Harvard Business Review March/April 2020

For over 80 years, Harvard Business Review magazine has been an indispensable and unrivaled source of ideas, insight, and inspiration for business leaders worldwide. Each issue contains breakthrough ideas on strategy, leadership, innovation and management. Now, newly redesigned, HBR presents these ideas in a smart new design with improved navigation and rich infographics. Become a more effective leader by subscribing to Harvard Business Review.

United States
Harvard Business School Publishing
6 Issues

in this issue

1 min
the right thing to do

WE TALK A LOT about the importance of authenticity. The ability to be true to yourself has been tied to higher engagement, greater workplace satisfaction, better performance, and increased overall well-being. But if your gender identity doesn’t conform to the sex you were assigned at birth, the likelihood is high that you aren’t bringing your whole self to work. The workplace is deeply unkind to transgender people. Study after study shows that they are stigmatized and discriminated against. A 2015 survey of trans individuals in the United States revealed that an appalling 77% reported taking active steps to avoid mistreatment at work, such as hiding their gender identities or quitting their jobs. Two-thirds reported negative work outcomes, such as being fired or forced to resign, not being hired for a job,…

2 min

In the early 1990s Stefan Thomke was a doctoral student at MIT and an electrical engineer. In both roles he focused on the testing of chip designs and the management of experimentation. “Experimentation should affect everyone and everything in a company, not just R&D and operations,” says Thomke, now a professor at Harvard Business School. “The ability to run online experiments at massive scale is changing how firms compete.” In his article in this issue, adapted from his new book, Experimentation Works, he explores how to create a culture in which experimentation is a way of life. 40 Building a Culture of Experimentation Before pursuing advanced degrees in business and marketing, Ayelet Israeli served as a lieutenant in the Israeli Intelligence Corps. The analytical skills she learned there have informed her research…

6 min
why soliciting donations at the cash register can backfire

EFUA OBENG DESCRIBES HERSELF as an altruistic person who regularly writes checks to charities. But several years ago she began taking note of how she reacted when asked for donations while paying for purchases in stores. “I hated it,” says Obeng, an assistant professor of marketing at Howard University. Conversations with family and friends confirmed that she was not alone. Yet research showed that philanthropic organizations relied heavily on such solicitations. So Obeng decided to investigate the practice and how retailers could mount more-effective charity-at-checkout campaigns. That work has led to an explanation for why otherwise altruistic people may react negatively to point-of-sale solicitations. Across several studies involving hundreds of participants, Obeng and her coauthors found that customers perceive point-of-sale solicitations as a violation of their social contract with the retailer—a…

3 min
“people want to know where their money is going”

What makes for a good match between charity and retailer? There are two ways to look at it. If the cause and the retailer are a natural fit—if they operate in the same sphere—the consumer doesn’t have to wonder why the retailer is backing that particular cause. But on the flip side, you could say to a supermarket, for example, that if everyone else is supporting food-related nonprofits, maybe there’s an opportunity for you to sponsor something different and cut through the clutter in the marketplace. It has to be something the retailer cares about, and it should be something its customers have some passion or affinity for. How can retailers demonstrate that they care about the cause? Make sure your outreach to consumers is across-the-board, and make it part of…

11 min
idea watch

BOARDS Another Reason to Push for Female Directors Research has shown that female board representation leads to better acquisition and investment decisions and less-aggressive risk-taking. A new study suggests an underlying mechanism for those results: Female directors temper the overconfidence of male CEOs. The researchers gathered data on 1,629 U.S. companies and their leaders from 1998 to 2013. As a proxy for overconfidence, they looked at whether CEOs had held stock options when exercising them would have yielded hefty profits; the researchers reasoned that a failure to cash in when the market price is high reflects the often unrealistic belief that it will go even higher. The data showed that male CEOs whose boards included women were less likely than other male chief executives to hang on to so-called deep-in-the-money options. (There was…

6 min
a subordinate’s criticism makes you more creative

Professor Yeun Joon Kim, DEFEND YOUR RESEARCH YEUN JOON KIM: People typically respond to negative feedback in one of two ways: They may feel threatened, become reluctant to experiment, and get distracted from their work. Or they may identify problems with their current performance and implement better strategies for getting things done. Which way people react depends on where the feedback came from. When employees are criticized by a boss or a peer, they tend to feel threatened. But when leaders are criticized by followers—employees they manage—they’re more likely to focus on getting better at their tasks. HBR: Why would managers be OK having underlings point out their weaknesses? Surely that’s a blow to the ego. It’s all about the power dynamic. When employees get negative feedback from a higher-up, it affects…