Summary: A weekly podcast featuring the leading thinkers in business and management.
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.”