'Dear Working Knowledge'--Our Favorite Reader Comments of the Year

Readers from all over the world frequently and eloquently comment on HBS Working Knowledge stories. Here are some of our favorites from 2017.
by Sean Silverthorne
Credit: iStockPhoto

Who are the editors of HBS Working Knowledge most thankful for as the new year begins? It’s the readers who take time to contribute comments to our stories, more than 1,000 in 2017. Since our readership extends to more than 220 countries, reader insights reflect a worldly view. They are often born of deep business experience, delivered with great style, wit, and humor.

Here are some of our favorite comments in 2017. Some have been edited for clarity.

Want to be Happier? Spend Some Money Avoiding Household Chores

Purpcage comments: How tragic that cooking--the center stage of life in the home--should be viewed as a miserable chore. I look forward to coming home from work and spending time mindfully cooking fresh foods and ... yes, even mindfully housecleaning (it takes less than an hour. Seriously.). It's therapeutic.

And guess what, this sounds like another win for the corporate world to suck people's home and leisure time away from them. Most people are only fooling themselves when they think ordering take out (an unhealthy option, when done too much) or hiring a housecleaner will give them that time to kick back and relax at home. What it WILL do is give you more of an excuse to spend your hours at the office, lining your workplace's pockets at the expense of your life. It's human nature in this day of "stay at work to show your worth." Thanks, but no thanks! I do my own cooking and cleaning and I am very relaxed and peaceful when doing that.

Do Bitcoin and Digital Currency Have a Future?

Austin Brown comments: Cryptocurrencies also have no inherent value in and of themselves, so the big question here is whether or not they are actually a good mechanism by which to exchange value. Do they compete better against fiat currency than tulips did against precious metals?

I argue that they do. By and large … all cryptocurrencies possess all of our favorite qualities in an electronic currency: speed of transaction, ease of portability (compared to say a credit card or a phone app like Chase Quick Pay or Venmo), security (believe that as you will, I just happen to). AND they come with even more benefits. They can allow you to cut out middle men (By AMEX, by banks, by Visa), and allow for more anonymity. That's all of the current values + 2 more.

What Happens When Ordinary People Get Creative?

Culturology1 comments: Doing something linear, like driving, showering, shaving, mowing the lawn, or pruning shrubs seems to hijack my left brain. My right brain then lights-up with the freedom to work abstractly with stunning new insights. It has become so productive for me that I duct taped a small tablet and pen to my lawn mower handle bars. Before starting to mow, I consider what i want to solve, and then just let it go. I don't press for ideas, but let the notions drift into my consciousness when they are ready for primetime.  Then I capture them!

People Have an Irrational Need to Complete Sets of Things

Joel comments: I like this for two reasons:

1) You can build dramatic tension by starting a list.

How an African History Scholar Became a Modern Righter of Wrongs

Malcolm Harper comments: Thank you, very much, for bringing this to my attention. I lived in Nairobi from 1970 to 1974, teaching at the then very new and very vibrant and politically involved University. We employed a wonderful Kikuyu lady from Nyeri to help take care of our four young children; she told us, totally without rancor, about how she had been detained in one of the 'concentration camps' during the Mau Mau emergency period, and how her young baby had died while she was interned. And as it happens I can see the masts of Hanslope Park from where I sit here in calm rural Buckinghamshire on our election day.

It's great that Ms. Elkins is teaching at HBS, to be reminded that the School is not all about rich people getting richer, and to learn that the lessons of the past are being used to educate the business leaders of the future.

Why Employers Favor Men

Ruth comments: The race factor is important to be considered. In Latin America I have seen quite often that white men prefer to hire white women than men belonging to other racial groups. This is even true for high positions. Social identity seems to be stronger than gender in this case.

Having No Life is the New Aspirational Lifestyle

Dren comments: As a millennial with friends who always want to travel, who take all of their vacation time off, and who love "unproductive" hobbies, long dinners, drinks with friends, etc., I wonder how much of this can be attributed to older generations valuing something we do not. My colleagues and I are clear that we're not interested in working evenings and weekends, even if we sometimes have to. I definitely don't think having no life is something important and something I should aspire to.

A Good Thing Happens When Doctors Start Talking to Their Patients

Brendyn comments: I'm sorry for not reading the entirety of your misdirected socialist diatribe, but the solution is simple: stop requiring insurance, and tear down the wall that stands between the consumer and the provider. You don't see this problem in food service - where restaurants pile on needless amounts of food just to charge for more of it. If customers don't like being charged needlessly, they will choose a different provider. The solution is not more regulations, it's fewer.

Is It Time to Break Up Amazon, Facebook, or Google?

Craig Parietti & PartnersCraig comments: The concept of US antitrust is outdated. We are now a global economy. So, if we break up Amazon, Apple, Facebook, or Google because of their impact on US competitors, we handicap our US economy. China is already grabbing from the US the largest home market" advantage, allowing them to subsidize pricing globally. I guarantee that Tencent, Alibaba and others will fill the gap left by a misguided break up.

Editor’s Note

It’s Hard to Fix the Family Business Without Offending the Family

I want to add my favorite comment to the list. In the story above, a younger generation family member is struggling with the patriarch to take over the family business—a Vietnamese restaurant in Massachusetts. In a comment, reader Jamal Jordan offers: “I recommend bringing the business to "modern times" with books, accountants, and accountabilities all the way from the supply source to the table.” What makes the advice noteworthy for me is that the commentor is a business instructor in Dubai, offering advice to a Vietnamese small-business owner in Dorchester, MA, 6,666 miles away. Fostering these types of connections between readers is a primary goal of Working Knowledge, and we hope you will share your insights with us in 2018. --Sean Silverthorne

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