Summary: A weekly podcast featuring the leading thinkers in business and management.
Kim Scott, a cofounder of the executive coaching firm Radical Candor, says that too many managers give meaningless positive feedback, while many others are highly critical without showing any understanding. Scott, who previously worked at Google and has consulted for Twitter and Dropbox, says leaders should learn to give honest feedback in the moment, while also developing a relationship that shows how the hard feedback is coming from a place of caring. She explains the steps managers can take to challenge more directly while also communicating empathy. Scott is the author of the book "Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity."
Laura Huang, associate professor at Harvard Business School, has studied groups that face bias in the workplace, from entrepreneurs with accents to women and people of color. She says that the best way for individuals to overcome this type of adversity is to acknowledge and harness it, so it plays to their advantage instead of holding them back. Start by recognizing your outsider status and the preconceived notions others might have about you, then surprise them by showing how you defy their expectations and can offer unique value. Huang is the author of the book "Edge: Turning Adversity Into Advantage."
Stefan Thomke, professor at Harvard Business School, says running experiments can give companies tremendous value, but too often business leaders make decisions based on intuition. While A/B testing on large transaction volumes is common practice at Google, Booking.com, and Netflix, Thomke says even small firms can get a competitive advantage from experiments. He explains how to introduce, run, and learn from them, as well as how to cultivate an experimental mindset at your organization. Thomke is the author of the book "Experimentation Works: The Surprising Power of Business Experiments" and the HBR article "Building a Culture of Experimentation."
Henry Chesbrough, adjunct professor at the University of California Berkeley Haas School of Business, coined the term "open innovation" over a decade ago. This is the practice of sourcing ideas outside your own organization as well as sharing your own research with others. However, he says that despite a booming economy in Silicon Valley, companies aren't executing on open innovation as well as they should. They are outsourcing, but not collaborating, and fewer value-added new products and services are being created as a result. He's the author of the book "Open Innovation Results: Going Beyond the Hype and Getting Down to Business".
In this repeat episode, we honor the legacy of HBS professor Clayton Christensen, who passed away on January 23, 2020. The legendary management thinker was best known for his influential theory of “disruptive innovation,” which inspired a generation of executives and entrepreneurs. This HBR IdeaCast interview was originally published in 2016.
Rosabeth Moss Kanter, professor at Harvard Business School, believes the world demands a new kind of business leader. She says so-called “advanced leaders” work inside and outside their companies to tackle big issues such as climate change, public health, and social inequality. She gives real-life examples and explains how business leaders can harness their experience, networks, innovative approaches, and the power of their organizations to solve challenging problems. Kanter is the author of the book "Think Outside the Building: How Advanced Leaders Can Change the World One Small Innovation at a Time."
Joan Williams, professor and the founding director of the Center for WorkLife Law at the University of California’s Hastings College of the Law, says that it's extremely difficult for organizations to rid their workforces of the unconscious biases that can prevent women and minorities from advancing. But it's not so hard for individual managers to interrupt bias within their own teams. She offers specific suggestions for how bosses can shift their approach in four areas: hiring, meetings, assignments, and reviews/promotions. Leaders who employ these practices, she argues, are able to embrace and reap the advantages of diversity, even in the absence of larger organizational directives. Williams is the author of the HBR article "How the Best Bosses Interrupt Bias on Their Teams."
Horst Schulze, cofounder of The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, started out cleaning ashtrays as a busboy before working his way up through some of the world's best hotels and becoming COO of Ritz-Carlton and later CEO of Capella Hotel Group. He shares the principles of stellar customer service to which he credits his success — and explains how they apply to every business. Schulze is the author of the book "Excellence Wins: A No-Nonsense Guide to Becoming the Best in a World of Compromise.”
James Clear, entrepreneur and author, says that the way we go about trying to form new habits and break bad ones — at work or home — is all wrong. Many people, he says, focus on big goals without thinking about the small steps they need to take along the way. Just like saving money, habits accrue compound interest: when you do 1% more or different each day or week, it eventually leads to meaningful improvement. So if you’ve made a resolution for the new year or have an idea for how to propel your career forward at any time, these strategies will help. Clear is the author of the book "Atomic Habits: Tiny Changes, Remarkable Results."
Nancy McKinstry, CEO of Wolters Kluwer, has successfully shifted her company’s business to digital products over 15 years. The Dutch multinational started in the 1830s as a publishing house and now earns more than 90% of its revenue from digital. McKinstry explains how her firm kept investing in product innovation – and how she learned to be patient as consumers slowly adopted new products and services. She also credits the role of increased diversity in her organization. McKinstry is the top woman in HBR’s 2019 list of the world’s best-performing chief executives.
Wayne Baker, professor at the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan, has spent much of his career researching the best way to effectively ask for help at work. Whether you're soliciting support on a tricky assignment or more resources for your team, it can feel uncomfortable to approach bosses and colleagues with hat in hand. But we rarely get what we need or want without asking for it. Baker highlights some of the most effective strategies for defining your goal, figuring out who to ask, and crafting your message so it will be positively received. He is also the author of the book “All You Have to Do Is Ask: How to Master the Most Important Skill for Success.”
Dashun Wang, associate professor at Kellogg School of Management, crunched big datasets of entrepreneurs, scientists, and even terrorist organizations to better understand the fine line between failure and success. One surprising finding is that people who experience early failures often become more accomplished than counterparts who achieve early successes. Another insight is that the pace of failure is an indicator of the tipping point between stagnation and eventual success. Wang is a coauthor of the study in the journal Nature: “Quantifying the dynamics of failure across science, startups and security.”
Thomas Parenty and Jack Domet, cofounders of the cybersecurity firm Archefact Group, say that most organizations are approaching cybersecurity all wrong. Whether they're running small companies or working in multinational corporations, leaders have to think beyond their IT department and technology systems to instead focus on protecting their businesses' most important assets from attack. They need to work across functions and geographies to identify key risks, imagine potential threats and adversaries, and develop a plan for combating them. Parenty and Domet are the authors of the HBR article “Sizing up your Cyber Risks,” as well as the HBR Press book "A Leader’s Guide to Cybersecurity."
Esther Duflo, an MIT economist, won the 2019 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences for her experimental approach to alleviating global poverty. Duflo’s early life working at a non-governmental organization in Madagascar and volunteering in soup kitchens in her native France inspired her to study economics and research the root causes of poverty. With her fellow Nobel winners Abhijit Banerjee of MIT and Michael Kremer of Harvard, Duflo showed that effective policies often go against conventional wisdom and popular economic models. The only way to find out what works, she argues, is to rigorously test solutions on the ground, and she encourages businesses to do the same. With Banerjee, Duflo also wrote the new book "Good Economics for Hard Times."
Pauline Brown, former chairman of North America for the luxury goods company LVMH, argues that in additional to traditional and emotional intelligence, great leaders also need to develop what she calls aesthetic intelligence. This means knowing what good taste is and thinking about how your services and products stimulate all five senses to create delight. Brown argues that in today's crowded marketplace, this kind of AI is what will set companies apart -- and not just in the consumer products and luxury sectors. B2B or B2C, small or large, digital or bricks-and-mortar, all organizations need to hire and train people to think this way. Brown is the author of the book "Aesthetic Intelligence: How to Boost It and Use It in Business and Beyond."