Summary: A weekly podcast featuring the leading thinkers in business and management.
Rafi Mohammed, founder of the consulting firm Culture of Profit, says a crisis or recession is not the time to panic and slash prices. He says leaders should instead reevaluate their price strategy — or develop one for the first time — to better respond to customers during the slump and keep them when the economy recovers. He shares examples of companies across a variety of industries that have created effective price strategies as well as his advice for changing prices in response to Covid-19. Mohammed is the author of “The 1% Windfall: How Successful Companies Use Price to Profit and Grow.”
Carlos Brito, the CEO of Anheuser-Busch InBev since 2008, has worked to build a culture of adaptability and customer centricity at the global brewer. Many of his leadership principles are paying off during the Covid-19 pandemic, as empowered employees have quickly changed course to respond to the crisis. Brito explains the challenges his company faces in a making beer for social gatherings at a time when people need to stay apart for safety, how the company has shifted operations and supply chains thanks in part to early lessons in markets such as China and South Korea, and how he’s leading strategic efforts to position AB InBev for a new reality.
Katherine Gehl, a former CEO and the founder of the Institute for Political Innovation, and Michael Porter, a professor at Harvard Business School, apply his Five Forces framework to explain why U.S. politics are dysfunctional. They argue that the Republican and Democratic parties make up an industry duopoly with high barriers to entry and low consumer power, and that the resulting lack of competition incentivizes these two dominant players to avoid compromises with majority support. Gehl and Porter provide specific innovations on how to enhance competition and better serve the public, including nonpartisan primary elections and ranked-choice voting. Gehl and Porter are coauthors of the new book “The Politics Industry: How Political Innovation Can Break Partisan Gridlock and Save Our Democracy” and the HBR article “Fixing U.S. Politics."
Megan Rapinoe, U.S. women's soccer star and World Cup champion, knows how to perform under pressure, motivate her teammates, and advocate for the causes she believes in. In addition to her stellar play as a professional athlete, she's been outspoken about racial justice, LGBTQ rights, and gender pay equity. She offers lessons on overcoming losses, growing into a leadership role, becoming an ally, and operating as your authentic self.
Ella Washington, an organizational psychologist at Georgetown University, argues that private sector American organizations have a big role to play in sustaining the fight for racial justice that has gained such momentum in recent weeks. She says that widespread protests should mark a shift in how companies and their leaders push for government policy change, think about diversity and inclusion in their own workplaces, and strive to combat bias and inequality in U.S. society. It not enough for CEOs to release statements and continue on with business as usual. To promote real change, they need to work on these issues each and every day. Washington is the coauthor of the HBR article "U.S. Businesses Must Take Meaningful Action Against Racism."
Frances Frei, professor at Harvard Business School, says that trust, empathy - and even a bit of tough love - are all essential ingredients to strong leadership in today's world. Successful managers focus on the effect they have on others, not themselves. They also define a strategy and create a culture that drives employee behavior in their absence. Frei is the coauthor, along with Anne Morriss, of the book "Unleashed: The Unapologetic Leader’s Guide to Empowering Everyone Around You" as well as the HBR article “Begin with Trust.”
Darrell Rigby, partner at Bain & Company, says many firms have rapidly adopted agile principles to react to the coronavirus crisis. Namely, they’ve been ditching bureaucratic planning processes and instead fast-tracking ideas, holding focused meetings, and empowering decisions at lower levels of the organization. He argues that C-suite leaders should keep this newfound organizational nimbleness for good and explains how they can. With Sarah Elk and Steve Berez, Rigby wrote the HBR article “The Agile C-Suite” and the new book Doing Agile Right: Transformation Without Chaos.
Ken Banta, founder of the Vanguard Network, and Orlan Boston, partner at Ernst & Young, argue that every aspiring leader needs to have a side gig -- not to pursue a crazy dream or earn some extra cash but to enhance their skills, knowledge, and network in a way that benefits their existing careers. The key is to find meaningful and strategic roles that help you bring new insights and experience to your day job, and you can even let your boss in on your plans. Banta and Boston are the authors of the HBR article "The Strategic Side Gig."
Mark Johnson, cofounder of the consulting firm Innosight, says that too many managers develop strategy while focusing on problems in the present, and that’s especially true during a crisis. Instead, he argues, leaders should imagine the future and work backward, so they can build their organization for that new reality. He shares practical steps managers can take to look beyond the typical short-term planning horizon and help their teams grasp future opportunities. Johnson is the coauthor of the HBR article "Leaders, Do You Have a Clear Vision for the Post-Crisis Future?" and the book "Lead from the Future: How to Turn Visionary Thinking into Breakthrough Growth."
Myriam Sidibe, senior fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School, says that brands are uniquely positioned to encourage shifts in consumer behavior that benefit individuals, communities, and the environment. A public health expert, she has studied these types of mission-led marketing campaigns and helped Unilever design one for Lifebuoy soap that not only promoted hand-washing in the developing world but also boosted the business's bottom line. She explains how companies of any size can find the right causes, craft authentic messages, and measure the return on their investments, adding that the current pandemic and economic crisis have made this work even more important. Sidibe is the author of the HBR article "Marketing Meets Mission."
Rita McGrath, professor at Columbia Business School, says the need for organizations to adopt digital business models is more important than ever. Change is accelerating as startups tackle incumbents. And suddenly the coronavirus crisis is forcing the hand of many companies that have put off digital transformations. She explains how established firms can avoid bet-the-farm moves and instead take small steps and quickly target their experiments. McGrath is the coauthor of the HBR article "Discovery-Driven Digital Transformation."
Vivek Murthy, former U.S. Surgeon General, says that, even before the Covid-19 pandemic, we were facing another health crisis: loneliness. Studies show that, around the world, more people have been feeling a greater sense of social isolation, which has many negative affects, including increased blood pressure, reduced immune response, and decreased engagement and productivity at work. But organizations can be a place where people find a greater sense of belonging. Murthy wants us to take loneliness more seriously and focus on fostering the types of authentic connections -- face-to-face and virtual -- that we need to combat it. He's the author of the book "Together: The Healing Power of Human Connection in a Sometimes Lonely World."
Eric McNulty, associate director of Harvard’s National Preparedness Leadership Initiative, studies how managers successfully lead their companies through crises such as the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster and the Boston Marathon terror attack. He identifies the common traps that leaders fall into and shares how the best ones excel by thinking longer-term and trusting their teams with operational details. He also finds that companies that put people ahead of the bottom line tend to weather these storms better. McNulty is a coauthor of the book “You’re It: Crisis, Change, and How to Lead When It Matters Most” and the HBR article “Are You Leading Through Crisis… Or Managing the Response?”
Alex Lazarow, venture capitalist at Cathay Innovation, says that start-ups in cities around the U.S. and the world are creating their own rules for success. While Silicon Valley companies have sparked key innovations and generated huge wealth over the past few decades, not everyone should use them as a model going forward. In fact, we can learn more from frontier entrepreneurs, who are thinking more creatively about raising capital, sourcing talent, and pursuing social impact. Lazarow is the author of the book "Out-Innovate: How Global Entrepreneurs--from Delhi to Detroit--Are Rewriting the Rules of Silicon Valley."
Stewart Friedman, organizational psychologist at The Wharton School, and Alyssa Westring, associate professor at DePaul University’s Driehaus College of Business, say it’s a mistake for a working parent to think of career and home life as competing interests that have to be balanced. Their research shows how many leadership skills apply to parenting, and vice versa. The professors explain how individuals can stop making tradeoffs and instead find sustainable ways to advance their careers and also parent more effectively. Friedman and Westring are the authors of the book "Parents Who Lead: The Leadership Approach You Need to Parent with Purpose, Fuel Your Career, and Create a Richer Life."