Harvard Business Review January/February 2021

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

2 min
rivals and friends

HBR Now Leading through uncertainity WHEN THE WORLD went into lockdown last spring, my colleague Josh Macht and I decided to launch a series of live video interviews with experts who could offer perspective on these strange days. We called it HBR Quarantined, and to distribute it we made an unusual choice to partner with LinkedIn. LinkedIn is best known as a professional networking site, but it also publishes articles on management topics—competing with us for readers. At the same time, HBR has 11 million followers on LinkedIn, which drives traffic to our site. Is LinkedIn our friend, our rival, or both? We ask ourselves a similar question whenever we run articles by authors who write books for other business publishers, or partner with competing media organizations on events. We bet this question comes…

2 min

Working in the tropics to help brands source sustainably, Tensie Whelan (then president of the Rainforest Alliance) had an aha moment. An insurance broker told her that he’d decided to give coffee brands certified by her organization a “sustainability” discount, because the rigorous tracking the certification required often reduced theft during transport. Now the director of NYU’s Center for Sustainable Business, she focuses on developing financial tools to help companies measure return on sustainability investments, the subject of her article in this issue. 86 How to Talk to Your CFO About Sustainability Colin M. Fisher has been fascinated by how people make sense of real-time group interaction since his days as a professional jazz trumpet player (most notably with the Grammy-nominated Either/Orchestra). Inspired by a question about how team leaders can learn…

19 min

IN THEORY WHY ROOKIE CEOs OUTPERFORM Experienced executives rely too much on old playbooks. WHEN SEEKING THE best CEO candidate, boards might begin with lofty goals. But directors recognize that a botched succession could hurt their reputations (not to mention their shareholders), so in many cases they end up focusing not only on the upside potential of a candidate but also on the downside risk, asking: Who is the safest choice? Who is least likely to fail? And their answer is often the candidate with prior experience in the top job. In fact, the share of newly hired CEOs who previously held the role has quadrupled since 1997 and now stands at 16%. In most endeavors, experience is a good thing. But new research from the executive recruiting and leadership advisory firm Spencer Stuart…

7 min
stand-up meetings inhibit innovation

Professor Wu, DEFEND YOUR RESEARCH WU: More and more companies are adopting agile practices in product development, but it isn’t always clear why. There seems to be an assumption that agile is a cure-all for innovation. The study that Sourobh and I did, however, shows that one key element of the agile approach—regular stand-up meetings—is great for implementation but actually undermines idea generation. HBR: So frequent stand-up meetings make people less innovative? The literature defines innovation as the combination of two factors: value—or usefulness for a specific customer—and novelty. We found that frequent stand-up meetings at the hackathon resulted in products that were rated by judges as more valuable but less novel. To be innovative, products must be both. Why do you think that happened? Stand-up meetings encourage team members to coordinate their work…

11 min
the former ceo of guardian on using values to drive strategic planning

WHEN HURRICANE SANDY hit the mid-Atlantic coast, in October 2012, I was at my home in Westchester County, New York. It’s an old house, surrounded by old trees, so as the rain battered my windows and the wind shook the walls, I took shelter with my dog under a center-hall desk. But I was less worried about myself than about the thousands of Guardian employees who live across New Jersey and New York, within commuting distance of our Lower Manhattan headquarters. I had become CEO of the insurance company—which offers life, disability, and dental policies and administers family and medical leave—just over a year before. How would we help our people and our company get through this? Because the electricity had gone out, I listened for the news on a crank…

17 min
it’s time to replace the public corporation

AUTHOR Former dean, Rotman School THE PROFESSIONALLY MANAGED, widely held, publicly traded corporation has been the dominant structure in business for the past 100 years. It came to prominence in the wake of the Great Depression because it was effective at mobilizing capital from private investors—who by the 1960s held more than 80% of company stock—for productive ventures. The model enabled executives to focus on long-term growth and profitability, to the benefit of the many individuals who owned shares in their companies. Over the past 40 years, however, the fitness of the public corporation has been called into question. Critics charge that in today’s far more heavily traded capital markets, the model increasingly incentivizes executives to manage in tiny, short-term windows, with an eager eye on their stock-based compensation and a fearful one…