HBR’s 10 Must Reads 2020: A book review by Bob Morris

HBR’s 10 Must Reads 2020: The Definitive Management Ideas of the Year from Harvard Business Review
HBR Editors and Various Contributors
Harvard Business Review Press (October 2019)

Timeless as well as timely knowledge and wisdom for all managers

This is the Hudson Exclusive Edition of the latest volume in a series introduced in 2015, the “HBR 10 Must Read” anthologies that are published every autumn..

Each consists of ten or eleven articles plus a “bonus” article (in this case two), all previously published in Harvard Business Review. The contents are selected by HBR editors. If you were to purchase all 13 articles in this volume as reprints, the total cost would be about $120. You can purchase a copy of the paperbound edition from Amazon for only $24.95. That’s quite a bargain.

The standout articles of the year collected here explain how to achieve strategic objectives such as these:

o How to ask better questions to boost your learning, persuade others, and negotiate more effectively.
o Create workplace conditions where gender equity can thrive
o Boost results by allowing humans and AI (working in collaboration) to enhance one another’s strengths
o Make better connections with your customers by giving them a glimpse inside your company
o Scale your agile processes from a few teams to hundreds
o Build a commitment to both economic and social values in your organization
o Help prepare your company for a rapidly aging workforce and society

Be sure to read the five-page Editors’ Note that creates a context, a frame of reference, for the material that follows. I also recommend that you check out the “Idea in Brief” section in each article. This will make it easier for you to determine which of the articles are most relevant to your primary needs and interests.

Here are four brief excerpts that will, I hope, suggest the thrust and flavor of the extended narrative:

*     *     *

“The solution to women’s lagged advancement is not to fix women or their managers but to fix the conditions that undermine women and reinforce general  stereotypes. Furthermore, by taking an inquisitive, evidence-based approach to understanding behavior, companies can not only address gender disparities but also cultivate a learning orientation and a culture that gives all employees the opportunity to reach their full potential.”

From What Most People Get Wrong About Men and Women, Catherine H. Tinsley and Robin J. Ely (Page 42)

*     *     *

“Most activities at the4 human-machine inter face require people to [begin italics] do new and differ ent things [end italics] such as train a chatbot) and to [begin italics] do things differently [end italics] (use that chatbot to provide better customer service). So far, however, only a small number of companies we’ve surveyed have begun to reimagine their business processes to optimize collaborative intelligence. But the lesson is clear: Organizations that use machines merely to displace workers through automation will miss the full potential of AI. Such strategy is misguided from the get-go. Tomorrow’s leaders will instead be those that embrace collaborative intelligence, transforming their operations, their markets, their industries, and — no less important — their workforces.”

From Collaborative Intelligence, H. James Wilson and Paul R. Daugherty (59)

*     *     *

“In a sense,  today’s businesses have become victims of the global economy’s immense productivity gains over the past two centuries. Consumers today rely on a dizzying array of products that are manufactured and distributed from all around the world and on services that are delivered with an intensifying frequency. But the apparently effortless  abundance and convenience also make it easy for consumers to take work for granted and for employees to lose out on the learning and motivation that customer connections afford. With that in mind, businesses should stop reflexively hiding their operations for the sake of efficiency and instead thoughtfully consider when and how to open them up to create more value for customers and employees alike.”

From Operational Transparency, Ryan W. Buell (120)

*     *     *

“By involving customers and other stakeholders in the definition of the [given] problem and the development of the so0lutions, design thinking garners a broad commitment to changed. And by supplying a structure to the innovation process, design thinking helps innovators collaborate and agree on what is essential to the outcome at every phase. It does this not only by overcoming workplace politics but by shaping the experiences of innovators, and of they key stakeholders and implementers, at ever step. [Begin italics] That [end italics] is social technology at work.”

From Why Design Thinking Matters, Jeanne Liedtka (191)

*     *     *

Obviously, no brief commentary such as mine can do full justice to the scope and depth of valuable information, insights, and counsel provided in this volume. I agree with the HBR Editors: These articles really do offer “the definitive management ideas of the year from Harvard Business Review.”

Here are two points of my own. First, there are no leadership or management issues. Rather, ultimately, there are only [begin italics] business [end italics] issues. Also, it is very important to think in terms of enterprise architecture as your organization’s primary strategy when reinventing how to accelerate personal growth and professional development.




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