Summary: A weekly podcast featuring the leading thinkers in business and management.
Prithwiraj (Raj) Choudhury, associate professor at Harvard Business School, was studying the growing work-from-anywhere movement long before the Covid-19 pandemic forced many more of us into virtual work. He says that more and more organizations are adopting WFA as a business strategy, one that not only reduces real estate costs but also boosts employee engagement and productivity. He acknowledges that there are challenges to creating and maintaining all-remote workforces but outlines research-based best practices for overcoming them. Choudhury is the author of the HBR article "Our Work from Anywhere Future."
James Suzman, an anthropologist and former executive, says one way to better understand the future of work is to learn from the history of it. He has studied an ancient hunter-gatherer society in Namibia and says our modern notions of work, economy, and productivity are perhaps too limiting. Suzman argues that humans have always been drawn to work for its intrinsic value, and that managers can prepare for the future workplace by broadening their thinking about work and purpose. Suzman is the author of the new book "Work: A History of How We Spend Our Time."
John Macomber, senior lecturer at Harvard Business School and a veteran of the real estate industry, was studying ways to make workplaces safer for employees long before the Covid-19 crisis hit. Now that issues like air and water quality are top of mind, he is encouraging organizations to think more holistically about the buildings in which they operate, balancing cost efficiency and even eco-friendliness with investments in improvements that boost health. Studies show this will not only stop workers from getting sick; it will also enhance productivity, which ultimately helps the bottom line. Macomber is the author of the book “Healthy Buildings: How Indoor Spaces Drive Performance and Productivity”.
Roger Martin, professor emeritus at the University of Toronto's Rotman School of Management, says that for decades the U.S. corporate system has been obsessed with eliminating inefficiencies. There's a point, his research shows, when these efficiency gains come with even greater social and economic costs. And he believes that the Covid-19 pandemic is increasingly exposing those weaknesses. He argues that leaders and CEOs should reassess and, in some ways, reverse course in their perpetual drive for efficiency. Martin is the author of the new book "When More Is Not Better: Overcoming America's Obsession with Economic Efficiency."
Bruce Tulgan, founder of the management training firm RainmakerThinking, says that the key to career success isn't only embracing opportunities; it's also declining projects, tasks, and requests for help so you create time for the most value-added work. He explains how to evaluate each ask, determine which you should prioritize, and deliver either a strategic "yes" or a well-thought-through no. Tulgan is the author of the HBR article "Learn When to Say No."
Katina Sawyer, assistant professor at the George Washington University, says transgender workers continue to be overlooked even as organizational diversity initiatives become more widespread. Her research shows that many trans employees experience ongoing discrimination, from microaggression to job loss. Sawyer shares effective formal policies and details the informal ways managers can make their workplaces — physical and virtual — truly welcoming for trans people. Sawyer is the author, along with Christian Thoroughgood and Jennica Webster, of the HBR article "Creating a Trans-Inclusive Workplace."
Willy Shih, professor at Harvard Business School, says that the complex, global, and just-in-time manufacturing processes we've developed in recent decades are highly susceptible to breakdowns, especially during a global pandemic. He explains why the shortages we’ve seen in 2020 - in goods from toilet paper to appliances - are indicative of a bigger problem and talks through ways can businesses protect themselves and consumers in the future. Shih is the author of the HBR article "Global Supply Chains in a Post-Pandemic World."
Shannon Huffman Polson, a consultant and former military pilot, experienced early on how to build grit. At 19, she was the youngest woman to summit Denali, North America’s highest peak. Then she overcame many obstacles to fly U.S. Army attack helicopters. Today Polson coaches people on developing grit in their careers and workplaces. Building it like a muscle, the process begins with recognizing your story and understanding your core purpose. And she explains how it’s still possible to strengthen even during a pandemic when you’re extremely stressed and strained. Polson is the author of the new book "The Grit Factor: Courage, Resilience, and Leadership in the Most Male-Dominated Organization in the World."
Shasta Nelson, relationship expert and author, says that work friendships are critical to individual and organizational success but acknowledges that it's not always easy to build these personal -- but still professional - connections, especially when work is virtual. She explains why consistency, vulnerability, and positivity are fundamental to friendship and offers specific suggestions for how to build those things with colleagues. Nelson is the author of the book "The Business of Friendship: Making the Most of Our Relationships Where We Spend Most of Our Time."
Gary Hamel and Michele Zanini, cofounders of the consultancy Management Lab, say that even though we all lament how rigid, parochial, and time sucking bureaucracies can be, they still seem inescapable. The managers who’ve excelled in them often don’t know how to dismantle them — or else they don’t want to. But Zanini and Hamel have studied and collaborated with innovative organizations, and they outline bottom-up ways to empower workers and hack management. Hamel and Zanini wrote the new book “Humanocracy: Creating Organizations as Amazing as the People Inside them.”
Jonah Berger, professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, says that most of us aren’t approaching persuasion the right way. Pushing people to behave how you’d like them to or believe the same things you do just doesn’t work, no matter how much data you give or how many emotional appeals you make. Studying both psychology and business, he’s found better tactics for bringing people over to your side. One of the keys? Asking questions so people feel like they’re making the decision to change. Berger is the author of the book "The Catalyst: How to Change Anyone's Mind."
Leigh Thompson, professor at Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, studies negotiations to understand the path to the "sweet spot" where all sides of the table come away happy. And she says there are more pitfalls on that path when more of us are working remotely and online. She shares how to overcome the common traps of virtual negotiations with trust-enhancing hacks such as E-charisma and language style matching. Thompson is the author of the book “Negotiating the Sweet Spot: The Art of Leaving Nothing on the Table.”
Peter Scoblic, cofounder and principal of the consultancy Event Horizon Strategies, says that too many companies are short-sighted in their strategy-making and don't effectively plan for different potential futures. Using examples from the U.S. Coast Guard, he explains how thoughtful and ongoing scenario planning exercises can help organizations decide which investments will allow them to thrive in varying circumstances and navigate many types of crisis. Scoblic is the author of the HBR article "Learning from the Future."
Robbie Kellman Baxter, a strategy consultant, says that subscriptions aren’t just for newspapers and Netflix. She says they can help companies from local retailers to giant industrial manufacturers earn more consistent revenue and develop stronger customer loyalty. And she explains how even during an economic crisis, leaders can adopt a subscription business model to give their organizations a better chance of surviving and thriving. Kellman Baxter is the author of the book "The Forever Transaction: How to Build a Subscription Model So Compelling, Your Customers Will Never Want to Leave."
Richard Tedeschi, a psychology professor and distinguished chair of the Boulder Crest Institute, says that crises like the Covid-19 pandemic and its economic fallout as well as the recent racial violence and social unrest in the United States, can yield not just negative but also positive outcomes for individuals, teams, companies, industries, communities and nations. He has spent decades studying this phenomenon of post-traumatic growth and identified strategies for achieving it as well as the benefits that can accrue, from better relationships to the discovery of new opportunities. Tedeschi is the author of the HBR article "Growth After Trauma."