Harvard Business Review Special Issues Winter 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
stay ahead of the curve

THE MOST COMPETITIVE companies have mastered the challenges of a fast-changing business environment. New technologies and business models continually place ever-evolving demands on every employee. The most important skill for the future? The ability to learn. Begin your own transformation by developing the right mentality In “What Having a ‘Growth Mindset’ Actually Means,” Carol Dweck corrects common—and pernicious—myths about her popular concept. Understanding your own beliefs about whether you can improve can show you what stands in the way of all your self-development efforts. To master more-specific skills, a clear process can help: Partner with others to observe and practice what they do, as Dorothy Leonard and her coauthors explain in “Make Yourself an Expert.” If it feels like you don’t have time for learning, know that research has shown that developing…

11 min
learning to learn

ORGANIZATIONS TODAY are in constant flux. Industries are consolidating, new business models are emerging, new technologies are being developed, and consumer behaviors are evolving. For executives, the ever-increasing pace of change can be especially demanding. It forces them to understand and quickly respond to big shifts in the way companies operate and how work must get done. In the words of Arie de Geus, a business theorist, “The ability to learn faster than your competitors may be the only sustainable competitive advantage.” I’m not talking about relaxed armchair or even structured class room learning. I’m talking about resisting the bias against doing new things, scanning the horizon for growth opportunities, and pushing yourself to acquire radically different capabilities—while still performing your job. That requires a willingness to experiment and become a…

11 min
make yourself an expert

I DON’T KNOW what we’d do without him!” That’s what an executive in a Fortune 100 company recently told us about a brilliant project leader. We’ve heard the same sentiment expressed about many highly skilled specialists during the hundred-plus interviews we’ve conducted as part of our research into knowledge use and sharing. In organizations large and small, including NASA, the U.S. Forest Service, SAP, and Raytheon, managers spoke of their dependence on colleagues who have “deep smarts”—business-critical expertise, built up through years of experience, which helps them make wise, swift decisions about both strategy and tactics. These mavens may be top salespeople, technical wizards, risk managers, or operations troubleshooters, but they are all the “go-to” people for a given type of knowledge in their organizations. Because deep smarts are mostly in…

3 min
tools for building deep smarts

Action Plan Becoming an expert begins with deciding whom you will acquire knowledge from and how. Here is an excerpt from a step-by-step plan drawn up by Melissa, a high-potential sales rep in the beverage industry who aspires to become her firm’s in-house whiz at distribution. Her chosen mentor is George, a general manager at her company who is the “go-to” guy in that area. Observation Immediate Goal (2 Months) Learn how to evaluate distributors by studying retail stores they service. To-Do Visit five stores with George, and record what he notices. Practice Short-term Goal (6 Months) Learn how to evaluate our firm’s performance from the distributors’ point of view. To-Do Interview three distributors in region, asking about three things we do better and three things we do worse than competitors. Partner & Problem Solve Midterm Goal (12 Months) Be able to diagnose problems…

3 min
1. what having a “growth mindset” actually means

SCHOLARS ARE DEEPLY gratified when their ideas catch on. And they are even more gratified when their ideas make a difference—improving motivation, innovation, or productivity, for example. But popularity has a price: People sometimes distort ideas and therefore fail to reap their benefits. This has started to happen with my research on “growth” versus “fixed” mindsets among individuals and within organizations. To briefly sum up the findings: Individuals who believe their talents can be developed (through hard work, good strategies, and input from others) have a growth mindset. They tend to achieve more than those with a more fixed mindset (who believe their talents are innate gifts). This is because they worry less about looking smart and put more energy into learning. When entire companies embrace a growth mindset, their employees…

5 min
2. take control of your learning at work

HUMAN BEINGS HAVE an astonishing ability to learn, but our motivation to do so tends to decrease with age, particularly in adulthood. As children, we are naturally curious and free to explore the world around us. As adults, we are much more interested in preserving what we have learned, so we resist any information—and data—that challenges our views and opinions. Unsurprisingly, there is now big demand for employees who can demonstrate high levels of “learnability,” the desire and ability to quickly grow and adapt one’s skill set to remain employable throughout their working life. This demand has been turbocharged by the recent technological revolution. Indeed, one of the major cultural and intellectual changes of the digital age is that information has been commoditized, and access to it is now ubiquitous. With…