Close this search box.
Close this search box.

HBR’s Adi Ignatius: “Act Like It Matters…But Keep It Loose”

© AdobeStock
In this edition of our Corporate Competitor Podcast, Harvard Business Review’s top editor shares how seriousness of purpose and an absurd sense of humor can prove a winning combination in sports and business.

The former pitcher/infielder at Haverford College and current Editor-in-Chief of Harvard Business Review has come to believe that success in sports and business rests on the agreement among participants that the activity is not only worth doing, but worth doing very well—well enough, in fact, to always “act like it matters” and attempt to win.

But not at the expense of maintaining our basic humanity or our performance. That’s why Adi Ignatius is a big fan of keeping things loose. “I’m not a person who tries to show that I am the smartest person in the room,” noted Adi Ignatius. “I’m very happy if I can show that I’m the funniest person in the room.”

Acting like it matters has earned Ignatius a great deal of success in the field of journalism: writing for the Wall Street Journal, receiving a nomination for the Pulitzer Prize, writing for the Far Eastern Economic Review, Time Asia and Time Magazine, where he became Executive Editor and Deputy Managing Editor before stepping down from Time to take the top job at HBR in 2009.

At HBR he was challenged with leading the transformation of a venerable and beloved business journal into a leading-edge digital platform. That he achieved this and kept the Review’s fiercely loyal readership engaged testifies to the inventiveness and flexibility of Ignatius’ mind. In this episode of the podcast, that playful mind is fully on display as Ignatius shares stories and observations about the relationship between sports and business. These include:

• The batter whose appearance made him see business in a whole new light

• How he turned HBR from a venerable institution into a leading-edge platform

• Why we sometimes need to “mask” bold behaviors with conservatism

• Balancing competitive desire with the spirit of play to keep your team focused … and together.

The three key ingredients that keep winning teams winning together.

Have a listen!


4:00   How to set the bar of ‘excellence’ for your children.

6:00   How Adi got his name.

10:00  How to feel a sense of belonging at work.

18:00  How to balance focus, passion, and fun at work.

24:00  How to avoid a common mistake in leadership transition.

30:00  Plans for Harvard Business Review’s 100th anniversary.

31:30  The one characteristic that gives Adi a competitive advantage.


Check out the full Corporate Competitor Podcast interview archive and subscribe to new episodes.


  • Get the CEO Briefing

    Sign up today to get weekly access to the latest issues affecting CEOs in every industry
  • upcoming events


    Strategic Planning Workshop

    1:00 - 5:00 pm

    Over 70% of Executives Surveyed Agree: Many Strategic Planning Efforts Lack Systematic Approach Tips for Enhancing Your Strategic Planning Process

    Executives expressed frustration with their current strategic planning process. Issues include:

    1. Lack of systematic approach (70%)
    2. Laundry lists without prioritization (68%)
    3. Decisions based on personalities rather than facts and information (65%)


    Steve Rutan and Denise Harrison have put together an afternoon workshop that will provide the tools you need to address these concerns.  They have worked with hundreds of executives to develop a systematic approach that will enable your team to make better decisions during strategic planning.  Steve and Denise will walk you through exercises for prioritizing your lists and steps that will reset and reinvigorate your process.  This will be a hands-on workshop that will enable you to think about your business as you use the tools that are being presented.  If you are ready for a Strategic Planning tune-up, select this workshop in your registration form.  The additional fee of $695 will be added to your total.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $695 will be added to your total.

    New York, NY: ​​​Chief Executive's Corporate Citizenship Awards 2017

    Women in Leadership Seminar and Peer Discussion

    2:00 - 5:00 pm

    Female leaders face the same issues all leaders do, but they often face additional challenges too. In this peer session, we will facilitate a discussion of best practices and how to overcome common barriers to help women leaders be more effective within and outside their organizations. 

    Limited space available.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $495 will be added to your total.

    Golf Outing

    10:30 - 5:00 pm
    General’s Retreat at Hermitage Golf Course
    Sponsored by UBS

    General’s Retreat, built in 1986 with architect Gary Roger Baird, has been voted the “Best Golf Course in Nashville” and is a “must play” when visiting the Nashville, Tennessee area. With the beautiful setting along the Cumberland River, golfers of all capabilities will thoroughly enjoy the golf, scenery and hospitality.

    The golf outing fee includes transportation to and from the hotel, greens/cart fees, use of practice facilities, and boxed lunch. The bus will leave the hotel at 10:30 am for a noon shotgun start and return to the hotel after the cocktail reception following the completion of the round.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $295 will be added to your total.