The New India that Prime Minister Narendra Modi talks about is a blueprint for the future of the world’s largest democracy, a vibrant emerging economy, and an aspiring global power. Its objective is the transformation of the nation. To that end, this column aims to share inspiration and solutions to achieving such transformation by looking at leaders and organizations globally that have prioritised responsible business practices.
The importance and influence of Harvard Business Review (HBR) can hardly be overstated. It has brought its readers knowledge and insight on best-in-class business management practices since its inception in 1922. Developed by Wallace Brett Donham, the longest-serving dean in Harvard Business School’s history, HBR set out to teach the theory of business, based on rigorous research into how companies handle their greatest challenges, to teach executives sound judgment.
On the occasion of its 100th anniversary, Editor-in-Chief Adi Ignatius has published ‘HBR at 100’, a book of selected HBR articles from the past century. Readers follow the publication’s journey, from early days that focused on improving operational efficiency to a focus on industries and stakeholder relations, to today where it covers a broad array of topics, from how macroeconomic trends were impacting business, to dealing with labor unions, to adjusting to the new rules of finance.
I sat down with Ignatius last November, as well as his predecessor Suzy Welch in two separate interviews for my weekly podcast, ‘The Caring Economy’, where we explore the lives of great leaders and their views on the role of business in society. When I sat down with Ignatius, three points struck me about his life story and his views on business and society:
Dinner table conversations matter: All the Ignatius family came to the dinner table each evening, prepared to discuss current affairs and big ideas, and they have all been incredibly accomplished in their careers and civic engagement. His father rose to become US Secretary of the Navy. His mother had a fruitful career at the Environmental Protection Agency. His brother David is a prize-winning Washington Post journalist. And both of his sisters are accomplished attorneys, one of whom became a judge in New England and the other who went on to run the National Association for Armenian Studies and Research.
Practice forgiveness: As part of the Armenian diaspora, Ignatius notes how practicing forgiveness is a constant exercise for him. He states: “Because the Armenian story is one of survival, it does make the diaspora strong.” But the Armenian genocide is a raw part of his family’s history and they have worked hard to address the feelings of resentment and anger and hurt. Ignatius states that, “It comes up all day long. How you have to adapt to forgive and to accommodate to be able to coexist . . . That’s a challenge. It actually comes up all day long in a sense of forgiving your trespassers — or not.”
What we might not know about HBR: Some of the things that drive HBR these days are political and social issues of the day. The recent decade has given Ignatius and his team a clearer sense of HBR’s mission. It is not ideological– HBR has editors, not writers, who publish outsiders’ research and articles. But certain issues are now viewed as fundamental to business and society and are non-negotiable, including sustainability, DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion), factbased decision making, and taking a long-term perspective. While many of these ideas have become controversial in the past, Ignatius and his team are, “more comfortable planting the flag for research. The research shows that these issues are fundamental to the long-term success of organizations, which ultimately is what HBR is about.”
We look forward to helping catalyse responsible business practices in the New India’s vibrant young populace.