HBR’s Makeover Needs a Makeover

by Jay Deragon on 11/10/2014

HBRLast month Harvard Business Review (HBR) announced they would be releasing a new makeover of the HBR web site. Last week the makeover was revealed and purely from a user’s perspective (is there any other perspective?) the new makeover needs a new makeover.

Sorry. the makeover seemed to take away instead of adding value

I visit HBR every day (or used to) and in particular the HBR Blog network. I found the authors and their articles informative, educational and enlightening for the most part but then again who am I.

I don’t know about you and maybe it is simply me and my lack of education from Harvard but when I engage with the new HBR web site interface several immediate problems occur. Here are a few:

  1. The load time initially was beyond slow and many times it didn’t load. As of this morning they seemed to have resolved that however the new site doesn’t support I.E. 8 or less. You have to upgrade your browser. In case HBR didn’t know I.E. 8.1 has had slow adoption so most of the browsers out there are 8.0 or less…
  2. Once it loads you are limited to accessing 5 articles unless you subscribe to the site then you are limited to no more than 15 articles a month. Of course you can get full unlimited access if you are a paying subscriber to the HBR magazine. I am not sure previous users will embrace these new restrictive rules that seem somewhat “anti-social”… What happen to sharing knowledge freely? Did Harvard suddenly decide to restrict knowledge while the rest of the world is sharing it openly? I am just asking.
  3. What if someone shares an article on LinkedIn of interest and a user tries to click through to read the article but they have already read their limit for the month? I think in the old days they called that “trapping” or a marketing technique called “bait and switch”. Today it is simply considered foolish.
  4. In the old design you could quickly tell what articles were the most read for the day or week. I found that meter as a good indicator of some level of quality and regularly looked at it. That feature is now gone so now visitors have no idea what is or isn’t popular to the overall audience. No big deal I suppose but maybe it is for some or many.
  5. Another indicator of possible value was how many times an article was shared on LinkedIn. That would at least indicate that a number of people felt the article was worthy of sharing with their network on LinkedIn which in turn drew my attention to it. That feature no longer exist so users are left to wonder and sorting through dozens of choices while wasting lots of time.

Now these five points are just a few examples of bad design and a poor launch of a “new makeover by HBR” in my opinion. Disappointing to say the least especially when the word “Harvard” carries the connotation of educated, smart, intelligent people who are at the top of the stratosphere of education. But even those at the top sometimes don’t think effectively about how these engagements affects the end customers experience with a service. Think of some of the horror stories of the Fortune 500 over the last five years. Isn’t Harvard where most of the Fortune 500 CEO’s graduated from? Just saying…

This proposed makeover should have been vetted with a sample user group, tested in all browsers and the issue of limited access to 5 or 15 articles per month….well go figure what value does HBR get out of that rule….more subscriptions to the magazine? I think not!

I love the authors and the content in HBR. I learn a lot from them and gain the insights I seek to expand my view of the evolving ecosystems of business. However, it appears as though HBR forgot to think through the engagement experience of their makeover and the implications of some of the things I’ve pointed out.

Then again it could be that I don’t have enough education to understand the thinking that went into this makeover. On the other hand maybe the thinking that went into this makeover needs a makeover. What say you?


The Chasm Of Management Practices

by Jay Deragon on 09/10/2014

There is a management chasm emerging that left unchecked could destroy your organizations future.

A chasm is a marked division, separation, or difference between one point and another. In the field of management practices the points are past practices vs. future practices. Being stuck in the chasm means you are not going anywhere but down the ravine.

In a Forbes article titled “Do Managers Matter Anymore?” Giovanni Rodriguez writes: While some very large firms can still get away with adopting a command-and-control approach to their ecosystem, the growth and learning of business ecosystems depend on adopting a very different leadership approach, one that focuses on persuasion and motivation. Leaders who rose in traditional command and control environments can find that this quickly takes them outside their comfort zone.

But there’s something even bigger they need to address, because even the bully pulpit is not enough. In the so-called leaderless world, CEOs not only need to raise their game as leaders.  They need to understand how to raise the game of others.  To quote management consulting icon Tom Peters – whose personal brand came of age at the dawn of the digital era that’s brought so much disruption, “leaders don’t create followers, they create more leaders.”

A very different kind of “CEO as hero” is now emerging, one who sees the opportunity to amplify the impact of everyone by shaping and influencing rather than directing.  That’s a long way from the mindset of the leaderless organization.  What we’re looking at is the opportunity to make organizations “leaderful.”  In the meantime, if you’re a CEO, we recommend that you ask if your leadership glass is half empty or half full.  There’s cause for optimism for CEOs who know they matter, but understand how others matter too.

But What Matters Most?

Most of our management rituals were invented (a very long time ago) to promote discipline, control, alignment, and predictability—all laudable goals. To out-innovate the upstarts, a company must reengineer all of these processes so they facilitate bold thinking and radical doing.  Thinking and acting radical is the new focus on the 21 century organization. To think and act radically requires management to not think selfishly. The entie model of management has been designed as a selfish tank of control and power.

In case you haven’t noticed selfishness is out and selflessness is in. That means management can no longer be the center of control of information and power rather management must serve the power nodes that control information and direct engagement with customers, markets, suppliers and employees.

The chasm is the ravine created by the lack of understanding and lack of willingness to understand.


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