Top 5 HBR Breakthrough Ideas 2010

Each year we’ve narrowed down the Harvard Business Review list of 20 Breakthrough Ideas to a manageable five. For 2010, the magazine has done half our work for us; in the Jan-Feb issue, they present only 10 ideas. Here are the best of them:

1. “What Really Motivates Workers,” Theresa Amabile & Steven Kramer. Amabile & Kramer continue their fascinating diary study (see this earlier post discussing Amabile & Kramer’s work on creativity) & discover a key hidden link to worker motiyvation: the desire to see & understand their own progress toward a goal. Perhaps feedback (see this related post, and be sure to read the comments) is important after all? (There’s a similar sentiment behind one of last year’s breakthrough ideas, “The Gamer Disposition” – gamers need to know where they stand in relation to their goal.)

2. “The Technology That Can Revolutionize Heath Care,” Ronald Dixon. Electronic Medical Records are fine, but how about enabling more virtual contact between doctor & patient? Increasing such contacts can reduce expensive office visits & nip potentially-serious problems in the bud.

3. “What The Financial Sector Should Borrow,” Lawrence Candell. The government employs nonprofit research centers like Lincoln Labs & MITRE to provide guidance on military innovations. A parallel effort focused on the financial market would yield better insight & decisionmaking when it comes to regulating markets & financial instruments.

4. “A Market Solution For Achieving ‘Green,’” Jack Hidary. Municipalities can tap the power of the bond markets to finance environmental building retrofits. Borrowers are assessed increased property taxes to pay off their loans. Developers & municipalities win: property values rise & reduced utility costs exceed the tax increases immediately.

5. “Hacking Work,” Bill Jensen & Josh Klein. Seek out the “benevolent” rule-breakers in your company, & instead of crucifying them, study what they do & determine whether their workarounds can improve your business. [I haven't worked with a company yet that is ready to take this one on.]

(Disclosure: Jack Hidary invested in a customer of my former employer and I met him once. I’d be stunned if he had any recollection of that meeting.)

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