HBR IdeaCast Greatest Hits

HBR IdeaCastYou’ve probably heard of Harvard Business Review, but have you heard of the HBR IdeaCast? It’s a fantastic and free podcast that summarizes a lot of content in the Harvard business review publication and it’s been running for well over a decade.

I’ve been burning through the archives and created a list of the best episodes I’ve listened to. Hopefully these episodes give a sense of some of the great material available on the podcast.

Episode #654: Stop initiative overload


This is a great episode on a topic that I’ve experienced the pain of first-hand. There are just too many initiatives coming down and across from all directions in your organization and managers have little enough time as it is! This episode offers some good insights and tips to help.

For example, taking stock at the organizational-level of all initiatives across departments and truly prioritizing the highest impact ones. Also thinking not just about the startup cost of a new initiative, but the ongoing maintenance cost, just like in software.  Great things to keep in mind the next time you have that amazing idea for a new initiative.. 🙂

Episode #566: Reduce organization drag


I really enjoyed listening to this episode, as it’s a subject near and dear to my heart. Filled with lots of simple tips on how to save time. Examples such as including too many people on email chains, using reply all when you shouldn’t and eliminating wasteful meetings. The guest states that he believes “Reply all accounts for 3-4% of productivity loss for all companies.” Quite a bold statement!

Reply all accounts for 3-4% of productivity loss for all companies.

Another interesting observation he makes is that the cost of creating meetings has gone way down over the years with the advancement of technology. Managers can easily lose 20% of their week to meetings they don’t need to attend, attend from start to finish, or that happened in the first place.

Episode #139: Is transparency the best policy?


This episode features a great case study from the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. It’s the story of a great turn-around where a new president and CEO, Paul Levy, was able to avoid mass layoffs by conducting an open survey of all employees on how costs could be cut during the very difficult economic climate in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis. Honest hard facts were laid out and people across the org were encouraged to weigh in with their opinions. The whole process was run very transparently. In the end the layoffs were avoided.

I think there is a lot to take away from this story. How to approach leading transparently in all kinds of difficult situations while preserving morale by being inclusive. People are just more invested and happy when they are part of creating the solution. They will have ideas and insights that you won’t, especially as you get further away from them in the org hierarchy. The case is made that it’s also just good business. I completely agree.

Episode #510: Closing the strategy-execution gap


Strategy and execution are inextricably linked. You can’t talk about strategy without talking about execution. The author and guest on this episode wrote a book based on studying many successful companies and how the link was critical to their success. One particularly interesting point of discussion is how to embrace what is already in place in your culture and use it to push your strategy forward, and vice versa – linking your culture to your strategy and the choices you need to make.

Episode #315: pressed for time? Give some of yours away


One thing I love about HBR is that most of the recommendations come from actual studies. In this episode, a researcher talks about how giving time to someone else by helping them can actually make you feel more productive and feel as if you have more time.

You can even turn this around and give yourself more time to do other productive tasks that energize you. This helps you do more in less time, reduce the chance of burnout, and allows you to feel productive even if you aren’t making headway on one specific thing.


The HBR IdeaCast is an excellent podcast. You don’t need to pay for an expensive HBR subscription to get the great management wisdom of hundreds of management thought leaders! Plus its super convenient on the go. Give it a listen.

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