HBR’s 10 Must Reads: 2021

HBR’s 10 Must Reads 2021: The Definitive Management Ideas of the Year from Harvard Business Review
Various Contributors
Harvard Business Review Press (October 2020)

How to balance “today’s existential imperatives with leadership for the long term”

Although these HBR articles were first published in 2019 and 2020, they are by no means dated. Thought leaders offer definitive management ideas when addressing issues that are timeless. In this instance, the HBR Editors selected articles that would be especially helpful go those in need of cutting-edge thinking that drives business success this decade.

This volume contains eleven articles plus a “bonus” (Marcus Buckingham and Ashley Goodall’s “The Feedback Fallacy”) and Scott Berinato’s “That Discomfort,” the most-read article on hbr.com of all time. If you were to purchase all 11 articles as reprints, the total cost would be about $100. You can purchase a copy of the paperbound edition from Amazon for only $18.27. That’s quite a bargain.

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Here are five “snapshots” from the Editors’ Note:

As Marcus Buckingham and Ashley Goodall argue in “The Feedback Fallacy,” [continuous negative feedback] doesn’t actually help employees thrive, because identifying failure and telling people how to correct it will never produce great performance. Foster learning by showing what they’re doing well. This was one of HBR’s most popular — and widely debated — articles in recent years.

“Cross-Silo Leadership,” by Tiziana Casciaro, Amy C. Edmondson, and Sujin Jang, explores the activities leaders can support to promote horizontal teamwork in their companies and help employees connect with and learn from people who think very differently from them.

In “Toward a Racially Just Workplace,” Laura Morgan Roberts and Anthony J. Mayo argue that companies can take specific steps to achieve racial fairness. They can shift their focus from the most lucrative task to the right task, encourage open conversation about race, revamp diversity and inclusion programs to clarify goals and focus on proactive steps, and manage development across all career stages.

In “The Age of Continuous Connect,” Nicholaj Siggelkow and Christian Terwiesch identify four effective and connected strategies: filling customers’ requests quickly, and seamlessly; presenting individually tailored recommendations; reminding people of their needs and goals and nudging them to act; and anticipating what people want and delivering it without being asked.

Gary Pisano explains why innovative cultures are hard to create and sustain in the McKinsey-Award-winning “The Hard Truth About Innovative Cultures.” Easy-to-like behaviors must be counterbalanced by some tougher ones: intolerance for incompetence, rigorous discipline, brutal candor, a high level of individual accountability, and strong leadership. Unless the tensions created by this paradox are carefully managed, attempts ti create an innovative culture will fail.

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In each of these and other articles in the book, the primary emphasis is on explaining HOW to achievement the most important objective(s) as effectively and as efficiently as possible.

Obviously, it would be a fool’s errand to attempt to apply all the insights and counsel provided. The reader’s challenge is to select whatever is most immediately relevant to the needs, strategic objectives, resources, and values of the given organization.

When doing so, here are two observations to keep in mind. First, from Peter Drucker: “There is surely nothing quite so useless as doing with great efficiency what should not be done at all.” And then, from Albert Einstein: “Make everything as simple as possible but no simpler.”


HBR’s 10 Must Reads 2021 [colon] The Definitive Management Ideas of the Year from Harvard Business Review, Harvard Business Review Press, How to balance “today’s existential imperatives with leadership for the long term”

Marcus Buckingham, Ashley Goodall,  “The Feedback Fallacy”, Scott Berinato, “That Discomfort”,

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