July 22, 2022 7:24 AM EDT

In celebration of its 100th birthday this year, Harvard Business Review recently released HBR at 100, a hefty collection of its “most influential and innovative” articles. The book includes seminal pieces by Peter Drucker, Michael E. Porter, W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne, Clayton M. Christensen, Robert B. Cialdini, Tim Brown, and others.

We read every word of the over 450-page tome to pull out passages on the leadership, talent, and workplace transformation issues that are most relevant to Charter readers today. Here they are:

 

Peter F. Drucker on how to identify your strengths, from 1999:

“The only way to discover your strengths is through feedback analysis. Whenever you make a key decision or take a key action, write down what you expect will happen. Nine or 12 months later, compare the actual results with your expectations. I have been practicing this method for 15 to 20 years now, and every time I do it, I am surprised….Several implications for action follow from feedback analysis. First and foremost, concentrate on your strengths. Put yourself where your strengths can produce results. Second, work on improving your strengths. Analysis will rapidly show where you need to improve skills or acquire new ones. It will also show the gaps in your knowledge—and those can usually be filled.” (p. 2)

 

Joseph L. Bower and Clayton M. Christensen on how to tell when new technology will be disruptive, from 1995:

“One approach to identifying disruptive technologies is to examine internal disagreements over the development of new products or technologies. Who supports the project and who doesn’t? Marketing and financial managers, because of their managerial and financial incentives, will rarely support a disruptive technology. On the other hand, technical personnel with outstanding track records will often persist in arguing that a new market for the technology will emerge—even in the face of opposition from key customers and marketing and financial staff. Disagreement between the two groups often signals a disruptive technology that top-level managers should explore.” (p. 109)

 

John P. Kotter on the importance of crisply articulating a vision for new business directions, from 1995:

“A useful rule of thumb: If you can’t communicate the vision to someone in five minutes or less and get a reaction that signifies both understanding and interest, you are not yet done with this phase of the transformation process.” (p. 128)

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Teresa M. Amabile and Steven J. Kramer on how supporting daily progress in meaningful work is key to management, from 2011:

“Through exhaustive analysis of diaries kept by knowledge workers, we discovered the progress principle: Of all the things that can boost emotions, motivation, and perceptions during a workday, the single most important is making progress in meaningful work. And the more frequently people experience that sense of progress, the more likely they are to be creatively productive in the long run. Whether they are trying to solve a major scientific mystery or simply produce a high-quality product or service, everyday progress—even a small win—can make all the difference in how they feel and perform.” (p. 160)

 

Linda A. Hill on how effective managers don’t overvalue one-on-one relationships at the cost of group dynamics, from 2007:

“During their first year on the job, many new managers fail to recognize, much less address, their team-building responsibilities. Instead, they conceive of their people-management role as building the most effective relationships they can with each individual subordinate, erroneously equating the management of their team with managing the individuals on the team. They attend primarily to individual performance and pay little or no attention to team culture and performance…. New managers tend to handle issues, even those with teamwide implications, one-on-one. This leads them to make decisions based on unnecessarily limited information.” (p. 191)

 

Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic on why incompetent men become leaders, from 2013:

“The main reason for the unbalanced gender ratio in management is our inability to discern between confidence and competence. That is, because we (people in general) commonly misinterpret displays of confidence as a sign of competence, we are fooled into believing that men are better leaders than women. In other words, when it comes to leadership, the only advantage that men have over women (from Argentina to Norway and the USA to Japan) is the fact that manifestations of hubris—often masked as charisma or charm—are commonly mistaken for leadership potential and that these occur much more frequently in men than in women.” (p. 209)

 

Robert Livingston on how acknowledging the limitations of job candidate assessment is important for pursuing racial equity, from 2020:

“There may be absolutely no difference in quality between the candidate who scored first out of 50 people and the candidate who scored eighth. The big takeaway here is that ‘sacrifice’ may actually involve giving up very little. If we look at people within a band of potential and choose the diverse candidate (for example, number eight) over the top scorer, we haven’t sacrificed quality at all—statistically speaking—even if people’s intuitions lead them to conclude otherwise. Managers should abandon the notion that a ‘best candidate’ must be found. That kind of search amounts to chasing unicorns. Instead, they should focus on hiring well-qualified people who show good promise, and then should invest time, effort, and resources into helping them reach their potential.” (p. 225)

 

Tim Brown on how creativity happens when prototypes are rough, from 2008:

“The more ‘finished’ a prototype seems, the less likely its creators will be to pay attention to and profit from feedback. The goal of prototyping isn’t to finish. It is to learn about the strengths and weaknesses of the idea and to identify new directions that further prototypes might take…. Prototyping doesn’t have to be complex and expensive. IDEO helped a group of surgeons develop a new device for sinus surgery. As the surgeons described the ideal physical characteristics of the instrument, one of the designers grabbed a whiteboard marker, a film canister, and a clothespin and taped them together. ‘Do you mean like this?’ he asked. With his rudimentary prototype in hand, the surgeons were able to be much more precise about what the ultimate design should accomplish.” (p. 349)

 

Theodore Levitt on how marketing is not the same as sales, from 1960:

“The difference between marketing and selling is more than semantic. Selling focuses on the needs of the seller, marketing on the needs of the buyer. Selling is preoccupied with the seller’s need to convert the product into cash, marketing with the idea of satisfying the needs of the customer by means of the product and the whole cluster of things associated with creating, delivering, and, finally, consuming it.” (p. 375)

 

Amy C. Edmondson and Mark Mortensen on how leaders need to not just cultivate psychological safety—the belief that one can speak up without risk of punishment or humiliation—but convince colleagues why it’s necessary, from 2021:

“Don’t assume that your employees will immediately have access to all the information that you have that supports the benefits of sharing these challenges and needs. Put your marketing hat on and promote psychological safety by sharing your conviction that increased transparency is happening and is helping the team design new arrangements that serve both individual needs and organizational goals. The goal here isn’t to share information that was disclosed to you privately but rather to explain that disclosure has allowed you to collaboratively come up with solutions that were better not just for the team but also for the employees.” (p. 409)

 

A special offer for Charter subscribers: See what business leaders are saying about HBR at 100 on the new books discovery app Tertulia, which is currently offering the book at 25% off. Head to the Apple App Store to download Tertulia,

You can also order HBR at 100 at Bookshop.org or Amazon. (We may make a commission if you order a book through these links.)

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