Last week I participated in a roundtable discussion with Karen Dillon, editor of the Harvard Business Review (HBR) while attending the annual retreat of Counselors Academy, a section of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) comprised of agency owners and leaders.
Dillon presented some of the top business topics being discussed at Harvard and, in particular, at HBR. She started by commenting on how much change has happened in such a short period of time and that she was a bit challenged in creating a manageable list for our meeting since there are so many hot issues at the moment.
Here was her eclectic list, with some relevant points that came up during our engaging conversation:
1. Analytics: I was delighted this was topic one, since we spend so much time focused on measurement at BG. This has become key at all levels of business and, interestingly, the push in academics is that it’s NOT just about numbers. While analytics is a growing science, there also needs to be judgment as a leading part of decision making. Without good judgment, analytics will not necessarily lead a company in the right direction.
2. Being the Good Guys Again: There is a huge emphasis on turning around the “bad guy” reputation of business. This month’s issue of HBR features a story by Michael Porter & Mark Kramer titled “Creating Shared Value” that focuses on the potential of shared values as a goal rather than just shareholder’s pocketbooks. It’s an interesting read about changing a company’s position from corporate social responsibility (CSR) to creating shared value (CSV). While the long-term gains for society would be quite positive, it will be interesting to see what percentage of business embraces this view.
3. Are Leaders Being Trained for the Global Economy? Many business leaders and academicians are worried about whether or not our future leaders are receiving the right training now. What are the skills sets that will be needed in ten or twenty years? Given how quickly business, economies and governments are changing, this is a moving target. It is being answered differently in different parts of the country and world.
4. Business Model Reinvention: This is another story in this month’s issue of HBR and one that we discussed in relation to the media sector. When, how and why should companies reinvent themselves? The media industry has been forced to reinvent itself and is still going through the process. Dillon believes that eventually we will move to paid models of news content as the free model is not sustainable. HBR and many other media organizations are experimenting with online models and Dillon emphasized the importance of Apps in particular as the public moves to a smartphone/iPad/notebook environment. She called organizations that are making these changes “disruptive innovators.” Isn’t that a wonderful phrase?
5. Connecting Strategy to Execution: This ties back to item 1 doesn’t it? Great ideas need real execution that can ultimately by analyzed for success or failure. Which leads to item 6…
6. The Issue of Failure: A topic that business does not like to talk about, but is critical for learning and growth. Seth Godin wrote about failure for HBR and the publication is always looking for failure vignettes that provide positive learning for readers (hint hint all you PR pros).
7. Collaboration: Over the next 10 to 20 years this will be happening more and more – across countries, governments and businesses. Business needs to collaborate in order to get in front of governments. They need to figure out creative solutions to working in emerging markets before government mandates it for them. Dillon points out we still don’t know how to do this well so there will be failures here.
8. Social Media: We already know all about this one, right readers? Dillon commented that many companies still do not understand how to develop an online relationship with customers. What an opportunity for those of us who understand and embrace social media.
My next step is to subscribe to HBR and start participating in its online Advisory Council. Oh and one more thing, this sort of falls under Analytics, but in a very meaningful way. Dillon said one of the most popular HBR story of 2010 was “How Will You Measure Your Life?” by Clay Christensen. That’s a subject I believe is worth analysis, right now.