HBS Working Knowledge readers want it all, judging by our all-time most popular articles. Here you'll find stories on everything from maintaining a professional image to writing a business plan, from how to market on social media to why music pirates may have actually helped the music industry.
Readers also benefitted when, in 2008, we began to publish HBS faculty working papers—often the first expressions of emerging ideas on the cutting edge of management research. The most popular paper looks at the dark side of goal-setting, with the provocative title Goals Gone Wild. Other papers in this collection look at how to improve decision making, encouraging employees to speak up, and the difficulty of coordinating communication in a complex organization.
Most Popular Articles 2000-2010
Creating a Positive Professional Image
Published: June 20, 2005
In today's diverse workplace, your actions and motives are constantly under scrutiny. Time to manage your own professional image before others do it for you. An interview with Laura Morgan Roberts.
Music Downloads: Pirates-or Customers?
Published: June 21, 2004
Professor Felix Oberholzer-Gee and co-author Koleman Strumpf floored the disbelieving music industry with their findings that illegal music downloads don't hurt CD sales. Oberholzer discusses what the industry should do next.
A Balanced Scorecard Approach to Measure Customer Profitability
Published: August 8, 2005
Happy customers are good, but profitable customers are much better. In this article, professor and Balanced Scorecard guru Robert S. Kaplan introduces BSC Customer Profitability Metrics. From Balanced Scorecard Report.
Marketing Your Way Through a Recession
Published: March 3, 2008
In a recession, consumers become value oriented, distributors are concerned about cash, and employees worry about their jobs. But a downturn is no time to stop spending on marketing. The key, says professor John Quelch, is to understand how the needs of your customers and partners change, and adapt your strategies to the new reality.
Understanding Users of Social Networks
Published: September 14, 2009
Many business leaders are mystified about how to reach potential customers on social networks such as Facebook. Professor Mikolaj Jan Piskorski provides a fresh look into the interpersonal dynamics of these sites and offers guidance for approaching these tantalizing markets.
Social Network Marketing: What Works?
Published: July 27, 2009
Purchase decisions are influenced differently in social networks than in the brick-and-mortar world, says Harvard Business School professor Sunil Gupta. The key: Marketers should tap into the networking aspect of sites such as Facebook.
Enron's Lessons for Managers
Published: July 12, 2004
Like the Challenger space shuttle disaster was a learning experience for engineers, so too is the Enron crash for managers, says Harvard Business School professor Malcolm S. Salter. Yet what have we learned?
Power Posing: Fake It Until You Make It
Published: September 20, 2010
Nervous about an upcoming presentation or job interview? Holding one's body in "high-power" poses for short time periods can summon an extra surge of power and sense of well-being when it's needed, according to Harvard Business School professor Amy J.C. Cuddy.
10 Reasons to Design a Better Corporate Culture
Published: December 22, 2008
Organizations with strong, adaptive cultures enjoy labor cost advantages, great employee and customer loyalty, and a smoother on-ramp in leadership succession. A book excerpt from The Ownership Quotient: Putting the Service Profit Chain to Work for Unbeatable Competitive Advantage by HBS professors Jim Heskett and W. Earl Sasser and coauthor Joe Wheeler.
Updating a Classic: Writing a Great Business Plan
Published: October 6, 2008
Harvard Business School professor William A. Sahlman's article on how to write a great business plan is a Harvard Business Review classic, and has just been reissued in book form. We asked Sahlman what he would change if he wrote the article, now a decade old, today.
Most Popular Working Papers 2008-2011
Goals Gone Wild: The Systematic Side Effects of Over-Prescribing Goal Setting
Published: February 11, 2009
For decades, goal setting has been promoted as a halcyon pill for improving employee motivation and performance in organizations. Advocates of goal setting argue that for goals to be successful, they should be specific and challenging, and countless studies find that specific, challenging goals motivate performance far better than "do your best" exhortations. The authors of this article, however, argue that it is often these same characteristics of goals that cause them to "go wild."
How Can Decision Making Be Improved?
Published: August 28, 2008
While scholars can describe how people make decisions, and can envision how much better decision-making could be, they still have little understanding of how to help people overcome blind spots and behave optimally.
Do Friends Influence Purchases in a Social Network?
Published: May 21, 2009
In spite of the cultural and social revolution in the rise of social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace (and, in South Korea, Cyworld), the business viability of these sites remains in question. While many sites are attempting to follow Google and generate revenues from advertising, will advertising be effective? If friends influence the purchases of a user in a social network, it could potentially be a significant source of revenue for the sites and their corporate sponsors. Using a unique data set from Cyworld, this study empirically assesses if friends indeed influence purchases. The answer: It depends.
Communication (and Coordination?) in a Modern, Complex Organization
Published: July 31, 2008
Coordination, and the communication it implies, is central to the very existence of organizations. Despite their fundamental role in the purpose of organizations, scholars have little understanding of actual interaction patterns in modern, complex, multiunit firms. To open the proverbial "black box" and begin to reveal the internal wiring of the firm, this paper presents a detailed, descriptive analysis of the network of communications among members of a large, structurally, functionally, geographically, and strategically diverse firm. The full data set comprises more than 100 million electronic mail messages and over 60 million electronic calendar entries for a sample of more 30,000 employees over a three-month period in 2006.
From Strategy to Business Models and to Tactics
Published: November 24, 2009
Drivers such as globalization, deregulation, or technological change, just to mention a few, are profoundly changing the competitive game. Scholars and practitioners agree that the fastest-growing firms in this new environment appear to have taken advantage of these structural changes to compete "differently" and innovate in their business models. However, there is not yet agreement on what are the distinctive features of superior business models. This dispute may have arisen, in part, because of a lack of a clear distinction between the notions of strategy, business model, and tactics.
The Devil Wears Prada? Effects of Exposure to Luxury Goods on Cognition and Decision Making
Published: November 25, 2009
Gandhi once wrote that "a certain degree of physical harmony and comfort is necessary, but above a certain level it becomes a hindrance instead of a help." This observation raises interesting questions for psychologists regarding the effects of luxury. What psychological consequences do luxury goods have on people? In this paper, the authors argue that luxury goods can activate the concept of self-interest and affect subsequent cognition.
Performance Persistence in Entrepreneurship
Published: December 3, 2008
All else equal, a venture-capital-backed entrepreneur who starts a company that goes public has a 30 percent chance of succeeding in his or her next venture. First-time entrepreneurs, on the other hand, have only an 18 percent chance of succeeding, and entrepreneurs who previously failed have a 20 percent chance of succeeding. But why do these contrasts exist? Success breeds even more success if entrepreneurs have some skill.
The End of Chimerica
Published: December 16, 2009
For the better part of the past decade, the world economy has been dominated by a unique geoeconomic constellation that the authors call "Chimerica": a world economic order that combined Chinese export-led development with U.S. overconsumption on the basis of a financial marriage between the world's sole superpower and its most likely future rival. For China, the key attraction of the relationship was its potential to propel the Chinese economy forward by means of export-led growth. For the United States, Chimerica meant being able to consume more, save less, and still maintain low interest rates and a stable rate of investment. Yet, like many another marriage between a saver and a spender, Chimerica was not destined to last. In this paper, economic historians Niall Ferguson of HBS and Moritz Schularick of Freie Universität Berlin consider the problem of global imbalances and try to set events in a longer-term perspective.
Authority versus Persuasion
Published: August 5, 2009
In directing employees, managers often face a choice between invoking authority and persuasion. In particular, since a firm's formal and relational contracts and its culture and norms are quite rigid in the short term, a manager who needs to prevent an employee from undertaking the wrong action has the choice of either trying to persuade the employee or relying on interpersonal authority. In choosing between persuasion and authority the manager makes a cost-benefit trade-off. This paper studies that trade-off, focusing in particular on conflicts that originate in open disagreement.
Speaking Up Constructively: Managerial Practices that Elicit Solutions from Front-Line Employees
Published: August 25, 2010
How can front-line workers be encouraged to speak up when they know how to improve an organization's operation processes? This question is particularly urgent in the U.S. health-care industry, where problems occur often and consequences range from minor inconveniences to serious patient harm. The authors examine the effectiveness of organizational information campaigns and managerial role modeling in encouraging hospital staff to speak up when they encounter operational problems and, when speaking up, to propose solutions to hospital management. The researchers find that both mechanisms can lead employees to report problems and propose solutions, and that information campaigns are particularly effective in departments whose managers are less engaged in problem solving.