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

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.


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