The HBR List
Our annual survey of emerging ideas considers how nanotechnology will affect commerce, what role hope plays in leadership, and why, in an age that practically enshrines accountability, we need to beware of “accountabalism.”
|1. The Accidental Influentials *|
Duncan J. Watts
In his best seller The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell argues that “social epidemics” are driven in large part by the actions of a tiny minority of special individuals. The idea seems intuitively right—we think we see it happening all the time. Nevertheless, this isn’t actually how ideas spread. It’s better to focus on getting enough plain, ordinary people to sign on.
2. Entrepreneurial Japan
Japan’s economic rebound is generally attributed to the turnaround of corporate giants and to industry consolidation. But it is also fueled by the emergence of new companies led by entrepreneurs in their twenties and thirties. An entrepreneurial Japan—no longer an oxymoron—may ultimately overshadow the much touted start-up cultures of China and India.
3. Brand Magic: Harry Potter Marketing
Frédéric Dalsace, Coralie Damay, and David Dubois
Most brands target a specific age group. The big problem with this approach is that it positively discourages customer loyalty—and, as we all know, it’s a lot cheaper to keep customers than to find new ones. To get around this problem, companies should consider creating brands that mature with their customers.
4. Algorithms in the Attic
For a powerful perspective on future business, take a hard look at mathematics past: the old equations collecting dust on academics’ shelves. Just as big firms need the keen eye of an intellectual property curator to appreciate the value of old patents and know-how, they will need savvy mathematicians to resurrect long-forgotten equations that, because of advancing technology, can finally be applied to business.
5. The Leader from Hope
Harry Hutson and Barbara Perry
Most business leaders shy away from the word “hope.” Yet hope has been shown to be the key ingredient of resilience in survivors of traumas ranging from prison camps to natural disasters. So if you are an executive trying to lead an organization through change, know that hope can be a potent force in your favor. And it’s yours to give.
6. An Emerging Hotbed of User-Centered Innovation *
Eric von Hippel
Most countries, developing and developed alike, view innovation as a vital input to their economic growth and spend varying portions of their national budgets to support it in companies and research labs, for the ultimate benefit of essentially passive consumers. Denmark is taking a different tack: It’s making “user-centered innovation” a national priority.
7. Living with Continuous Partial Attention
“Continuous partial attention”—distinct from multitasking—is an adaptive behavior that presumably allows us to keep pace with the never-ending bandwidth technology offers. Now there are signs of a backlash against the tyranny of tantalizing choices.
8. Borrowing from the PE Playbook
Michael C. Mankins
Company coffers are overflowing these days, and inevitably executives are turning to the M&A markets in their quest to put the cash to good use. If they’re to avoid repeating the disappointments of previous M&A waves, they will have to take a few leaves from the acquisition playbook of private equity firms.
9. When to Sleep on It
Use your conscious mind to acquire all the information you need to arrive at a difficult decision, but don’t try to analyze it. Instead, go on holiday and let your unconscious mind digest the information for a day or two. Whatever your intuition then tells you is almost certainly going to be the best choice.
10. Here Comes XBRL
Robert G. Eccles, Liv Watson, and Mike Willis
A new software standard for financial and business reporting, soon to be adopted by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, will make it dramatically easier to generate, validate, aggregate, and analyze business and financial information—which in turn will improve the quality of the information companies use to make decisions.