Harvard Business Review September/October 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

1 min
a debt of gratitude

AFTER MONTHS OF CAUTION and isolation, most of us in the United States are heading toward normal—complete with ball games, hugs, and mask-less visits to the office. We owe this shift largely to the creation and rollout of Covid-19 vaccines. Few breakthroughs have affected life as dramatically as what my British colleagues call “the jab.” Although HBR often publishes articles about how companies can get better at innovation, I knew very little about Moderna before its vaccine began racing through clinical trials in 2020. But as Noubar Afeyan (Moderna’s chairman) and Gary Pisano (a professor at Harvard Business School) make clear in their article in this issue, “What Evolution Can Teach Us About Innovation,” the company spent a decade quietly laying the groundwork for its breakthrough. “Far from a one-and-done stroke of…

2 min

Noubar Afeyan, who founded his first company when he was 25, initially took the path most entrepreneurs follow: Conceive an innovative idea, start a company, raise venture capital, and then either grow or, all too often, fail. Over time, he began to question the notion that the high failure rate for new ventures was inevitable, and founded Flagship Pioneering, which developed a repeatable process for achieving breakthrough innovations at scale. In this article, Afeyan and coauthor Gary Pisano describe the process, focusing on one of Flagship’s many successes: Moderna, maker of a Covid-19 vaccine. 62 What Evolution Can Teach Us About Innovation Growing up, Dorie Clark was never a fan of patience. (She left home at age 14 to attend college.) But she has made her peace with it, as she came…

5 min
stop screening job candidates’ social media

SOCIAL MEDIA SITES such as Facebook, TikTok, and Instagram have given many organizations a new hiring tool. According to a 2018 CareerBuilder survey, 70% of employers check out applicants’ profiles as part of their screening process, and 54% have rejected applicants because of what they found. Social media sites offer a free, easily accessed portrait of what a candidate is really like, yielding a clearer idea of whether that person will succeed on the job—or so the theory goes. However, new research suggests that hiring officials who take this approach should use caution: Much of what they dig up is information they are ethically discouraged or legally prohibited from taking into account when evaluating candidates—and little of it is predictive of performance. In the first of three studies, the researchers examined the…

3 min
in practice

“If You Let Hiring Managers Screen Social Media Profiles, It Will Result in Bias” As CEO of the recruiting firm ECA Partners, Atta Tarki often cautions clients not to screen job candidates’ social media accounts as part of the hiring process. He recently spoke with HBR about why he’s wary of digital sleuthing. Edited excepts follow. Why shouldn’t firms take advantage of candidates’ publicly available social media profiles? It’s like going on a fad diet to achieve better health—it’s a shortcut that doesn’t work. We advise our clients to stick to evidence-based hiring. We have not seen any high-quality research showing that social media information is particularly predictive of job performance, unless the job is directly related to social media. Some studies show a small predictive power when running regressions over a very…

2 min
nudging for good

Choice architecture—determining the context in which people make decisions—is a ubiquitous part of consumer life. Products are presented in a certain order, for example, and that affects what consumers buy. A large body of research has shown that simple tweaks to choice architecture—often called nudges—can lead people toward decisions that are in their own self-interest. A series of new studies finds that they can also be an effective tool for reducing socioeconomic disparities. In the first study, 825 participants of varying socioeconomic status were presented with five financial decisions, including whether to make the full or the minimum payment on a credit card and whether to contribute to a retirement fund. They were randomly assigned to have either the best or the worst option presented as the default. Across all decisions,…

2 min
those typos in your emails matter more than you may think

Email and other text-based communications are generally seen as relatively deliberate media, given that senders can review their messages and edit out anything they don’t intend to convey. New research finds a more complicated picture—one in which simple typing errors serve as powerful cues of emotion. Across six studies, participants who read emails containing a few mistyped words interpreted those messages as being more emotional than were errorfree but otherwise identical emails. In one study, for example, 598 participants read a message from a manager dressing down an employee who had failed to submit a report on time. The version read by one group of participants contained three typos, while the version read by a second group had none. Those who read the email with errors rated the manager as significantly…