One of the few podcasts I still listen to is the HBR Ideacast, a weekly, twenty-minute show — usually an interview — put out by the editors of the Harvard Business Review. “Business” is a pretty broad topic, so not every episode grabs my interest. The last three, however, have resonated powerfully with me.
In the first, Michael Beer talks about the kind of business that I want to work for, ones that put priority on their social impact, and do well financially as a result. In the second, Nancy Koehn discusses how our understanding of capitalism is shifting and that businesses are discovering that just as important as what they do is how they do it. In the third, Heidi Grant Halvorson breaks some misconceptions about and shares research-based techniques for achieving success.
The first pair is obviously linked, with their focus on the social footprint of today’s enterprises. I found a subtle connection between the first and third, as well. When Heidi talks about how we get our best results when we emphasize getting better rather than doing well, I heard echoes of Michael’s thesis that the sorts of companies he and his co-authors profiled performed well financially precisely because they didn’t make it their sole objective. It put me in mind of Peter Drucker’s writings about the nature of businesses, that they did not exist solely to deliver shareholder value, but that they necessarily existed to serve some purpose and that profits were a byproduct of that activity. Nancy’s comments on the emerging notion of “shareholder capitalism” give me hope that those ideas might actually take hold.