15 Best Lessons I learned at HBS

Here are some of the best things I learned while studying at Harvard Business School.

Some are farcical, some are real.

On Life:

  1. Find and crush the bottleneck.
  2. Tackle the problems that no one else wants to solve.
  3. Admire others openly.
  4. Remember that all people ever want from their relationships is symmetry.
  5. Take risk. Like a floor in a call option, you have a safety net.
  6. Do not let your education limit you.
  7. Understand that happiness only matters when it is shared.
  8. During times of success, share credit and bring others up with you.
  9. Be a first-rate version of yourself, not a second-rate version of somebody else.
  10. Diversify your source of happiness.
  11. Mentor someone who will mentor somebody else.
  12. Spend based on your needs, not based on how much you earn.
  13. Use your skillset to help reduce the stress of others.
  14. Stay open to new ideas by asking questions to understand them.
  15. She who goes first sets the rules.

On the case method:

Have your own voice by maintaining and explaining your point of view. This will likely not be the final or correct answer, but it will contribute to the group arriving at a successful result together. What we possess are merely perspectives, not truths. Listen.

On having tough conversations:

  • Remember that the toughest part is the first 5 minutes – after that tone is set, there is lots to talk about and can be really satisfying
  • Go in with a positive frame with a practical, controllable goal
  • Breathe steadily, stay calm, channel nervousness into excitement!
  • Visualize success and identify which elements of that scenario can you control
  • Listen
  • Be compassionate and aware of what the other person feels, wants and fears
  • Be full of care, honesty, discipline, kindness, flexibility
  • Ask more questions than making statements – the other person wants to feel acknowledged and respected
  • Take what the other says at face value instead of making assumptions about “what they’re really thinking”
  • If you make an assumption, preface it with why you believe it to be true
  • Explain your motivations
  • Have the discipline to truly, actually, authentically welcome the other perspective; have the courage to shift your own
  • The worst case scenario is often when the other person feels misunderstood, wronged or personally wounded
  • Frequency of touch/contact/communication is the bedrock of building meaningful relationships

By class:

TECH & OPERATIONAL MANANGEMENT Find and crush the bottleneck
LEADERSHIP & AUTHENTIC DEVELOPMENT Show gratitude to those who have helped you up the mountain; Know the S-curve of change – accept early financial losses for long term financial gains; Use advocacy & inquiry when you are in the minority opinion
MARKETING Socially responsible campaigns can get customers involved on a personal level and compel them to share, talk about the ad and connect to it
ACCOUNTING When in doubt, check with your accountant.
FINANCE 1 Greed can cause a financial crisis.
FIELD 1 Be cognizant of what parts of a person’s identity are actually salient to them.
FIELD 2 Know your blind spots. Understand the reason someone does something before trying to change it.
STRATEGY Pursue a blue ocean strategy by competing in an industry using different metrics. Create competitive advantage by making choices that reinforce each other.
THE ENTREPRENEURIAL MANAGER As an entrepreneur, consistently think of ways to protect yourself from being squeezed out of your own company
BUSINESS, GOVERNMENT & THE INTERNATIONAL ECONOMY Understand that data can tell many stories, that nothing is as it seems and to keep asking questions to unearth unexpected ways of interpreting economic behaviors.
LEADERSHIP & CORPORATE ACCOUNTABILITY If you commit fraud, you will get caught, and you will go to jail; Your ideas might be rejected for reasons not related to you. Focus on your audience and what’s important to them. Consider the Cuban Missile Crisis. It is called the October Crisis by Cubans and the Caribbean Crisis by the Soviets. Each party sees it differently!
FINANCE 2 Buying something at a fixed price ahead of time at high volume can prevent against crippling price fluctuations in the future
FIELD 3 It’s very difficult to translate what is in your head into a real product or executable idea.
DIGITAL MARKETING There are 3 types of goods: 1) Search (can evaluate before buying) 2) Experience (can only evaluate after consumption) 3) Credence (can’t easily judge even after trying the product – e.g. education, surgery) ==> based on the type of good, price and marketing type vary dramatically; When looking to make a viral campaign, must make something that the sharer thinks would make them increase their own social capital by sharing
STRATEGIC MARKETING IN CREATIVE INDUSTRIES In the creative industries, pursuing a blockbuster strategy, in which all resources are allocated to a select number of projects, is the most effective way to be financially successful; The higher you go, the further you bow.
BUILDING SUSTAINABLE AND SUCCESSFUL ENTERPRISES Beware of bounded rationality in which you make decisions that only affect one part of the business; Jobs to be done; Explore when your core is strong; Exploitation vs. Exploration; Prove profitability first
SEX EQUALITY Sexism operates like gravity; Decide what you believe to be the linchpin of sexism – what’s the one thing that, if removed, would unravel gender inequality? Porn? The Patriarchy?; Sexism test: if you replace the woman with a man in that situation, would you feel his dignity as been removed? E.g. advertisements, questioning a victim on a stand, pornography, public interviews of celebrities; By saying that all people are equal, in the law, we create unattainable standards for the groups that are not upper-class white men; Hypotheticals are endimic in conversations that attempt to prove gender equality – but must push for REAL examples, NOT hypotheticals; One of the biggest problems in the American law is that we must prove “intent” – whether or not someone “intended” to be sexist, to rape, to be discriminatory – and most people get off because it’s nearly impossible to prove “intent” – “intent” should not be the core decider, it must be the action and the impact on the victim itself; American law is designed to favor neutrality and not get into specifics – this enables the dominant class to claim equality even when it is not the reality experienced by most; People do not impose inferiority on themselves, they take it off of social cues – it is endemic and very difficult to understand if you are not the inferior class – this does not excuse the superior class from pretending that it does not exist simply beause they do not experience it; In our society, when a job is able to be done by a woman, we often devalue it immediately; When we specifically outline protection for women in the law, lawmakers, usually male, often react that this is a “slippery slope.” Well, if the slippery slope actually existed, we would have slid into equality decades ago! If your counterparty starts referencing God, you know you have a solid argument formed becuase they must be desperate; When someone argues pro-prostitution – ask them to go and try it first before forming an opinion; Women are typically paid less than men because they are still often compared to the social understanding that they do the homemakeing which is paid $0, so anything compared to that – “they should feel lucky!”; Do not blame “market forces” – these are actual people, making actual decisions; When you have a chicken/egg problem, it doesn’t mean you have an excuse to not tackle the problem! It means that you get to pick either the chicken or the egg to start tackling the problem! John Stuart Mill put it quite accurately when he said, “marriage between the sexes is the legal subordination of the female sex to the male sex”; Women must make art and do things publicly so that their stories are told and so that society cannot continue to “mystify” them with the intention of quieting their voices and social and historical relevance; Companies can take a strong cultural stance against sexual harrassment – “we are not paying you to molest your coworker”; Beyond consent, we would hope men would want a little enthusiasm too even!; Victim blaming is a scary, pervasive and effective way of shutting down women’s voices; Only reason we don’t currently have a definition of rape is becuase our lawmakers protect the interests of men and not women
PORTUGUESE Portuguese!
INTERNATIONAL EXCHANGE PROGRAM – LATIN AMERICA Group dynamics are everchanging and very difficult to assess
ENTREPRENEURIAL LEADERSHIP IN CREATIVE INDUSTRIES The creative industries differ significantly from all other industries in that intermediaries are necessary to create and define value of art; Most entrepreneurship in the creative worlds come from creating an entirely new market
NEGOTIATIONS Acting angrier than you are about something can get you farther in a negotiation; Asking probing questions to unlock the most value for all parties at the table – the way you value something may be entirely different than the way your counterparty values it; Negotiate across multiple variables simultaneously; Frame something as a loss in order to create a call to action for the other party; Ultimatums are rarely true; Create value for everyone, then claim value for your team
MANAGING HUMAN CAPITAL In the absence of information, negative speculation fills the void; Do not outsource tough conversations – they create stickiness and commitment in a company; Perceived truth trumps reality; Know that there are many levers you can pull as a manager to improve a tough dynamic; Humans form either contractual or covental relationships with their company – either they are just passing time or they are completely bought in to the company as a way of life; Most people don’t want managers, they want someone to give direction and leadership; Keep your message clear, direct, consistent & simple; When hiring, ask “do I admire this person?”; Act, don’t be acted upon; Find your sponsors, mentors and advisors and know the difference between them: SPONSORS go to bat for you, MENTORS know you well and keep it real, ADVISORS can offer a trusted opinion; People gravitate most to those who are comfortable in their own skin.
VENTURE CAPITAL & PRIVATE EQUITY When pitching to an investor, always think about what their incentives are and how you can frame your pitch accordingly; illiquidity + inefficient markets + information assymmetry = chance for above market returns (arbitrage opportunity); PE takes on the form of helping a company grow or improving management, while VC takes on the form of smaller stage companies looking not only for financial support but strategic partnerships/ advising as well
PORTUGUESE Portuguese!

Harvard Business School Blog, June 1st, 2015Harvard Business School Blog, June 1st, 2015

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