HBR November/December 2022: Defining your company’s values

Harvard Business Review

November/December 2022

Annotated table of contents

  1. Adi Ignatius, From the sports arena to the business realm

Adi Ignatius, the editor in chief of HBR, reflects on leadership lessons from participating in sports and highlights the article on formula one in this issue.

Idea watch

2. HBR Team, Revitalizing culture in the world of hybrid work

New research on the relationship between culture and hybrid work by the consultancy firm Gartner makes the distinction between alignment and connectedness, between knowing what the culture is and being identified with it. The suggestion is that while alignment may be more work location dependent, it is possible to foster a sense of identification with the company and its values independent of location. Three strategies are considered: diffusing the culture through the work processes; encouraging emotional proximity by acknowledging how employees are important; and focusing on microcultures in departments and teams. Brendan Reidy, the chief people officer of Acushnet, the parent company of golf brands Titleist and FootJoy, discusses how these ideas apply in his work with the company’s almost 6500 global associates,

3. Amy Meeker, Negative reviews can boost sales even more than positive ones

Meeker interviews Professor Nailya Ordabayeva on her research, with colleagues, on the impact of reviews on the purchase of sports team merchandise by fans. They found that fans respond in predictable alignment with negative and positive reviews when they find that the reviewer is similar to them, in terms of geographic location, age, gender, and sports team affiliation. When the reviewer is perceived as socially distant, their right to criticise is contested and negative reviews may provoke compensatory, overly positive behaviour towards the team. Thus, a sports team may benefit from negative reviews, at least when these are penned by perceived adversaries, and it makes sense to publish them.

4. Michele Buck, the CEO of Hershey, on turning a candy company into a snacks empire

Michele Buck has been the CEO of Hershey for five years and a half and her tenure has coincided with the transformation of the company into a snacking giant, while strengthening its traditional, and extremely successful, confectionery business. In this article, Buck explains how she prepared for this transformation by canvassing support from investors and internal stakeholders, overcoming some initial resistance. In the core confectionery business, there has been a shift from the emphasis on product innovation to more creative and effective marketing, packaging, and pricing. To expand into snacking, following a thorough market analysis, Hershey embarked onto a series of acquisitions and devised an integration process that brings in back-office functions but allows flexibility to the product development, marketing and sales teams. As a result, annual sales are now approaching $10bn and the market capitalisation has doubled.

Spotlight: Defining your company’s values

5. Paul Ingram and Yoonjin Choi, What does your company really stand for?

Ingram and Choi argue that values alignment, the alignment between the values of the organization, those of its employees and strategy is the key to superior performance across any number of indicators, including job satisfaction, turnover, communications, and negotiations. In this article they outline a process for achieving this alignment, which includes five steps. To begin, surveys and other canvassing of views across the whole labour force will provide a realistic view of the state of play on values from the bottom up. A separate exercise should identify the values consistent with the strategy. A senior team should then identify candidates for values that could answer to both criteria – commitment from the labour force and consistency with strategy – and assess their suitability. The best candidates across the board should be appropriately refined, adopted and promoted consistently in behaviour as well as formal declarations.

6. Roger L. Martin and Martin Reeves, Strategy in a hyperpolitical world

Martin and Reeves propose a guide for making choices when values clash, starting with the development of robust principles before crises arise. They recommend that ethical issues should be defined and confronted early and they should be communicated and implemented consistently. The authors also stress the need to engage beyond the industry, creating a wider constituency, and the need to remain open to learning from mistakes. The article uses a wide variety of examples of good and problematic choices, crises averted and crises overcome.

7. Ranjay Gulati, To see the way forward, look back

Poised between past and future, companies as much as individuals need to be able to identify the elements in their histories that give precious elements of continuity and to reframe the ones they need to leave behind. The article offers guidance on how to evaluate and make choices that can orient actions in the future, unite the community and help create a sense of continuity and connection.


8. HBR interviews with leaders, The ideas that inspire us

To mark its 100 anniversary, HBR collects here a series of interviews with influential CEOs who share their approach to values and the ideas that inspire them. They are Stéphane Bancel (Moderna), Anish Shah (Mahindra), Roz Brewer (Walgreens Boots Alliance), Nicolas Hieronimus (L’Oréal), Joey Wat (Yum China), Mo Ibrahim (Celtel), Ignacio Galán (Iberdrola), and Indra Nooyi (PepsiCo). These testimonies make clear that while the emphasis may differ, business success is strongly linked to commitment to a higher purpose and an enlightened approach to meeting the needs of customers, employers and investors alike.

9. Anita Elberse, Number one in Formula One

Until this year, the Formula One Mecedes team, led by Toto Wolff, enjoyed a long winning streak, drawing a great deal of attention from commentators and analysts. In this article, the Harvard Business School professor Anita Elberse, who has enjoyed behind the scenes access to the team for a year, distils six characteristics of Wolff’s leadership style that go some way towards explaining their success. Thus, Wolff is widely recognised for setting the highest standards for everyone; for putting people front and centre; for a thorough approach to analysing mistakes, however small; for fostering an open, no-blame culture; for trusting his superstars while maintaining authority; and for relentlessly battling complacency. Each of these characteristics is illustrated with examples from the rich history of the team and testimonies from a variety of team members.  

10. Matthew Weinzierl, Prithwiraj (Raj) Choudhury, Tarun Khanna, Alan MacCormack, and Brendan Rosseau, Your company needs a space strategy. Now

Weinzierl and his colleagues at Harvard Business School take stock of developments in space exploration in the two decades since the field has become open to private investment. They find there is a sense of momentum and spell out several areas in which all companies may be able to benefit from the advancement of space exploration. In terms of data, there are huge leaps in gathering information from space and in the transmission of it through space, for instance in the measurement of environmental impacts through remote-sensing satellites. Further, the low-gravity space environment is supporting a large amount of R&D in pharmaceuticals and manufacturing processes. The emerging space economy offers opportunities to industries who can make use of space assets and can respond to increasing demand for space services. It is a fast-moving area of innovation, with large risks but also large opportunities for extraordinary breakthroughs.  

11. Della F. Washington, The five stages of DEI maturity

Washington distils findings from decades of research and her own experience of working with hundreds of companies to define five stages in the adoption of diversity, equity, and inclusion standards: aware, compliant, tactical, integrated and sustainable. For each stage, she offers a diagnostic description, including criteria such as level of awareness of issues involved, key indicators, external/internal commitment, dispersion versus integration of efforts, and resilience of mechanisms and processes. To facilitate correct diagnosis, Washington provides a set of questions, allowing leaders and companies to tackle the right problems, increasing their chances of making progress over time. Each stage is also illustrated with examples, such as Ben and Jerry’s, Iora Health, Denny’s, Nike, Slack, Uncle Nearest and Intel. Overall, survey responses from knowledge workers indicate that about a third of companies are compliant in DEI, but only 16% are in the sustainable phase.

12. Ajay Agrawal, Joshua Gans, and Avi Goldfarb, From prediction to transformation

Agrawal and his colleagues outline in this article how AI’s superior predictive capability can begin to power system-wide innovation as it impacts decision-making across an organisation or an ecosystem. Initially, the information and prediction problems tackled by AI have been quite narrow and specialised, as shown in wide-spread applications such as translation software, the classification of medical images, or the identification of financial fraud. In the next wave of innovation, whole organisations and value chains will be reconfigured to take advantage of new opportunities identified by AI. When well-integrated, AI applications can resolve both problems of coordination, such as the synchronization of work and assignment of resources, and effective modularisation to take account of spatial and temporal delays.

13. Herminia Ibarra, How to do sponsorship right

Ibarra finds that mentoring relationships can fall in one of four categories: instruction (they transmit information, but public advocacy and relationship authenticity are low), career advancement (which has a strong public advocacy element), emotional support (where relational authenticity is most important) and authentic sponsorship (both public advocacy and relationship authenticity are present). When relationships stop progressing, Ibarra finds a number of common blockages or problems: a bias towards ‘like me’ thinking; difficulty of going beyond facades of conformity to reach authentic connection; gaps in giving or accepting feedback; complications with assessing confidence and real competence. Ibarra draws on interviews and small group discussions at a range of organisations to create stylized examples and illustrate relationship types, blockages and interventions to restore momentum.  

14. Jim Dickie, Boris Groysberg, Benson P. Shapiro, and Barry Trailer, Can AI really help you sell?

Dickie et al. construct a sales success matrix in which the use of AI is adapted to two dimensions: the level of relationship (growing in complexity from transactional vendor to trusted co-creator) and the level of the process (which can increase in sophistication from ad-hoc transactions to customised). Thus, at the simpler, starting level, the most useful forms of AI are chatbots and other applications that can decrease costs and increase efficiency. At the next level, AI can help by analysing opportunities and customer needs. Finally, for deeper and more sophisticated relationships and processes, AI can be used to generate deep insights. The article illustrates best practice with a discussion of several examples, such as Accenture’s Value Insights Platform, Aviso’s sales-enabling work for Honeywell and Seismic LiveSocial’s work for SAP.  

15. Goutam Challagalla and Frédéric Dalsace, Moving the needle on sustainability

Challagalla and Dalsace investigate four strategies for brands with a superior commitment and contribution to sustainability to position themselves and increase market share: fertilising, transplanting, grafting, and hybridizing. In existing markets, a brand may fertilise through the addition of an extra sustainable feature that attracts more customers; or existing customers could be persuaded to use the product in a more sustainable way, through grafting. Approaching new markets, brands can adopt a new sustainability purpose (hybridizing) or serve new customer needs by extending the sustainability benefits of current offerings (transplanting).  Each of these strategies is illustrated with examples and the authors offer a process for developing a strategy appropriate for any brand, starting with an examination of the current approach and evaluating customer response to proposed changes.


16. Steven Rogelberg, Make the most of your one-on-one meetings

One-on-one meetings are one of the main tools managers have for the coordination of work for their direct reports, and for stimulating engagement and motivation. These meetings are the place where leadership happens and doing them well can be a decisive factor in the success of the teams. In this article Rogelberg spells out the main issues to consider before and after the meetings, and how to develop the skill over time. Before the meetings, it is important to make public the basic rules of engagement; to determine an effective cadence, taking account of factors such as the level of experience of team members, manager tenure, team size; to set a location; and to create an agenda. During the meetings, the manager needs to pay particular attention to setting the tone, listening, providing perspective, showing flexibility, and ending on a good note. Improving over time depends on soliciting and acting on feed-back from team members.

17. Mary C. Gentile, David Danks, and Maralee Harrell, Case study: Does facial recognition tech enhance security?

The facial recognition system newly introduced by a day-care centre for children proves sensitive and biased, triggering unwarranted alarms and disrupting the life of the centre. Are there any remedies and adjustments that could improve the performance of the system? Or is face recognition simply not ready for wide adoption?  

18. Kelsey Gripenstraw, Our social media addiction

Gripenstraw reviews three books on social media, discussing the addictive features of these platforms and their play on our susceptibility to dopamine highs. Especially for young people, who are still learning to self-regulate their emotions and behaviours, there is worrying evidence that over reliance on devices and frequent interruptions may be detrimental for the development of the brain.

19. Alision Beard, Life’s work interview with Jann Wenner

Jann Wenner founded Rolling Stone, one of the most influential music magazines of all times, running it for fifty years. In this interview, marking the publication of his memoir, he answers questions about his style of managing the business and the relationships with artists and writers. His guiding philosophy: “If you are good at something and can do it well, and what you’re putting out is helpful to people and society, then you should enjoy yourself.”