HBR’s 10 Must Reads 2018

HBR.pngA pleasure to read as usual!  The collection typically includes articles, which I do not find attractive based on the topic or an industry and would not read otherwise.  However, these are often the articles with the most insight and the most unexpected perspective of the business in general.

A couple of most unexpected discoveries are below.

Customer Loyalty is Overrated

The problem: Product innovations often flame out on launch, despite tremendous efforts to make them attractive, relevant, and up-to-date.

Why It Happens: Customers don’t want to spend the mental energy needed to choose between products.

The Solution: To strengthen customers’ habits, innovations should represent a progression of the brand rather than a break with the past.

…you should find ways to make products fit in people’s environment to encourage use.  when P&G introducced Febreze, consumers liked the way it worked but did not use it often.  Part of the problem, it turned out, was that the container was shaped like a glass-cleaner bottle, signaling that it should be kept under the sink.  The bottle was ultimately redesigned to be kept on a counter or in a more visible cabinet, and use after purchase increased.

Tide: The new products all preserved the look of Tide’s traditional pasckaging – the brilliant orange and the bull’s-eye logo.  The few times in Tide history when that look was altered – such as with blue packaging for the Tide Coldwater launch – the effect on consumers was significanlty negative, and the change was quickly rerersed.

Visualizations That Really Work

Context: Knowledge workers need greater visual literacy than they used to, because so much data – and so many ideas – a not presented graphically.  But few of us have been taught data-visualization skills.

Tools are fine…   Inexpensive tools allow anyone to perform simple tasks such as importing spreadsheet data into a bar chart.  But that means it’s easy to create terrible charts.  Visualization can be so much more: it’s an agile, powerful way to explore ideas and communicate information.

…. But strategy is key:  Don’t jump straight to execution.  Instead, first think about what you’re representing – ideas or data?  Then consider your purpose: Do you want to inform, persuade, or explore?  The answers will suggest what tools and resources you need.

The Performance Management Evolution

The Problem: By emphasizing individual accountability for past results, traditional appraisals give short shrift to improving current performance and developing talent for the future.  That can hinder long-term competitiveness.

The solution: To better support employee development, many organizations are dropping or radically changing their annual review system in favor of giving people less formal, more frequent feedback that follows the natural cycle of work.

The Outlook: This shift isn’t just a fad – real business needs are driving it.  Support at the top is critical, though.  Some firms that have struggled to go entirely without ratings are trying a “third way”: assigning multiple ratings several times a year to encourage employees’ growth.

At GE a new business strategy based on innovation was the biggest reason the company recently began eliminating individual ratings and annual reviews.  …Supervisors will have an end-of-year summary discussion with subordinates, but the goal is to push frequent conversations with employees (GE calls them “touchpoings”) and keep revisiting two basic questions: What am I doing that I should keep doing?  And What am I doing that I should change?  

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