Harvard’s Must Reads

In honor of Book Day, we have highlighted Harvard University's reading recommendation for entrepreneurs, executives and business people: HBR’s 10 Must Reads 2022: The Definitive Management Ideas of the Year, a compilation of 10 articles about business, technology and leadership. Undoubtedly, a must-read text in such challenging times for organizations.

22 June 2022

Published in late 2021 by Harvard University Press, Harvard Business Review’s 10 Must Reads 2022: The Definitive Management Ideas of the Year is a roundup of 10 articles that reveal interesting insights into companies like Uber, Space X and many others that have revolutionized the economy in recent years. However, the authors — most of them professors at the prestigious university — also address strategic practices that can be implemented at the corporate level. Thus, there are essays ranging from “a more sustainable logistics chain” to some on “taking diversity seriously.”

The volume is only a click away and is available on Amazon’s website for less than US$10 for the Kindle version. Below, we provide some selected essays recommended as a reading guide for our Book Day celebration.

The era of Co-opetition: one of the book’s emblematic must-read essays is “The Rules of Co-opetition,” written by Brandenburger and Barry Nalebuff.  “It talks about the rivalry, risks and rewards of work teams. The authors use a series of examples that range from the moon landing and the Cold War to the founding of companies like Blue Origin and Space X, two of today’s highly relevant aerospace companies, founded by Jeff Bezos — the Amazon tycoon — and Elon Musk, the eccentric billionaire creator of Tesla,” reports El Cronista.

In the book, the authors discuss how landing on the moon was always about “cooperation,” even though in practice things did not work out that way. This is why they emphasize the importance of collaboration in today’s world. “President Kennedy first proposed a joint mission to the moon with the USSR when he met with Khrushchev in 1961 and again when he addressed the United Nations in 1963. It never happened, but in 1975 these Cold War rivals began working together on Apollo-Soyuz and since 1998 the International Space Station has been jointly managed, ushering in an era of collaboration,” according to the article. “Several countries are currently trying to establish a presence on the moon, and once again there are calls for them to join together in the venture. Even hyper-competitive Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk once met to discuss merging their Blue Origin and SpaceX companies. There is a name for the combination of competition and cooperation that a number of companies are currently working on, and it is: Co-opetition. In 1996, when we wrote a book about this phenomenon in business, cases were relatively rare. Now, the practice is common across a wide range of industries and has been adopted by rivals such as Apple and Samsung, DHL and UPS, Ford and GM, and Google and Yahoo.” The essay is a worthwhile read because it shows the importance of joining forces and working collaboratively, and claims that in a globalized world, this will be the key to addressing the challenges of the coming decades.

Bottom-Up Innovation: “How Apple is Organized for Innovation” is the title of the article written by Joel M. Podolny and Morten T. Hansen. Together they tell the stories from a management perspective of Steve Jobs, Apple’s founder, and Tim Cook, the current CEO who continues Job’s legacy to this day, as well as those of the teams that have worked at the company. “As Harvard Business School historian Alfred Chandler has documented, U.S. companies such as DuPont and General Motors moved from a functional to a multidivisional structure in the early twentieth century. By the second half of the century, the great majority of large corporations had followed suit. Apple demonstrates that this conventional approach is not required, and that as the importance of artificial intelligence and other new areas has increased, that structure has changed,” according to the article. Apple’s main goal is to create products that enrich people’s daily lives. That means not only developing entirely new categories, such as the iPhone and Apple Watch, but also continually innovating within those categories. Perhaps no product feature better reflects Apple’s commitment to continuous innovation than what happened with the iPhone camera, which revolutionized the world of photography by enabling anyone with a smartphone to become a near-expert photographer.

“When the iPhone was unveiled in 2007, Steve Jobs spent just six seconds talking about its camera during the annual keynote event where new products were introduced. Since then, iPhone camera technology has contributed to the photography industry with a number of innovations: high dynamic range imaging (2010), panoramic photos (2012), True Tone flash (2013), optical image stabilization (2015), the dual-lens camera (2016), portrait mode (2016), portrait lighting (2017), and night mode (2019) are just a few of the improvements. Senior leader Paul Hubel played a central role in the innovation effort required to create portrait mode. This meant that he and his team took a big risk: if users weren’t willing to pay an extra premium for a phone with a better, more expensive camera, the team would most likely lose credibility and the next time they came up with an expensive upgrade or feature it would be rejected. Ultimately, the camera turned out to be a defining feature of the iPhone 7 Plus, and its success further enhanced Hubel and his team’s reputations,” explains Joel M. Podolny, one of the authors. This goes to show that innovation is often a life-or-death activity within corporations. And that Steve Jobs’ six second talk about the Iphone’s camera became an entire team’s obsession to make their product even more desirable. That’s undoubtedly thinking outside the box.

From anywhere: “Our Work-from-Anywhere Future,” is the title of Prithwiraj Choudhury’s article, which deals with the benefits and challenges of remote work, a hugely pertinent topic for today’s times. “Before 2020 a movement was brewing within knowledge-work organizations. Personal technology and digital connectivity had advanced so far and so fast that people had begun to ask, ‘Do we really need to be together, in an office, to do our work?’ We got our answer during the pandemic lockdowns. We learned that a great many of us don’t in fact need to be colocated with colleagues on-site to do our jobs. Individuals, teams, entire workforces, can perform well while being entirely distributed — and they have. So now we face new questions: Are all-remote or majority-remote organizations the future of knowledge work? Is work from anywhere (WFA) here to stay?” writes Choudhury.

Without a doubt, says the article, the model offers significant benefits to companies and their employees. Organizations can reduce or eliminate real estate costs, recruit and benefit from global talent while minimizing immigration issues, and, research indicates, perhaps enjoy productivity gains. “To better understand how leaders can capture the upside of WFA while overcoming the challenges and avoiding negative outcomes, I’ve studied several companies that have embraced all- or majority-remote models. They include the United States Patent and Trademark Office, or USPTO (which has several thousand WFA workers); Tulsa Remote; Tata Consultancy Services, or TCS (a global IT services company that has announced a plan to be 75% remote by 2025); GitLab (the world’s largest all-remote company, with 1,300 employees); Zapier (a workflow automation company with more than 300 employees, none of them colocated, around the United States and in 23 other countries); and MobSquad (a Canadian start-up that employs WFA workers)” writes Choudhury. The author addresses the challenges of what remote work means and heavily emphasizes co-creation or socialization, which is the basis of reasonable doubt for remote work. An outstanding piece, well worth reading.

“Negotiating Your Next Job” Another must-read article in this book is by Hannah Riley Bowles and Bobbi Thomason, who discuss research on how executives negotiate a promotion or the search for a new job. “Drawing from a research project in which we collected thousands of stories from recent professional-school graduates, mid-level managers, and senior executives from seven global regions about how they advanced at pivotal points in their careers, we propose four steps for preparing for your career negotiations,” the authors explain. The first point talks about starting with career objectives. “In our experience, negotiators too often start their preparation focused on the opportunity right in front of them, such as a job offer, rather than on their ultimate work and life aspirations,” they maintain. Another point to consider is that career negotiations are divided into three categories. When requesting a negotiation, a proposal is made for something that is standard for someone in your role or at your level. In flexible negotiations, you should request a personal exception or an unusual arrangement that goes against typical organizational practices or norms (for example, a remote work setup or a promotion to a position for which you lack the conventional qualifications). And as part of shaping negotiations, they propose ways to take a role in bringing change to your organizational environment or in creating a new initiative (such as revamping the way a project is implemented or launching a new business unit). The authors insist that, “Depending on whether you are in an asking, a bending, or a shaping negotiation, you will need to vary your arguments to win your counterparts’ support.” Perhaps one of the most compelling points brought out in this essay is that it talks about reducing ambiguity about what, how and with whom to negotiate. No one would advise walking blindly into a potential negotiation, and yet people do it all the time. The essay makes for even more interesting reading with the case described by journalist Kate MacArthur, who relates how actor Mark Wahlberg negotiated a payment of US$1.5 million to reshoot some scenes in a Hollywood movie, while his co-star Michelle Williams accepted less than US$1,000 for the same work. That case has been singled out as an example of women’s failure to negotiate, but the underlying problem was a lack of information about what was negotiable. Williams was led to believe that all the actors in the reshoot were donating their time to save the film following the removal of another co-from the cast. In this regard, the key to negotiating is to have as much information as possible in order to make the right decision.