Summary: A weekly podcast featuring the leading thinkers in business and management.
In 1976, broadcast journalist Oprah Winfrey moved to Baltimore to coanchor the evening newscast at a local TV station. But she struggled in that spot and was moved to the morning talk show. That demotion led Winfrey to discover a professional calling that aligned with her personal sensibilities and emerging strengths. In the final episode of a four-part special series on leadership, HBR Editor in Chief Adi Ignatius and Harvard Business School professor and historian Nancy Koehn trace Winfrey’s career as an entrepreneur and leader of a media empire. They discover lessons on how to cultivate self-awareness, cross traditional boundaries, and responsibly wield influence.
Tsedal Neeley, a professor at Harvard Business School, says that there are simple ways leaders can help their employees stay productive, focused, and psychologically healthy as they work from home during the current global pandemic. The right technology tools and clear and constant communication are more important than ever. She recommends that managers do an official remote-work launch, carefully plan and facilitate virtual meetings, and pay extra attention to workers' behavior. For individual contributors, it's critical to maintain a routine but also embrace flexibility, especially if you're in the house with family.
In 1863, U.S. President Abraham Lincoln wrote a scathing letter to his top Union general, who had squandered a chance to end the Civil War. Then Lincoln folded it up and tucked it away in his desk. He never sent it. Lincoln understood that the first action that comes to mind is often counter-productive. In the third episode of a four-part special series on leadership, HBR Editor in Chief Adi Ignatius and Harvard Business School professor and historian Nancy Koehn explore Lincoln’s career both before and during America’s greatest crisis. They discover lessons on how to learn continuously, communicate values, and exercise emotional self-control.
Jim McKelvey, entrepreneur and cofounder of Square, says that most companies that think of themselves as innovative are really just copycats. True innovation, he argues, is about fearlessly exploring novel solutions and dramatically expanding markets. Doing so also helps startups defend their innovations against industry giants, as Square did against Amazon. McKelvey is the author of the book “The Innovation Stack: Building an Unbeatable Business One Crazy Idea at a Time.”
In 1958, writer Rachel Carson began her exhaustive research on the effects of widespread pesticide use for her next book, Silent Spring. Over the next four years, she built up an airtight case showing how the world’s most powerful chemical companies were harming animals, plants, and people. Her effort was also a race against time, as she struggled against an aggressive form of breast cancer. In the second episode of a four-part special series on leadership, HBR Editor in Chief Adi Ignatius and Harvard Business School professor and historian Nancy Koehn trace the modern environmental movement back to Carson’s pioneering reporting and powerful prose. They discover lessons in how to strengthen your resilience, gather your energy and skills for a coming challenge, and why caretaking is an act of leadership.
Rebecca Henderson, professor at Harvard Business School, says that both capitalism and democracy are failing us. She argues that it will take public and private leaders working together to simultaneously fix these two systems because free markets don't function well without free politics and healthy government needs corporate support to survive. She is calling on the business community to take the first step. Henderson is the author of the upcoming book "Reimagining Capitalism in a World on Fire." And the March Big Idea article, "The Business Case for Saving Democracy."
In 1915, polar explorer Ernest Shackleton’s ship became trapped in ice, north of Antarctica. For the next two years, he kept his crew of 27 men alive on a drifting ice cap, then led them in their escape. How Shackleton did that has become one of the most famous leadership case studies. In the first episode of a four-part special series on leadership, HBR Editor in Chief Adi Ignatius and Harvard Business School professor and historian Nancy Koehn analyze Shackleton’s leadership during the struggle to survive. They discover lessons in building a team, learning from bad bosses, and cultivating empathy.
Michelle King, director of inclusion at Netflix, says it’s time to stop telling women to adapt to the male-dominated workplace and time for the workplace itself to change. Her prior academic research shows that diversity training and anti-harassment efforts address important issues but fall short of creating gender equality in organizations. She identifies the real obstacles and shares how leaders can create a culture of equality at work, for women and men alike. King is the author of the book "The Fix: Overcome the Invisible Barriers That Are Holding Women Back at Work.”
Joel Peterson, chairman of JetBlue Airways, has spent a career leading teams, building businesses, and managing people at every level. Along the way, he's learned valuable lessons about the best ways to bring on new talent – as well as when and how to let people go. He also teaches at the Stanford Graduate School of Business and is the author of the book “Entrepreneurial Leadership: The Art of Launching New Ventures, Inspiring Others, and Running Stuff.”
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."