewart Thornhill, executive director of Ross’s Zell Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies, as a continuation of a series he started in 2004 at the Ivey Business School in Ontario, Canada.

“We launched the Quantum Shift program as an executive development program for high-growth entrepreneurs,” Thornhill says. “As a company these leaders are at the top, and it can be lonely to not have that same network and community you might find from a larger business.

“This is a program built on recognizing achievement and also investing in the future. This program allows the attendees to meet like-minded souls and have them connect and learn together.”

The first class of 40 participants — like Driscoll, all founders, owners and/or CEOs of private U.S. companies — graduated this month from the program, a five-day retreat on the Ross campus in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Classes taught by faculty from the B-school — on building a growth culture, leveraging innovation and leaving a legacy, among other topics — were held throughout each day.


In B-schools, there is a lot of focus on negative deviants, Thornhill says, but there also needs to be a rounded discussion on positive business disciplines, which is a large part of what spurred him to create the Quantum Shift program.

The topic of “positive leadership” took up the course’s first day, a focus that drew Driscoll’s praise.

“I loved that this was mentioned and that business school students are learning about it, because it is a large part of what I do in my own business,” she says. “It was great to hear that scientific research backs up what I have built my company on.”

Driscoll says she benefited most from peer-group discussions held once a day after the morning classes. “I was able to form some very meaningful relationships that will serve me for the next twenty years, and that happened in just five days. There were so many like-minded souls in the program that we just connected instantly,” she says.


Thornhill advocates that entrepreneurs create knowledge with other high-achievers and build a dynamic, high-powered peer network. “The important part of the Quantum Shift program is that participants become a fellow for life,” he says, “meaning each year they will be invited back to participate in a shorter two-day seminar to refresh what they have learned and to learn new skills.”

Thornhill hopes Quantum Shift participants will return to their companies with the tools and strategies to lead more effectively, optimize their potential and achieve “quantum leaps” in their companies’ growth and performance.

The program itself is growing and evolving, too, he says. Each session, he takes feedback from graduates to improve and tailor the curriculum to address the top issues that participants are facing within their job roles. And he is working to create a more gender-diverse setting, an effort that includes outreach to encourage more women to join the program.

That would be a welcome change, Driscoll says.

“My only critique (of the program) was, I wish there was a greater representation of women,” she says. “The class was diverse but it was not gender diverse. There was only ever one women at each table and I did not get a chance to bond with the other women at the event. Women lead differently, and I wish there were a greater number of women in attendance.”

The next Quantum Shift program will be held April 30 to May 5, 2017, and applications are currently being accepted to be part of the next graduating class of fellows.

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