Harvard Business Review Special Issues Spring 2019

Harvard Business Review OnPoint makes it fast and easy to put HBR’s ideas to work. Handpicked by HBR’s editors to bring readers the most relevant ideas and insight on a single business topic, these collections include full-text articles, summaries of key points, and suggestions for further reading, plus content selected from hbr.org.

United States
Harvard Business School Publishing

in this issue

2 min
sparking breakthrough ideas

Creativity shouldn’t be confined to just the “creative types” in your organization. As technologies and strategies change and customers’ demands evolve, companies increasingly expect everyone at every level to contribute ideas. So how can you spark new thinking about products, processes, and problems? Simple logistical changes in the way you schedule your day or where you sit can be a good place to start. Research by Carnegie Mellon’s Sunkee Lee shows that sitting next to unfamiliar colleagues can make you more likely to come up with an innovative solution to a problem: Your new neighbors expose you to new knowledge, which allows you to connect ideas in novel ways (“Why You Should Rotate Office Seating Assignments”). Perhaps for this reason, groups, especially diverse groups, can often generate more creative ideas than individuals—thus,…

15 min
reclaim your creative confidence

MOST PEOPLE ARE born creative. As children, we revel in imaginary play, ask outlandish questions, draw blobs and call them dinosaurs. But over time, because of socialization and formal education, a lot of us start to stifle those impulses. We learn to be warier of judgment, more cautious, more analytical. The world seems to divide into “creatives” and “noncreatives,” and too many people consciously or unconsciously resign themselves to the latter category. And yet we know that creativity is essential to success in any discipline or industry. According to a recent IBM survey of chief executives around the world, it’s the most sought-after trait in leaders today. No one can deny that creative thinking has enabled the rise and continued success of countless companies, from start-ups like Facebook and Google to…

2 min
tackling the mess, one step at a time

You can work up the confidence to tackle the big fears that hold most of us back by starting small. Here are a few ways to get comfortable with venturing into the messy unknown. The list gets increasingly challenging, but you can follow the first two suggestions without even leaving your desk. 1. Lurk in online forums. Listen in as potential customers share information, air grievances, and ask questions—it’s the virtual equivalent of hanging around a popular café. You’re not looking for evaluations of features or cost; you’re searching for clues about their concerns and desires. 2. Pick up the phone and call your own company’s customer service line. Walk through the experience as if you were a customer, noting how your problem is handled and how you’re feeling along the way. 3.…

15 min
find innovation where you least expect it

ON THE EVENING of April 14, 1912, the RMS Titanic collided with an iceberg in the north Atlantic and sunk two hours and 40 minutes later. Of its 2,200 passengers and crew, only 705 survived, plucked out of 16 lifeboats by the Carpathia. Imagine how many more might have lived if crew members had thought of the iceberg as not just the cause of the disaster but a life-saving solution. The iceberg rose high above the water and stretched some 400 feet in length. The lifeboats might have ferried people there to look for a flat spot. The Titanic itself was navigable for a while and might have been able to pull close enough to the iceberg for people to scramble on. Such a rescue operation was not without precedent:…

1 min
a smarter way to brainstorm

When people generate “brain-swarming” graphs together, it’s best for the group to work initially in silence, write contributions on sticky notes, and place the sticky notes at the proper place on the ever-growing graph. The benefits of silence include the following: • The talkative few cannot dominate the session.• There’s no need for a facilitator to keep people from hijacking the discussion or judging others.• People can work in parallel, so ideas are generated faster.• No one needs to create a summary of the session. Take a picture of the graph and distribute it by e-mail, or just keep the graph up on the wall for later use.• There’s no need to group similar ideas together, as you would in a traditional brainstorming session, because the grouping is done as the…

7 min
drunk people are better at creative problem solving

Jarosz: You often hear of great writers, artists, and composers who claim that alcohol enhanced their creativity, or people who say their ideas are better after a few drinks. We wanted to see if we could find evidence to back that up, and though this was a small experiment, we did. We gave participants 15 questions from a creative problem-solving assessment called the Remote Associates Test, or RAT—for example, “What word relates to these three: ‘duck,’ ‘dollar,’ ‘fold’?”; the answer to which is “bill.” We found that the tipsy people solved two to three more problems than folks who stayed sober. They also submitted their answers more quickly within the one-minute-per-question time limit, which is maybe even more surprising. HBR: So alcohol doesn’t slow us down mentally after all? It still…