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Warning: Harvard Business Review may cause depression

Do you know that experience? You are reading the latest “Harvard Management Review” (HBR), and sooner or later you are reached by a melancholic mood.

Because you simply realize that – regarding recent management methods – there seems to be such a huge gap between aspiration and everyday reality.  On the one hand you are reading in HBR how things should be, or at least could be … and in real-life you have to stand the complete opposite. This can really get you down. So, a warning notice on HBR saying something like “Reading this journal may cause depression” could really be no bad idea.

OK, of course even in HBR all that glitters is not gold. There are also articles containing complete rubbish. Ultimately, HBR is no bible but a kind of discussion platform on new ideas and approaches. Some of it even being quite theoretical. And not everything reported for having worked in one branch of business or a particular company can be generalized.

But … I need to honestly admit that a lot of stories I read in HBR really convince me, because they obviously make sense. My particular interest is with articles on leadership. And there I regularly find a lot of extremely good and inspiring stuff written – at least to my opinion. Out of the practice and for the practice. Solutions which are often already proven to be successful, and always put into showcases.

However, something is obviously going wrong. Either not really all people who preen themselves on being regular HBR consumers actually read the HBR articles. Or the read is somewhere getting lost on the way to the brain. Or it is in a spontaneous amnesia instantly forgotten again. I really have no other explanation for the observation why so many managers behave such contrary to the state-of-the-art methods published in HBR. By the way, I experienced something similar with management trainings. The complete antagonism between leadership methods learned in a training … and real-life behavior. Does this not sound unfamiliar to you? Do not expect me to be able to provide an explanation, please. I am still searching for myself. As mentioned before, spontaneous retrograde amnesia is my hottest favorite so far.

But what can I do? Well, I can start with myself, that I don’t follow – intended or not – the same behavior. Reading HBR and not making anything out of it anyhow is inefficient and unproductive. This would be beneath a smart and successful manager. Beyond that many approaches you can read there just work. So, I am having a true benefit by not being just a HBR reader but a HBR implementer. Yes, it is a good cause to permanently work on yourself. To again and again self-critically challenge your own leadership practice. To learn from others. To change your own habits if being needful. Not just to read and to vaunt that, but to “digest” and implement. To actively develop yourself further.

Therefore, I would like to propose a new warning notice for “consuming” HBR: “Warning: Reading this journals may cause changed managing habits and personal development!” And subsequently result in more success. Your choice!

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