May 15, 2010

Business Journal Makeover: Enter the Harvard Obviousness Review

by Freddy J. Nager, Founder of Atomic Tango LLC & Business Lit Connoisseur

Note: The following is meant to be satirical. The author has no affiliation with the Harvard Business Review or any idea what its editors could possibly be thinking.

For 88 years, the Harvard Business Review has been the authoritative voice of critical business thinkers, featuring such legendary thought leaders as Peter Drucker, Theordore Levitt and Michael Porter, and popularizing such paradigm-shattering concepts as the glass ceiling, marketing myopia and the balanced scorecard.

Well, enough of that…

We, the new generation of editors at Harvard Business Review, have concluded that critical, cutting-edge business thinking is, like, so 20th century. Who’s got the attention span for that anymore? Imagine today’s business titans taking time to read groundbreaking articles that require thinking… Could billionaire entrepreneur and Harvard alum Mark Zuckerberg adequately explore privacy loopholes if he were contemplating long-term sustainable competitive advantage? Would the words “long-term sustainable competitive advantage” even fit in a Facebook update?

Or consider the bankers of Goldman Sachs, many of them Harvard MBAs. What’s the purpose of having them learn about the impact of corporate social responsibility on brand equity if there’s no way to short it?

As the self-proclaimed social media gurus say — and we’re big followers of self-proclaimed social media gurus — what’s most important is doing what your customers want because, according to the gurus, customers know everything. Customers are never wrong. Customers can see the future and determine what’s best for the world at large. Our customers are primarily business leader wannabes, and from our extensive studies (using Twitter search), we learned that what our customers want most is pith. Great pith. Pith that can fit into 140 characters or less.

So, after much deliberation involving multiple case studies (cases of Sam Adams Boston Lager, to be exact), we the new generation of HBR editors have decided to punt the in-depth, statistically substantiated studies written by PhD’s and veteran business executives. Hey, don’t blame us — we tried publishing those, and a bunch of know-it-all bloggers complained that they were too hard to read. True, we could have edited those articles to make them readable, but that would have required reading them, and they’re too hard to read. Plus, what editor does editing these days?

Instead, we turned to specialists in addressing high school business 101 students and members of the Greater Wasilla Chamber of Commerce. We’re talking consultants, of course. You may have seen one of our recent posts, “Two Rules for a Successful Presentation,” which contained this earth-shattering insight: “know thy audience.” What pith! And note the cleverness of the word “thy,” which is the author’s way of acknowledging that this bit of wisdom is 2,000 years old, give or take a millennium.

In addition, we’re staying fresh with a new generation of business leaders — leaders raised on “Legally Blonde” and the lyrics of Justin Timberlake — by hiring columnists who speak their language. Consider the “Awesomeness Manifesto,” in which the author says innovation is dead, and that the only thing that matters is being “awesome.” See, no thinking required!

Along these lines, we’re publishing the following articles in coming issues:

  • The Third Rule Of Public Speaking: Don’t Forget To Wear Pants
  • Terrific Smelling Hair + Other Keys To Boardroom Success
  • Today’s CEO: Bringing Sexy Back
  • Effective Corporate Communication Is, Like, Whatever
  • Money Lets You Buy Things
  • and our favorite actual quote from the recent SXSW conference:
    We Spend Most Of Our Lives Living Among Other People

If you have any ideas for articles, please let us know on Twitter (@HarvardBiz), since, you know, we value customer input and don’t like to read anything longer than a tweet.

One final change: We, the new generation of HBR editors, realize that most of these articles aren’t really about business. Rather, they cover the kind of basic etiquette and concepts once taught on PBS children’s programming before all public broadcasting was sold to News Corp. Since authenticity is so du jour, we’ve decided to be totally authentic and rename our august publication the Harvard Obviousness Review, or HOR. Catchy, no? You’ll still find the name Harvard Business Review on our website and other media, since strategic rebranding is, like, the kind of smart practical advice we don’t do anymore.

Happy reading, dudes!

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Freddy is the Founder & Creative Strategist of Atomic Tango. He also teaches at the University of Southern California (go Trojans!), shoots pool somewhat adequately, and herds cats. Freddy received his BA from Harvard and his MBA from USC.

4 Responses

  1. Very funny Freddy. The only thing missing was the obligatory 2×2 strategic grid.

    -Kevin, HBS ’89

  2. What, no article on “Women Are People, Too” ? :)

  3. This post = Brilliant.

    Umair Haque’s post on replacing “innovation” with “awesomeness” = scary (mainly because it had Harvard’s name attached)

    All the fawning comments posted beneath Haque’s “Awesomeness Manifesto” = scariest of all. (But, one commenter there hit the mark by noting he had to check first to make sure the URL really began with HBR instead of The Onion).

  4. Hilarious article Prof. Freddy :-)

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