HBR's Breakthough Ideas for 2010

Last Updated Dec 17, 2009 11:49 AM EST

These are busy times for Harvard Business Review, which just announced a major redesign of the magazine and an integration of the HBR site with Harvard Business Publishing.

The new-look HBR (January-February) also brings the always popular and usually controversial breakthrough ideas for the new year, contributed by a well of deep thinkers. A copy is not yet available online, but I can give you a thumbnail of the list. Each of these ideas is under development somewhere by someone. Here we go:

  1. Progress Power. Motivate your troops by creating the perception and reality of progress. "On days when workers have the sense they're making headway in their jobs, or when they receive support that helps them overcome obstacles, their emotions are most positive and their drive to succeed is at its peak."
  2. Old School. The significant health care expense associated with patient office visits can be saved by using simple technologies intelligently combined such as e-mail, telephone, videoconferencing and remote sensing. No fancy technology needed.
  3. Financial R&D. Creation of a federally funded, cross-discipline R&D facility devoted to financial innovation, modeled on other government research centers that tackle problems of critical national importance.
  4. Drug Networks. Accelerate time-to-market for innovative drug therapies through drug-development networks and agreed upon standards for sharing drug trial data.
  5. Green Bonds. Encourage "green" retrofits of buildings through use of PACE (Property Assessed Clean Energy) bonds, which are debt instruments issued by a municipality and sold to institutional investors. Borrowers benefit with low-cost loans that are quickly repaid through energy savings.
  6. Professor Payoffs. Amend legal and policy roadblocks that prevent quick capitalization of groundbreaking R&D work done at universities. "Let's allow any inventor-professor to choose his or her licensing agent -- university affiliated or not -- just as anyone in business can now choose his or her own lawyer."
  7. Work Hacking. Allow certain workers in your business to perform "hack work," going outside established IT processes and technologies to goose more productivity. "Once frontline performers and middle managers try hacking work -- and discover they've increased their output by a factor of 20 -- they never go back."
  8. Bubble Detector. Identify economic "bubbles" as they form via an early warning system based on behavioral finance research.
  9. Experimental Cities. Encourage "charter cities," which would be created by governments to experiment with different governance and economic models and attract residents who want to live in that environment.
  10. Non-state Diplomacy. Advance the idea of "independent diplomacy" to forward the interests of non-state actors increasingly populating the international stage. "The diplomatic system evolves slowly. Those cut out of the current system -- small states, non-state entities -- need help getting their legitimate needs addressed."
That's the HBR list. What's your breakthrough idea for 2010?

(Light bulb image by Caveman 92223, CC 2.0)

  • Sean Silverthorne

    Sean Silverthorne is the editor of HBS Working Knowledge, which provides a first look at the research and ideas of Harvard Business School faculty. Working Knowledge, which won a Webby award in 2007, currently records 4 million unique visitors a year. He has been with HBS since 2001.

    Silverthorne has 28 years experience in print and online journalism. Before arriving at HBS, he was a senior editor at CNET and executive editor of ZDNET News. While at At Ziff-Davis, Silverthorne also worked on the daily technology TV show The Site, and was a senior editor at PC Week Inside, which chronicled the business of the technology industry. He has held several reporting and editing roles on a variety of newspapers, and was Investor Business Daily's first journalist based in Silicon Valley.