Ed Stack, the chief executive of Dick's Sporting Goods, decided after the Parkland school shooting to pull assault rifles and high-capacity magazines from all of his company’s stores. The controversial choice hurt revenues. But the retailer weathered the storm, thanks to inclusive and thoughtful decision-making, careful communication with all stakeholders, and a strategic shift to new product lines. Stack explains why he chose to take such a public stance on a hot-button social issue and how it has affected him personally and professionally. He is the author of "It's How We Play the Game: Build a Business. Take a Stand. Make a Difference."
Melinda Gates, cochair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and founder of Pivotal Ventures, is committing $1 billion over the next ten years to advance gender equality. She says evidence shows it's the best way to drive economic development in nations and performance in companies. She shares her own stories as a female executive at Microsoft, a working mother, and a nonprofit leader learning from women around the world. Gates is the author of the HBR article "Gender Equality Is Within Our Reach."
Dave Ulrich, professor at the University of Michigan Ross School of Business, argues today's companies need to replace old hierarchical models with he calls a “market-oriented ecosystem.” From research at Alibaba, Google, Huawei, Supercell, and others, he shows the impressive results of orienting teams and processes toward market opportunities. Ulrich is the coauthor, along with Tencent senior advisor Arthur Yeung, of “Reinventing the Organization: How Companies Can Deliver Radically Greater Value in Fast-Changing Markets.”
Nir Eyal, an expert on technology and psychology, says that we all need to learn to be less distracted into activities that don't help us achieve what we want to each day. Unwelcome behaviors can range from social media scrolling and bingeing on YouTube videos to chatting with colleagues or answering non-urgent emails. To break these habits, we start by recognizing that it is often our own emotions, not our devices, that distract us. We must then recognize the difference between traction (values-aligned work or leisure) and distraction (not) and make time in our schedules for more of the former. Eyal also has tips for protecting ourselves from the external distractions that do come at us and tools to force us to focus on bigger-picture goals. He is the author of the book "Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life."
Andrew McAfee, co-director of the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy, explains how the U.S. economy is growing and actually using less and less stuff to do so. Thanks to new technologies, many advanced economies are reducing their use of timber, metals, fertilizer, and other resources. McAfee says this dematerialization trend is spreading to other parts of the globe. While it’s not happening fast enough to stop climate change, he believes it offers some hope for environmental protection when combined with effective public policy. McAfee is the author of the book “More from Less: The Surprising Story of How We Learned to Prosper Using Fewer Resources—and What Happens Next.”
Richard Boyatzis, professor at Case Western Reserve University, says that every professional can benefit from having a coach — and serving as one for someone else. He says that a coaching relationship moves beyond mentoring or sponsoring in that it focuses on long-term values and aspirations. The best coaches encourage a positive mindset and ask probing questions to help people make the best choices, not only in their careers but also in their personal lives. Boyatzis is coauthor of the HBR article "Coaching for Change."
Oliver Hart, Nobel-winning Harvard economist, and Kate Vitasek, faculty at the University of Tennessee, argue that many business contracts are imperfect, no matter how bulletproof you try to make them. Especially in complicated relationships such as outsourcing, one side ends up feeling like they're getting a bad deal, and it can spiral into a tit for tat battle. Hart and Vitasek argue that companies should instead adopt so-called relational contracts. Their research shows that creating a general playbook built around principles like fairness and reciprocity offers greater benefits to both businesses. Hart and Vitasek, with the Swedish attorney David Frydlinger, cowrote the HBR article "A New Approach to Contracts."
Laura Morgan Roberts, professor at the University of Virginia's Darden School of Business, says that organizations are still falling short on promoting racial diversity, particularly in their most senior ranks. While many large companies have "inclusion" initiatives, most leaders still shy away from frank discussions about how the experiences of their black employees and executives -- including their feelings of authenticity and potential for advancement -- differ from those of their white peers. She points to several ways we can change these dynamics. With David Thomas and Anthony Mayo, Morgan Roberts is co-author of the book “Race, Work, and Leadership: New Perspectives on the Black Experience.”
Julie Zhuo, Facebook’s VP of product design, started at the company as its first intern and became a manager at the age of 25. Like many first-time bosses, she made many missteps and acted how she thought managers were supposed to act. Eventually, she grew to find joy in the role and today she leads hundreds of people. She says that becoming a great manager also helps you know yourself better. Zhuo is the author of the book "The Making of a Manager: What to Do When Everyone Looks to You."
Daisy Dowling, founder and CEO of Workparent, says that moms and dads with jobs outside the home don't have to feel stressed or guilty about trying to balance their professional and personal lives. The key is to tease apart the different challenges -- from coping with feelings of loss to managing practicalities -- and to adopt strategies to better guide you through each. She points out that while a lot of emphasis is placed on parental leave, and especially new mothers, people at all stages of parenting need practical, immediate, and effective solutions they can implement themselves. Dowling is the author of the HBR article "A Working Parent’s Survival Guide."
Matt Beane, assistant professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara, finds that robots, machine learning, and AI are changing how we train for our jobs — not just how we do them. His study shows that robot-assisted surgery is disrupting the traditional learning pathway of younger physicians. He says this trend is emerging in many industries, from finance to law enforcement to education. And he shares lessons from trainees who are successfully working around these new barriers. Beane is the author of the HBR article “Learning to Work with Intelligent Machines.”
Ranjay Gulati, professor at Harvard Business School, says the most successful organizations tend to have one thing in common: a soul. Moving beyond culture, the "soul" of a growing start-up -- or a more established company -- is built on clear business intent, a strong connection to customers, and a stellar employee experience. Gulati says that leaders must think hard about preserving all three elements of the soul even as they scale and never lose sight of what makes their company special. He's the author of the HBR article "The Soul of a Start-Up."
Helen Lee Bouygues, founder of the Reboot Foundation, believes that a lack of critical thinking is responsible for many business failures. She says organizational leaders often rely too heavily on expertise and then jump to conclusions. Instead, leaders should deliberately approach each problem and devote time thinking through possible solutions. The good news, she says, is that critical thinking skills can developed and practiced over time. Bouygues is the author of the HBR.org article "3 Simple Habits to Improve Your Critical Thinking."
Spencer Harrison, an associate professor at INSEAD, says that managers in any industry can learn from the success of the Marvel movie franchise. While some sequels lack creativity, Marvel manages to make each of its new releases just different enough, so consumers are not just satisfied but also surprised. Research shows that several strategies drive this success; they include bringing in different types of talent while also maintaining a stable core creative team then working together to challenge the superhero action-film formula. And, Harrison argues, leaders in other industries and functions can easily apply them to their own businesses. He is the co-author of the HBR article "Marvel's Blockbuster Machine."
Deborah Ancona and Kate Isaacs, researchers at MIT Sloan School of Management, say many companies struggle to be nimble with a command-and-control leadership culture. They studied Xerox’s R&D outfit PARC and the materials science company W.L. Gore & Associates and found these highly innovative organizations have three kinds of leaders: entrepreneurial, enabling, and architecting ones. These roles work together to give direction and avoid creative chaos. Ancona and Isaacs are coauthors of the HBR article "Nimble Leadership."
Eugene Soltes, associate professor at Harvard Business School, studies white-collar crime and has even interviewed convicts behind bars. While most people think of high-profile scandals like Enron, he says every sizable organization has lapses in integrity. He shares practical tools for managers to identify pockets of ethical violations to prevent them from ballooning into serious reputational and financial damage. Soltes is the author of the HBR article “Where Is Your Company Most Prone to Lapses in Integrity?”
Peter Cappelli, professor at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business and director of its Center for Human Resources, says managers at companies large and small are doing hiring all wrong. A confluence of changes, from the onslaught of online tools to a rise in recruitment outsourcing, have promised more efficiency but actually made us less effective at finding the best candidates. Cappelli says there are better, simpler ways to measure whether someone will be a good employee and advises companies to focus more on internal talent. He's the author of the HBR article "Your Approach to Hiring is All Wrong."
Sylvia Ann Hewlett, an economist and the founder of the Center for Talent Innovation, has studied the difference between mentoring and sponsorship and what leaders have to gain from the latter. She says it's important to seek out protégés who outperform, are exceptionally trustworthy, and, most importantly, offer skills, knowledge, and perspectives that differ from your own, so you can maximize the benefits for both parties. Hewlett brings real-world lessons from several successful pairings and tips on how to effectively launch and manage these long-term relationships. She's the author of the book "The Sponsor Effect: How to Be a Better Leader by Investing in Others."
Nathan Furr, assistant professor of strategy at INSEAD, researches what makes great innovative leaders, and he reveals how they develop and spend “innovation capital.” Like social or political capital, it’s a power to motivate employees, win the buy-in of stakeholders, and sell breakthrough products. Furr argues that innovation capital is something everyone can develop and grow by using something he calls impression amplifiers. Furr is the coauthor of the book “Innovation Capital: How to Compete--and Win--Like the World's Most Innovative Leaders.”
Scott Kupor, managing partner at Andreessen Horowitz, says there's a lot about navigating the venture capital world that entrepreneurs don't understand. Some can't figure out how to get in the door. Others fail to deliver persuasive pitches. Many don't know how the deals and relationships really work. Kupor outlines what he and his partners look for in founding teams and business ideas and explains how start-ups work with VCs to become successful companies. He also discusses how Silicon Valley can do a better job of finding more diverse talent and funding new types of ventures. Kupor is the author of the book "Secrets of Sand Hill Road: Venture Capital and How to Get It."
Sinéad O'Sullivan, entrepreneurship fellow at Harvard Business School, discusses how space is much more important to modern business than most people realize. It plays a role in making food, pricing insurance, and steering self-driving cars. While moonshot projects from SpaceX to Blue Origin drive headlines, the Earth-facing space economy is booming thanks to plummeting costs of entry. As tech companies large and small compete to launch thousands of satellites, O'Sullivan says we are actually running out of space in space.
Robert Eccles, a visiting professor of management practice at Saïd Business School at the University of Oxford, says that the global investment community's interest in environmental, social, and governance (ESG) issues has finally reached a tipping point. Large asset management firms and pensions funds are now pressuring corporate leaders to improve sustainability practices in material ways that both benefit their firms' bottom line and create broader impact. They're also advocating for more uniform metrics and industry standards. Eccles is the author of the HBR article “The Investor Revolution."
Adam Grant, organizational psychologist at The Wharton School, argues that individuals and companies alike can benefit from having rivals. He has studied sports and business rivalries and believes they often add up to more than just zero-sum competition. Grant explains how we can perform and even feel better by taking the risk of treating our rivals more like competitive friends.
Joseph Fuller, professor at Harvard Business School, says that the story we hear about workers being afraid for the future of their jobs might not be right. In surveying 11,000 people in lower-income and middle-skills jobs and 6,500 managers across 11 countries, Fuller discovered that, contrary to what bosses believe, many employees are excited about new technologies and willing to be trained in new skills. But they don't always know what they need to learn or how to access and pay for it. Organizations can do a better job of identifying the skills gaps they have or will soon face and using their existing workforces to fill them. Fuller's project is a joint venture between the HBS Project on Managing the Future of Work and the Boston Consulting Group’s Henderson Institute. He's a co-author of the HBR article “Your Workforce is More Adaptable Than You Think."
Harvard Business School's Brian Kenny is joined by professors to distill the school's legendary case studies into podcast form, giving listeners important takeaways they can use in their own businesses and careers. In this episode, Harvard Business School professors Leslie John and Mitch Weiss discuss a case on the city of Toronto, and how it is experimenting with various smart city ideas born of the Google spin-off Sidewalk Labs.
"Cold Call" is part of HBR Presents, a new network of business podcasts curated by HBR editors. For our full lineup of shows, search “HBR” on your favorite podcast app or visit hbr.org/podcasts.
Kimberly Whitler, assistant professor at the University of Virginia Darden School of Business, believes the days of transplanting well-worn Western marketing practices into national markets may be numbered. She has researched marketing campaigns in China and finds they are faster, cheaper, and often more effective than traditional Western ones. Moreover, she argues they may be better suited to today’s global marketplace. Whitler is the author of the HBR article “What Western Marketers Can Learn from China.”
Patrick McGinnis, creator of the term FOMO, engages business leaders, entrepreneurs, politicians and more about the paths they’ve taken in life – and what they’ve let go of. In this episode, he speaks with Zola CEO Shan-Lyn Ma and Female Founders Fund founder Anu Duggal about how women are driving diversity in the start-up world.
"FOMO Sapiens with Patrick J. McGinnis" is part of HBR Presents, a new network of business podcasts curated by HBR editors. For our full lineup of shows, search “HBR” on your favorite podcast app or visit hbr.org/podcasts.
Marcus Buckingham, head of people and performance research at the ADP Research Institute, and Ashley Goodall, senior vice president of leadership and team intelligence at Cisco Systems, say that managers and organizations are overestimating the importance of critical feedback. They argue that, in focusing our efforts on correcting weaknesses and rounding people out, we lose the ability to get exceptional performance from them. Instead, we should focus on strengths and push everyone to shine in their own areas. To do that, companies need to rethink the way they review, pay, and promote their employees. Buckingham and Goodall are the authors of the book "Nine Lies About Work: A Freethinking Leader's Guide to the Real World" and the HBR article "The Feedback Fallacy."
Entrepreneur, investor, and podcast host Azeem Azhar looks at some of the biggest issues at the intersection of technology and society, with a focus this season on artificial intelligence. In this episode, he speaks with University of Bath professor Joanna Bryson on the kind of professional and ethical standards that need to be put in place as AI continues to grow as an industry.
"Exponential View with Azeem Azhar" is part of HBR Presents, a new network of business podcasts curated by HBR editors. For our full lineup of shows, search “HBR” on your favorite podcast app or visit hbr.org/podcasts.
Sydney Finkelstein, professor at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College, says that being the most knowledgeable and experienced person on your team isn't always a good thing. Expertise can steer you wrong in two important ways. It can stop you from being curious about new developments in your field. And it can make you overconfident about your ability to solve problems in different areas. He says that, to be effective leaders, we need to be more aware of these traps and seek out ways to become more humble and open-minded. Finkelstein is the author of the HBR article "Don't Be Blinded By Your Own Expertise."
Harvard Business School professors and hosts Youngme Moon, Mihir Desai, and Felix Oberholzer-Gee discuss news at the crossroads of business and culture. In this episode, they analyze the current food delivery wars and garner some lessons in crisis management from Boeing. "After Hours" is part of HBR Presents, a new network of business podcasts curated by HBR editors. For our full lineup of shows, search “HBR” on your favorite podcast app or visit hbr.org/podcasts.
Nicholas Pearce, clinical associate professor at Kellogg School of Management, says too many companies and individuals go about their daily business without a strong sense of purpose. He argues that companies that are not simply profit-driven are more likely to succeed and that the same goes for people. He says individuals who align their daily job with their life’s work will be happier and more productive. Pearce is also a pastor, an executive coach, and the author of the book "The Purpose Path: A Guide to Pursuing Your Authentic Life's Work."
Thales Teixeira, associate professor at Harvard Business School, believes many startups fail precisely because they try to emulate successful disruptive businesses. He says by focusing too early on technology and scale, entrepreneurs lose out on the learning that comes from serving initial customers with an imperfect product. He shares how Airbnb, Uber, Etsy, and Netflix approached their first 1,000 customers very differently, helping to explain why they have millions of customers today. Teixeira is the author of the book "Unlocking the Customer Value Chain: How Decoupling Drives Consumer Disruption."
Caitlyn Collins, a sociologist at Washington University in St. Louis, conducted interviews with mothers in four countries -- the United States, Italy, Germany, and Sweden -- who have jobs outside the home to better understand the pressures they felt. She found that American moms were by far the most stressed, primarily because of the lack of parental benefits offered by their employers and the government. In Europe, women told Collins they had more help, but at times cultural norms around their personal and professional roles had yet to catch up. Collins thinks companies can work to improve the situation but argues that the real solution is carefully designed government interventions that will help families at all income levels. She’s the author of the book “Making Motherhood Work: How Women Manage Careers and Caregiving.”
Safi Bahcall, a former biotech CEO, began his career as a theoretical physicist before joining the business world. He compares the moment that innovative companies become complacent ones to a glass of water freezing, becoming ice. The elements are the same, but the structure of the company has changed. Bahcall offers ways for growing companies to avoid these inevitable forces and continue to innovate. He's the author of the book "Loonshots: How to Nurture the Crazy Ideas That Win Wars, Cure Diseases, and Transform Industries" and the HBR article “The Innovation Equation."
Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, a psychologist and chief talent scientist at ManpowerGroup, says we're not picking leaders in the right way. While we should be promoting people based on their competence and potential, it's often the incompetent, overconfident candidates -- most of them men -- who get ahead. Studies show that, by many measures, women are actually better equipped to become strong, successful managers. But the solution to getting more of them into the executive ranks isn't quotas or other initiatives that mandate gender diversity. To improve leadership across the board, we need to focus on the metrics proven to enhance performance and set higher standards for everyone. Chamorro-Premuzic is also a professor of business psychology at University College London and Columbia University, and the author of the book "Why Do So Many Incompetent Men Become Leaders?: (And How to Fix It)" (Harvard Business Review Press, 2019).
Ryan Buell, associate professor at Harvard Business School, says the never-ending quest for operational efficiency is having unintended consequences. When customers don’t see the work that’s being done in back offices, offshore factories, and algorithms, they’re less satisfied with their purchases. Buell believes organizations should deliberately design windows into and out of operations. He says increasing operational transparency helps customers and employees alike appreciate the value being created. Buell is the author of the HBR article "Operational Transparency."
Reshma Saujani, founder of Girls Who Code, is on a mission to get more young women into computer science. She says the problem isn't lack of interest. Her non-profit organization has trained thousands of girls to code, and the ranks of female science and engineering graduates continue to grow. And yet men still dominate the tech industry. Saujani believes companies can certainly do more to promote diversity. But she also wants girls and women to stop letting perfectionism hold them back from volunteering for the most challenging tasks and jobs. She is the author of the book "Brave, Not Perfect: Fear Less, Fail More, and Live Bolder."
Efosa Ojomo, global prosperity lead at the Clayton Christensen Institute, argues that international aid is not the best way to develop poor countries, nor are investments in natural resource extraction, outsourced labor, or incremental improvements to existing offerings for established customer bases. Instead, entrepreneurs, investors, and global companies should focus on market-creating innovations. Just like Henry Ford in the United States a century ago, they should see opportunity in the struggles of frontier markets, target non-consumption, and create not just products and services but whole ecosystems around them, which then promote stability and economic growth. Ojomo is the co-author of the HBR article "Cracking Frontier Markets" and the book The Prosperity Paradox.
Kieran Setiya, a philosophy professor at MIT, says many people experience a mid-career crisis. Some have regrets about paths not taken or serious professional missteps; others feel a sense of boredom or futility in their ongoing streams of work. The answer isn't always to find a new job or lobby for a promotion. Motivated by his own crisis, Setiya started looking for ways to cope and discovered several strategies that can help all of us shift our perspective on our careers and get out of the slump without jumping ship.
Anne Curzan, English professor at the University of Michigan, studies the evolution of language. While many of us roll our eyes at bizspeak — from synergy to value-add to operationalize — Curzan defends business jargon. She says the words we say around the office speak volumes about our organizations and our working relationships. She shares how to use jargon more deliberately, explains the origin of some annoying or amusing buzzwords, and discusses how English became the global business language and how that could change.
Ashley Whillans, professor at Harvard Business School, researches time-money trade-offs. She argues more people would be happier if they spent more of their hard-earned money to buy themselves out of negative experiences. Her research shows that paying to outsource housework or to enjoy a shorter commute can have an outsized impact on happiness and relationships. Whillans is the author of the HBR article “Time for Happiness.”
Amy Edmondson, professor at Harvard Business School, first identified the concept of psychological safety in work teams in 1999. Since then, she has observed how companies with a trusting workplace perform better. Psychological safety isn't about being nice, she says. It’s about giving candid feedback, openly admitting mistakes, and learning from each other. And she argues that kind of organizational culture is increasingly important in the modern economy. Edmondson is the author of the new book "The Fearless Organization: Creating Psychological Safety in the Workplace for Learning, Innovation, and Growth.”
Teresa Amabile, professor at Harvard Business School, is approaching her own retirement by researching how ending your work career affects your sense of self. She says important psychological shifts take place leading up to, and during, retirement. That holds especially true for workers who identify strongly with their job and organization. Amabile and her fellow researchers have identified two main processes that retirees go through: life restructuring and identity bridging.
Gary Pisano, professor at Harvard Business School, studies innovation at companies large and small. He says there’s too much focus on the positive, fun side of innovative cultures and too little understanding of the difficult truths behind sustained innovation. From candid feedback, to strong leadership, to individual accountability and competence, to disciplined choices, Pisano says leaders need to understand and communicate these realities. He's the author of the HBR article “The Hard Truth About Innovative Cultures” and the new book “Creative Construction: The DNA of Sustained Innovation.”
Mo Gawdat, founder of One Billion Happy and former Chief Business Officer at Google's X, spent years working in technological innovation. At Google's so-called "dream factory," he learned how to operationalize moonshot ventures aiming to solve some of the world's hardest problems. But then a personal tragedy — the loss of his son — set him on a new path. Gawdat launched a startup with the moonshot goal of helping one billion people find happiness. Gawdat is also the author of "Solve for Happy: Engineer Your Path to Joy."
Krista Tippett, host of "On Being," believes we are in the middle of a big shift in the workplace. For a long time, she says, we were taught to keep all of our personal opinions and problems out of the office — even if that wasn't the reality. Now, as worker expectations change and people bring more of their authentic selves to work, Tippett says managers need to discover how to allow more honesty and emotions and humanity in the workplace, while still delivering in a high-performing environment.
Richard Sheridan, CEO of Menlo Innovations, says it took him years to learn what really mattered at work and how to create that kind of workplace culture. As a company leader today, he works hard to make sure both his job — and the jobs of his employees — are joyful. That doesn't mean they are happy 100% of the time, he argues, but that they feel fulfilled by always putting the customer first. Sheridan is the author of "Chief Joy Officer: How Great Leaders Elevate Human Energy and Eliminate Fear."
Thomas Steenburgh, a marketing professor at the University of Virginia Darden School of Business, was inspired by his early career at Xerox to discover why firms with stellar sales and R&D departments still struggle to sell new innovations. The answer, he finds, is that too many companies expect shiny new products to sell themselves. Steenburgh explains how crafting new sales processes, incentives, and training can overcome the obstacles inherent in selling new products. He's the coauthor, along with Michael Ahearne of the University of Houston's Sales Excellence Institute, of the HBR article "How to Sell New Products."
Corey Phelps, a strategy professor at McGill University, says great problem solvers are hard to find. Even seasoned professionals at the highest levels of organizations regularly fail to identify the real problem and instead jump to exploring solutions. Phelps identifies the common traps and outlines a research-proven method to solve problems effectively. He's the coauthor of the book, "Cracked it! How to solve big problems and sell solutions like top strategy consultants."
James Detert, a professor at the University of Virginia Darden School of Business, studies acts of courage in the workplace. His most surprising finding? Most people describe everyday actions — not big whistleblower scandals — when they cite courageous (or gutless) acts they’ve seen coworkers and leaders take. Detert shares the proven behaviors of employees who succeed at speaking out and suffer fewer negative consequences for it. He’s the author of the HBR article “Cultivating Everyday Courage.”
Herminia Ibarra, a professor at the London Business School, argues that job transitions — even exciting ones that you've chosen — can come with all kinds of unexpected emotions. Going from a job that is known and helped define your identity to a new position brings all kinds of challenges. Ibarra says that it's important to recognize how these changes are affecting you but to keep moving forward and even take the opportunity to reinvent yourself in your new role.
Caitlin Rosenthal, assistant professor of history at UC Berkeley, argues there are strong parallels between the accounting practices used by slaveholders and modern business practices. While we know slavery's economic impact on the United States, Rosenthal says we need to look closer at the details — down to accounting ledgers – to truly understand what abolitionists and slaves were up against, and how those practices still influence business and management today. She's the author of the book, "Accounting for Slavery: Masters and Management."
Nick Morgan, a communications expert and speaking coach, says that while email, texting, and Slack might seem like they make communication easier, they actually make things less efficient. When we are bombarded with too many messages a day, he argues, humans are likely to fill in the gaps with negative information or assume the worst about the intent of a coworker's email. He offers up a few tips and tricks for how we can bring the benefits of face-to-face communication back into the digital workplace. Morgan is the author of the book, "Can You Hear Me?: How to Connect with People in a Virtual World."
Rose Hollister and Michael Watkins, consultants at Genesis Advisers, argue that many companies today are taking on too many initiatives. Each manager might have their own pet projects they want to focus on, but that trickles down to lower level workers dealing with more projects at a time that they can handle, or do well. This episode also offers practical tips for senior-level leaders to truly prioritize the best initiatives at their company — or risk losing some of their top talent. Hollister and Watkins are the authors of the HBR article "Too Many Projects." with. They are the authors of "Athena Rising: How and Why Men Should Mentor Women.”
David Smith, associate professor of sociology at the U.S. Naval War College, and Brad Johnson, professor of psychology at the United States Naval Academy, argue that it is vital for more men to mentor women in the workplace. In the post-#MeToo world, some men have shied away from cross-gender relationships at work. But Smith and Johnson say these relationships offer big gains to mentees, mentors, and organizations. They offer their advice on how men can be thoughtful allies to the women they work with. They are the authors of "Athena Rising: How and Why Men Should Mentor Women.”
John Kerry, former U.S. Secretary of State, shares management and leadership lessons from his long career in public service. He discusses how to win people over to your side, bounce back from defeats, and never give up on your long-term goals. He also calls on private sector CEOs to do more to solve social and political problems. Kerry’s new memoir is "Every Day Is Extra."
Francesca Gino, a professor at Harvard Business School, shares a compelling business case for curiosity. Her research shows allowing employees to exercise their curiosity can lead to fewer conflicts and better outcomes. However, even managers who value inquisitive thinking often discourage curiosity in the workplace because they fear it's inefficient and unproductive. Gino offers several ways that leaders can instead model, cultivate, and even recruit for curiosity. Gino is the author of the HBR article "The Business Case for Curiosity."
Bill Kerr, a professor at Harvard Business School, studies the increasing importance of talent clusters in our age of rapid technological advances. He argues that while talent and industries have always had a tendency to cluster, today's trend towards San Francisco, Boston, London and a handful of other cities is different. Companies need to react and tap into those talent pools, but moving the company to one isn't always an option. Kerr talks about the three main ways companies can access talent. He's the author of the HBR article "Navigating Talent Hot Spots," as well as the book "The Gift of Global Talent: How Migration Shapes Business, Economy & Society."
Mike Ovitz, a cofounder of Creative Artists Agency and former president of The Walt Disney Company, says there are many parallels between the movie and music industry of the 1970s and 1980s and Silicon Valley today. When it comes to managing creatives, he says you have to have patience and believe in the work. But to get that work made, you have to have shrewd negotiating skills. Ovitz says he now regrets some of the ways he approached business in his earlier years, and advises young entrepreneurs about what he's learned along the way. He's the author of the new memoir "Who Is Michael Ovitz?"
Editor's note: This post was updated September 26, 2018 to correct the title of Ovitz's book.
Beth Comstock, the first female vice chair at General Electric, thinks companies large and small often approach innovation the wrong way. They either try to throw money at the problem before it has a clear market, misallocate resources, or don't get buy in from senior leaders to enact real change. Comstock spent many years at GE - under both Jack Welsh's and Jeffrey Immelt's leadership - before leaving the company late last year. She's the author of the book "Imagine It Forward: Courage, Creativity, and the Power of Change.”
Ming Zeng, the chief strategy officer at Alibaba, talks about how the China-based e-commerce company was able to create the biggest online shopping site in the world. He credits Alibaba’s retail and distribution juggernaut to leveraging automation, algorithms, and networks to better serve customers. And he says in the future, successful digital companies will use technologies such as artificial intelligence, the mobile internet, and cloud computing to redefine how value is created. Zeng is the author of "Smart Business: What Alibaba's Success Reveals about the Future of Strategy.”
Marc Effron, president of the Talent Strategy Group, looked at the scientific literature behind high performance at work and identified eight steps we can all take to get an edge. Among those steps is taking care of your body -- sleep, exercise, and nutrition. But the most important is sleep. He offers some practical advice on getting more and better rest, and making time to exercise. Effron is the author of the new book, "8 Steps to High Performance: Focus On What You Can Change (Ignore the Rest)."
Sunil Gupta, a professor at Harvard Business School, argues that many companies are still doing digital strategy wrong. Their leaders think of "going digital" as either a way to cut costs or to attract customers with a flashy new app. Gupta says successful digital strategy is more complicated than that. He recommends emulating the multi-faceted strategies of leading digital companies. Gupta's the author of “Driving Digital Strategy: A Guide to Reimagining Your Business."
Rebecca Shambaugh, a leadership coach, says being too collaborative can actually hold you back at work. Instead of showing how well you build consensus and work with others, it can look like indecision or failure to prioritize. She explains what to do if you over-collaborate, how to manage someone who does, and offers some advice for women — whose bosses are more likely to see them as overly consensus-driven. Shambaugh is the author of the books "It's Not a Glass Ceiling, It's a Sticky Floor" and "Make Room For Her."
David Burkus, a professor at Oral Roberts University and author of the book “Friend of a Friend,” explains common misconceptions about networking. First, trading business cards at a networking event doesn’t mean you’re a phony. Second, your most valuable contacts are actually the people you already know. Burkus says some of the most useful networking you can do involves strengthening your ties with old friends and current coworkers.
Kathryn Hume, VP of integrate.ai, discusses the current boundaries between artificially intelligent machines, and humans. While the power of A.I. can conjure up some of our darkest fears, she says the reality is that there is still a whole lot that A.I. can't do. So far, A.I. is able to accomplish some tasks that humans might need a lot of training for, such as diagnosing cancer. But she says those tasks are actually more simple than we might think - and that algorithms still can't replace emotional intelligence just yet. Plus, A.I. might just help us discover new business opportunities we didn't know existed.
Katherine Phillips, a professor at Columbia Business School, discusses research showing that African-Americans are often reluctant to tell their white colleagues about their personal lives — and that it hurts their careers. She says people should expect and welcome differences at work, and she gives practical advice for strengthening connections among colleagues of different racial backgrounds. Phillips is a coauthor of the article “Diversity and Authenticity,” in the March–April 2018 issue of Harvard Business Review.
Roger Martin, a professor at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, offers two main reasons General Electric has lost its competitiveness. GE’s stock has been removed from the Dow Jones Industrial Average. Martin blames pressures from activist investors as well as a short-sighted mergers and acquisitions strategy. He’s the author of “GE’s Fall Has Been Accelerated by Two Problems. Most Other Big Companies Face Them, Too.”
Gerry Anderson, the CEO of DTE Energy, and Robert Quinn and Anjan Thakor, professors at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business and the Olin Business School at Washington University, respectively, discuss how an aspirational mission can motivate employees and improve performance. Anderson talks about his own experience. Quinn and Thakor explain their research showing how leaders can foster a sense of purpose that sharpens competitiveness. They wrote the article “Creating a Purpose-Driven Organization” in the July-August 2018 issue of Harvard Business Review.
Kristie Rogers, an assistant professor of management at Marquette University, has identified a free and abundant resource most leaders aren’t giving employees enough of: respect. She explains the two types of workplace respect, how to communicate them, and what happens when you don't foster both. Rogers is the author of the article “Do Your Employees Feel Respected?” in the July–August 2018 issue of Harvard Business Review.
Howard Yu, Lego Professor of Management and Innovation at IMD Business School in Switzerland, discusses how the industrial cluster in the Swiss city of Basel is a unique example of enduring competitive advantage. He explains how early dye makers were able to continually jump to new capabilities and thrive for generations. He says the story of those companies offers a counter-narrative to the pessimistic view that unless your company is Google or Apple, you can’t stay ahead of the competition for long. Yu is the author of “LEAP: How to Thrive in a World Where Everything Can Be Copied.”
Daniel Libeskind, a former academic turned architect and urban designer, discusses his unorthodox career path and repeat success at high-profile, emotionally charged projects. He also talks about his unusual creative process and shares tips for collaborating and managing emotions and expectations of multiple stakeholders. Libeskind was interviewed for the July-August 2018 issue of Harvard Business Review.
Bhaskar Chakravorti, the dean of global business at The Fletcher School at Tufts University, analyzes the economic impact of India’s unprecedented demonetization move in 2016. With no advance warning, India pulled the two largest banknotes from circulation, notes that accounted for 86% of cash transactions in a country where most payments happen in cash. Chakravorti discusses the impact on consumers, businesses, and digital payment providers, and whether Indian policymakers reached their anti-corruption goals. He’s the author of the article “One Year After India Killed Off Cash, Here’s What Other Countries Should Learn From It.”
Heidi Grant, a social psychologist, explains the right ways and wrong ways to ask colleagues for help. She says people are much more likely to lend us a hand than we think they are; they just want it to be a rewarding experience. Grant is the author of “Reinforcements: How to Get People to Help You.”
Tasha Eurich, an organizational psychologist and executive coach, talks about why we all should be working on self-awareness. Few people are truly self-aware, she says, and those who are don’t get there through introspection. She explains how to develop self-awareness through the feedback of loving critics and how to mentor someone who isn’t self-aware. Eurich is the author of the book “Insight.”
Former U.S. President Bill Clinton and author James Patterson discuss their new novel, The President is Missing, in which a fictional president fights a cybersecurity attack amid intense political dysfunction. The coauthors share their lessons for collaborating across disparate skillsets — “clarity on the objective” and “don’t be afraid to admit what you don’t know.” They also talk about their research into cybersecurity threats and how realistic their thriller scenario could be.
Leslie K. John and Alison Wood Brooks, professors at Harvard Business School, say people in business can be more successful by asking more and better questions. They talk through what makes for a great question, whether you’re looking to get information or get someone to like you. They’re the coauthors of the article, “The Surprising Power of Questions,” in the May–June 2018 issue of Harvard Business Review.
Avi Goldfarb, a professor at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, explains the economics of machine learning, a branch of artificial intelligence that makes predictions. He says as prediction gets cheaper and better, machines are going to be doing more of it. That means businesses — and individual workers — need to figure out how to take advantage of the technology to stay competitive. Goldfarb is the coauthor of the book “Prediction Machines: The Simple Economics of Artificial Intelligence.”
Jennifer Petriglieri, an assistant professor of organizational behavior at INSEAD, asks company leaders to consider whether they really need to relocate their high-potential employees or make them travel so much. She says moving around is particularly hard on dual-career couples. And if workers can't set boundaries around mobility and flexibility, she argues, firms lose out on talent. Petriglieri is the author of the HBR article “Talent Management and the Dual-Career Couple.”
Joshua Gans, a professor at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, advises against trying to commercialize a new technology or product before considering all the strategic options. He talks through some questions entrepreneurs should ask themselves — like, collaborate or compete? — and outlines a framework he and his fellow researchers have found to work best for startups. Gans is the coauthor of the article “Do Entrepreneurs Need a Strategy?”
Whitney Johnson, an executive coach, argues that on-the-job learning is the key to keeping people motivated. When managers understand that, and understand where the people they manage are on their individual learning curve — the low end, the sweet spot, or the high end — employees are engaged, productive, and innovative. Johnson is the author of the book “Build an A-Team: Play to Their Strengths and Lead Them Up the Learning Curve.”
Amanda Goodall, a senior lecturer at Cass Business School in London, argues that the best leaders are technical experts, not general managers. She discusses her research findings about doctors who head up hospitals, scholars who lead universities, and all-star basketball players who go on to manage teams. She also gives advice for what to do if you’re a generalist managing experts or an expert managed by a generalist. Goodall is the co-author of the HBR articles “If Your Boss Could Do Your Job, You’re More Likely to Be Happy at Work” and “Why the Best Hospitals Are Managed by Doctors.”
Paul Daugherty and James Wilson, senior technology leaders at Accenture, argue that robots and smarter computers aren't coming for our jobs. They talk about companies that are already giving employees access to artificial intelligence to strengthen their skills. They also give examples of new roles for people in an AI workplace. Daugherty and Wilson are the authors of the new book “Human + Machine: Reimagining Work in the Age of AI.”
Nancy Rothbard, a professor of management at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, draws a distinction between workaholism and working long hours. She explains the health consequences of being addicted to your work. She also gives practical advice for managing work addiction, whether it’s you who’s suffering, your direct report, boss, peer, or partner. Rothbard is the coauthor of the HBR article "How Being a Workaholic Differs from Working Long Hours — and Why That Matters for Your Health."
Dan Cable, a professor of organizational behavior at London Business School, explains why people often lose their enthusiasm for their work and how leaders can help them get it back. He says we shouldn’t forget that as humans we all need to explore and have purpose — and without that, we languish. Cable offers ideas for restoring people’s passion for their jobs. He’s the author of “Alive at Work: The Neuroscience of Helping Your People Love What They Do.”
Professors Michael Toffel, of Harvard Business School, and Aaron Chatterji, of Duke’s Fuqua School of Business, discuss the emerging phenomenon of CEO activism. They explain how political polarization in the U.S. and employee expectations around company values are pushing corporate leaders to enter into controversial political and social debates. Toffel and Chatterji are the coauthors of the HBR article “Divided We Lead.” We also hear from PayPal CEO Dan Schulman, who talks about standing up for transgender rights and what he tells other CEOs who ask his advice on taking on an activist role.
Rasmus Hougaard and Jacqueline Carter, of the global consulting firm Potential Project, make their case for mindfulness, selflessness, and compassion in leadership. Their survey of 30,000 leaders showed those characteristics are foundational — and often missing from leadership development programs. Practicing self-awareness, they say, leads to more focused and more people-focused organizations. They’re the authors of the new book, “The Mind of the Leader: How to Lead Yourself, Your People, and Your Organization for Extraordinary Results."
Dominic Barton, the global managing partner of McKinsey&Company, discusses the firm’s sustainability efforts. He talks about the wake-up call he got about sustainability and how he tries to convince CEOs hesitant to make it part of their business model that doing so will improve company performance. He says he sees companies thinking about the environment. “But the speed and scale of what we need to do — I don’t think it’s sufficient.”
Drew Gilpin Faust, the president of Harvard University, talks about leading the institution through a decade of change, from the financial crisis to the Trump era. Faust discusses how communicating as a leader is different from communicating as an expert, the surprising ways her study of U.S. Civil War history prepared her for the top job, and what it's like to be the first female president in the University's four-century history.
Tsedal Neeley, a professor at Harvard Business School, and Paul Leonardi, a management professor at UC Santa Barbara, talk about the potential that applications such as Slack, Yammer, and Microsoft Teams have for strengthening employee collaboration, productivity, and organizational culture. They discuss their research showing how effective these tools can be and warn about common traps companies face when they implement them. Neeley and Leonardi are co-authors of the article "What Managers Need to Know About Social Tools" in the November-December 2017 issue of Harvard Business Review.
Kenneth Frazier, the CEO of the pharmaceutical company known as MSD outside of North America, discusses his upbringing and how it influences his leadership as chief executive. He is one of the few African-American CEOs in the Fortune 500, and shot to prominence after resigning from a council advising the Trump White House. Frazier discusses the importance of values in leadership and how Merck thinks about R&D and drug prices.
Scott DeRue, the dean of University of Michigan's Ross School of Business, says the old model of business school education is gone. It's no longer good enough to sequester yourself on campus for two years before heading out into the world of commerce. DeRue discusses how the perceived value of an MBA education is changing in the digital era, and how MBA programs are innovating in response to individual and company demands.
What should you do when you become the boss? HBR's new advice podcast Dear HBR: has the answers. In this bonus episode, Dear HBR: co-hosts Alison Beard and Dan McGinn answer your questions with the help of Harvard Business School professor Alison Wood Brooks, an expert on behavioral insights. They talk through what to do when your direct reports are older than you, how to be a likeable leader, and what to say if you're not ready to be in charge.
Jay Conger, a leadership professor at Claremont McKenna College, goes behind the scenes to show how you can get on, and stay on, your company's fast track. He demystifies how companies (often very secretly) develop and update their list of high-potential employees. And he discusses five critical "X factors" his research has shown are common to high-potential employees. Conger is the co-author of the new book, "The High Potential's Advantage: Get Noticed, Impress Your Bosses, and Become a Top Leader."
In this special episode, HBR IdeaCast host Sarah Green Carmichael introduces Harvard Business Review’s new podcast “Women at Work,” about women’s experiences in the workplace. This episode about being heard tackles three aspects of communication: first, how and why women’s speech patterns differ from men’s; second, how women can be more assertive in meetings; and third, how women can deal with interrupters (since the science shows women get interrupted more often than men do). Guests: Deborah Tannen, Jill Flynn, and Amy Gallo.
Moshe Cohen, a senior lecturer at Boston University's Questrom School of Business, says you can't take the emotion out of a negotiation. After all, negotiations revolve around conflict, risk, and reward — which are inherently emotional. Instead of sidelining your feelings, understand them. Cohen explains how to understand your triggers and use your emotions and those of your counterparts to your advantage.
Jagdip Singh, a professor of marketing at the Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University, explains his research team’s new findings about customer satisfaction. He says apologizing is often counterproductive and that offering customers different possible solutions is usually more effective. He discusses what companies can do to help service representatives lead interactions that leave a customer satisfied—whether or not the problem has been solved. Singh’s research is featured in the article "‘Sorry’ Is Not Enough" in the January–February 2018 issue of Harvard Business Review.
Sydney Finkelstein, a professor of management at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College, encourages leaders to approach their direct reports like teachers. As Finkelstein explains, being a teacher-leader means continually meeting face to face with employees to communicate lessons about professionalism, points of craft, and life. He says it’s easy to try and that teaching is one of the best ways to motivate people and improve their performance. Finkelstein is the author of “The Best Leaders Are Great Teachers” in the January–February 2018 issue of Harvard Business Review.
Patty McCord, Netflix’s former Chief Talent Officer, sees hiring as constant matchmaking. Building a team of people that gets amazing work done, she says, requires managers to really know what they need, and for HR to actually understand the workings of the business. She says money should not be the reason someone leaves and that we should stop using words like “poaching” and “firing.” McCord is the author of “How to Hire,” in the January–February 2018 issue of Harvard Business Review.