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15 Years, 50 Classics

To celebrate a decade and a half of publication, we asked the s+b editors to look back and choose the articles that have had the greatest impact.

(originally published by Booz & Company)

Since its inception, strategy+business has focused on the value of management thinking and practice. This week, we celebrate the magazine’s 15th anniversary by looking back at the wisdom we have published in our pages. Much of it is still worth reading now.

When strategy+business was founded in 1995 by former Harvard Business Review editor Joel Kurtzman and a group of farsighted partners at Booz & Company (then part of Booz Allen Hamilton), the dot-com era was just beginning, and the shape of the world economy was very different than it is today. Amazon had just been launched and Google did not yet exist; neither China nor India was seen as a global economic force. The United States, the magazine’s central focus at the time, was at a peak of prosperity, with rising equity prices, a sound federal budget heading toward surplus, and strong business confidence. How could anything published in those years matter to anyone in 2010?

Yet despite all the turbulence since then, there has been a slow but steady increase in knowledge involving economic value and organizational capability. Our magazine — through the editorships of Kurtzman (1995–2000), Randall Rothenberg (2000–2005), and me (since 2005) — has been at the forefront of developing and publishing that knowledge. Indeed, our primary editorial mission has been to help readers find the most profound and most pragmatic forms of management insight, and put it to use.

We polled the editors-in-chief, past and present (the three noted above), plus former editors Amy Bernstein, Lawrence Fisher, Ann Graham, and Larry Yu, to identify the articles in our first 60 quarterly print issues that are management classics. The articles most favored by the editors follow in chronological order. To help narrow what could have become a long list, I imposed one limit: no more than one article per single author, two per coauthor. In my view, all these pieces have stood the test of time. They are as relevant to management today as they were when they were first published.

1. Why CEOs Succeed (and Why They Fail): Hunters and Gatherers in the Corporate Life - Edward F. Tuck and Timothy Earle, Fourth Quarter 1996
An innovative venture capitalist and a prominent anthropologist explained why modern CEOs and boards play out the same roles that the chiefs and elders of prehistoric tribes established thousands of years ago.

2. Finding the Knowledge Needle in the Technology Haystack - David Berreby, Fourth Quarter 1996
Written when knowledge management was in its infancy, this article laid out some basic principles for finding patterns, trends, and relationships hiding in the stream of data generated by operations.

3. How to Manage Creative People: The Case of Industrial Light and Magic - Lawrence M. Fisher, Second Quarter 1997
The special effects shop that George Lucas founded built its success on good relationships, explained this frequent contributor. (Larry Fisher’s many other brilliant articles for s+b over the years included Creative Mind profiles of Jay Forrester, Ricardo Semler, and Fernando Flores.)

4. 10X Value: The Engine Powering Long-term Shareholder Returns - Charles E. Lucier, Leslie H. Moeller, and Raymond Held, Third Quarter 1997
A fascinating study of 30-year growth patterns of 1,300 publicly traded companies in the U.S. showed that it was possible to raise a company’s value 10-fold, by fostering the right kind of innovation.

5. How Harley Davidson Revs Its Brand - Glenn Rifkin, Fourth Quarter 1997
This piece profiled how the iconic motorcycle manufacturer, a pathfinder of nontraditional routes to marketing excellence, had built a community of enthusiasts around its product.

6. Are There Limits to Total Quality Management? - Arthur M. Schneiderman, Second Quarter 1998
The answer turned out to be yes: As companies go up the hierarchy, problems grow too complex for continuous improvement.

7. The Centerless Corporation: A Model for Tomorrow - Bruce A. Pasternack and Albert J. Viscio, Third Quarter 1998
This article proposed an organizational structure for high-performance companies that was based on lowering overhead and transaction costs, sharing services, and mastering capabilities.

8. The Last Mile to Nowhere: Flaws & Fallacies in Internet Home-Delivery Schemes - Tim Laseter, Pat Houston, Anne Chung, Silas Byrne, Martha Turner, and Anand Devendran, Third Quarter 2000
In the thick of the New Economy, the authors predicted the failure of much-hyped “Internet delivery” companies such as Webvan by demonstrating the trade-off between speed and variety. (Tim Laseter’s incisive Operating Strategies columns have appeared in the magazine ever since.)

9. The Third World Goes to Market - Stephan-Götz Richter, Third Quarter 2000
Richter was one of the first writers to notice how companies from emerging markets (like the Tata group in India) were buying established Western companies (like Tetley Group) and taking over global distribution channels.

10. Here Comes Hyperinnovation - Michael Schrage, First Quarter 2001
This piece examined how new prototyping methods had radically reduced the cost of testing products, services, and business models — effectively creating a new financial resource that could be called iterative capital. (Michael Schrage has contributed some of s+b’s most insightful essays, on topics as diverse as financial innovation literature, board practices for managing risk, and PowerPoint.)

11. Rethinking Strategy in a Networked World (or Why Michael Porter Is Wrong about the Internet) - Don Tapscott, Third Quarter 2001
The debate is far from settled over the question of whether open innovation (like Linux) or closed controlled innovation (like Apple) is better (especially with Apple ascendant in 2010). Nearly a decade ago, this well-known author laid out a compelling case for open source enthusiasm.

12. Jared Diamond: The Thought Leader Interview - Randall Rothenberg, Third Quarter 2001
China lost to the West during the Renaissance, said this master evolutionary historian, because it was too unified. In this wide-ranging interview, he suggested the same may be true of some businesses.

13. The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid - C.K. Prahalad and Stuart L. Hart, First Quarter 2002
Prahalad, who passed away early in 2010 after a sudden illness, lived to see this seemingly outlandish concept — low-income markets as a prodigious opportunity — become part of the strategy and operating model of companies around the world. (C.K. Prahalad’s other articles in s+b, such as “The Innovation Sandbox,” were also compelling and influential.)

14. Profits and Perils in China, Inc. - Kenichi Ohmae, First Quarter 2002
This was one of the first articles to point out how the new Chinese geopolitical model — the country as corporation — balanced central control with decentralized freedom. It also represented the first major piece by this expert on global strategy about China.

15. What Are the Measures That Matter? - Art Kleiner, First Quarter 2002
As a columnist and profile writer, I published 28 major articles in s+b between 2000 and 2005. I’m proudest of this one, the story of the fierce philosophical feud between two former coauthors and colleagues: balanced scorecard inventor Robert Kaplan and metrics skeptic Tom Johnson.

16. Why CEOs Fall: The Causes and Consequences of Turnover at the Top - Chuck Lucier, Eric Spiegel, and Rob Schuyt, Third Quarter 2002
This was the first of Booz & Company’s groundbreaking annual studies of CEO succession, showing why CEO tenure is ever shorter and more intense — and how chief executives can compensate.

17. The Barista Principle: Starbucks and the Rise of Relational Capital - Ranjay Gulati, Sarah Huffman, and Gary Neilson, Third Quarter 2002
This piece represented an early recognition of how the trendsetting coffeehouse chain grew by cultivating relationships with employees, suppliers, and customers.

18. Globalism without Tears: A New Social Compact for CEOs - Jeffrey E. Garten, Fourth Quarter 2002
The Yale School of Management dean prophesied the end of the “golden age of capitalism” in the West and put forth a workable definition of social responsibility.

19. What Strategists Can Learn from Sartre - James Ogilvy, Winter 2003
Strategic thinking can benefit from philosophy. In this reflective piece, the author explained why in an uncertain world where competitive advantage is insecure, setting strategy must become an existential exercise.

20. Smart Customization: Profitable Growth Through Tailored Business Streams - Keith Oliver, Leslie H. Moeller, and Bill Lakenan, Spring 2004
This article introduced the striking new concept of TBS (an abbreviation still in use at Booz & Company) — a pragmatic way for companies to manage the complexity of supply chains by differentiating their offerings.

21. Leadership Is a Contact Sport: The “Follow-up Factor” in Management Development - Marshall Goldsmith and Howard Morgan, Fall 2004
Working in what was then the relatively new field of executive coaching, the authors revealed the single most important factor in helping leaders become capable: following up to reinforce what these individuals learn about themselves.

22. The Cat That Came Back - Gary L. Neilson and Bruce A. Pasternack, Fall 2005
This was the best of our articles on the influential concept of organizational DNA: How companies (in this case, Caterpillar Inc.) aligned decision rights, information flow, motivators, and the “lines and boxes” of the hierarchy to create a high-performance culture.

23. Money Isn’t Everything - Barry Jaruzelski, Kevin Dehoff, and Rakesh Bordia, Winter 2005
In the first of Booz & Company’s ongoing studies of global corporate R&D spending, the authors examined the “Global Innovation 1000” — the world’s biggest research and development spenders — and the complex link between their spending patterns and corporate performance.

24. China’s Five Surprises - Edward Tse, Winter 2005
Our best article on China (and an early precursor of Tse’s book The China Strategy: Harnessing the Power of the World’s Fastest-Growing Economy [Basic Books, 2010]) noted that in this rapidly changing country, the past will never be the most accurate guide to the future.

25. Beauty Parlors, Barbershops, and Boardrooms - Leslie F. (“Skip”) Griffin Jr., Winter 2005
Foremost among our many great First Person essays, this mini-memoir explained why leaders of corporate change have a great deal to learn from the American civil rights movement.

26. Manufacturing Myopia - Kaj Grichnik, Conrad Winkler, and Peter von Hochberg, Spring 2006
The premise laid out in this piece is still true: Instead of drifting into decline, producers of goods have a chance to seize the future by cultivating better awareness about manufacturing costs and means.

27. Love Your “Dogs” - Harry Quarls, Thomas Pernsteiner, and Kasturi Rangan, Spring 2006
In an article that took a hard look at business unit portfolios, the authors argued that the conventional wisdom about portfolio management, favoring a focus on nurturing “stars,” was wrong. Corporations need instead to foster poor performers to gain value.

28. City Planet - Stewart Brand, Spring 2006
This piece, which was later adapted into a chapter of Stewart Brand’s book Whole Earth Discipline: An Ecopragmatist Manifesto (Viking, 2009), presented a new context for business and everyone: Suddenly, half the world’s human population is urban. The founder of the Whole Earth Catalog described an imminent future age of cosmopolitan, thriving, chaotic new cities.

29. The Future of Advertising Is Now - Christopher Vollmer, John Frelinghuysen, and Randall Rothenberg, Summer 2006
After years of overhype, the digital revolution finally arrived — and marketers didn’t recognize it in time (unless they read this article). Adapted by Vollmer into a best-selling book (Always On: Advertising, Marketing, and Media in an Era of Consumer Control, [McGraw-Hill, 2008]), it was also the first of an ongoing series of Booz & Company articles on the evolution of the marketing–media–advertising ecosystem.

30. The Megacommunity Manifesto - Marc Gerencser, Fernando Napolitano, and Reginald Van Lee, Summer 2006
The authors showed how public, private, and civil leaders could confront together the problems that none could solve alone. This article’s ideas were explored in depth in Megacommunities: How Leaders of Government, Business and Non-Profits Can Tackle Today’s Global Challenges Together (Palgrave Macmillan, 2008).

31. The Neuroscience of Leadership - David Rock and Jeffrey Schwartz, Summer 2006
Change is pain, behaviorism doesn’t work, focus is power, and the key to performance is attention. This article was the starting point for neuroleadership, a now-burgeoning new field of management study and practice.

32. The Flatbread Factor - Alonso Martinez and Ronald Haddock, Spring 2007
This piece took the humble but widely used food staple, flatbread (found in wraps and burritos), as a jumping-off point for considering the spread of global businesses. According to the authors, emerging markets, from China to Brazil to eastern Europe, have strikingly similar life cycles.

33. Lights! Water! Motion! - Viren Doshi, Gary Schulman, and Daniel Gabaldon, Spring 2007
In this alarming assessment, the authors estimated the price for updating the world’s aging, and in many cases failing, energy, water, and transportation infrastructure at US$40 trillion.

34. The Empty Boardroom - Thomas Neff and Julie Hembrock Daum, Summer 2007
Corporate board recruits with CEO experience are in short supply — and that’s good news, according to this provocative article by two senior leaders at the global executive search firm Spencer Stuart.

35. The Science of Subtle Signals - Mark Buchanan, Autumn 2007
Previously overlooked behavioral cues that are now coming from sensors and in-depth workplace observations are changing management wisdom. This is one of several articles by Mark Buchanan on the application of new science in management.

36. Rebuilding Lego, Brick by Brick - Keith Oliver, Edouard Samakh, and Peter Heckmann, Autumn 2007
One of our most compelling corporate profiles recounted how a supply chain transformation put the beloved toymaker back together again. It also explored the difficult choices facing any company that needs dramatic change.

37. The Google Enigma - Nicholas G. Carr, Winter 2007
This was the best of Nick Carr’s great columns on innovation. He looked at this rapidly growing Internet company as few others did: not as a model for business in general, but as an anomaly that thrived by planting free Internet innovations to complement its money-making search engine ads.

38. Best Business Books, Biography: Life Lessons - James O’Toole, Winter 2007
Every year, Jim O’Toole writes a captivating essay about the current wave of literature on leadership, CEO memoirs, or whatever he feels like (“miscellany”); this one engagingly discussed the great business biographies of Andrew Carnegie, Thomas Edison, and Andy Grove that came out in 2006 and 2007.

39. Oasis Economies - Joe Saddi, Karim Sabbagh, and Richard Shediac, Spring 2008
Open, diversified, economic growth represents a new force for stability in the Middle East. This was the first in a series of groundbreaking s+b articles about a quiet but pervasive wave of change in this region with geopolitical implications.

40. Lessons for Business Schools - Andrea Gabor, Spring 2008
One of our best Knowledge Reviews essays discussed the books that illuminate the irrelevance of today’s MBA — and that propose ways to make it compelling again.

41. The Next Industrial Imperative - Peter Senge, Bryan Smith, and Nina Kruschwitz, Summer 2008
The industrial era is bursting like a bubble, wrote these influential thinkers from MIT and the Society for Organizational Learning. Global climate change is just the advance signal.

42. P&G’s Innovation Culture - A.G. Lafley, with an introduction by Ram Charan, Autumn 2008
This follow-up or “missing chapter” to the authors’ best-selling book, The Game-Changer: How You Can Drive Revenue and Profit Growth with Innovation (Crown Business, 2008) discussed the human changes that were needed to foster P&G’s remarkable strategic renaissance during the 2000s.

43. The Practical Wisdom of Ikujiro Nonaka - Sally Helgesen, Winter 2008
The author’s compelling Creative Mind profiles include this remarkable portrait of the venerable Japanese advocate of phronesis: ingrained wisdom as a business practice.

44. How to Win by Changing the Game - Cesare Mainardi, Paul Leinwand, and Steffen Lauster, Winter 2008
This was the magazine’s first major piece on capabilities-driven strategy, laying the groundwork for Leinwand and Mainardi’s book The Essential Advantage: How to Win with a Capabilities-Driven Strategy (Harvard Business Press, 2010).

45. Not Just for Profit - Marjorie Kelly, Spring 2009
This article discussed an intriguing new business model for an age some consider ethically challenged. Companies with “for-benefit” objectives are redefining corporate governance, and creating an alternative to the conventional charter.

46. The Best Years of the Auto Industry Are Still to Come - Ronald Haddock and John Jullens, Summer 2009
This article, published the same week that General Motors declared bankruptcy, argued for taking a longer view. Millions of new automobiles will be sold in emerging markets. The motor vehicle industry, according to the authors, is poised for a wild ride.

47. The Trouble with Brands - John Gerzema and Ed Lebar, Summer 2009
Very few brands have the dynamism and energy to hold consumer loyalty. The authors examined some “energized” attributes that can help companies achieve far more effective marketing.

48. The Talent Innovation Imperative - DeAnne Aguirre, Laird Post, and Sylvia Ann Hewlett, Autumn 2009
Any company that competes on the global stage must, in light of today’s changing workforce, rethink the way it manages people. This piece helped them do just that.

49. Too Good to Fail - Ann Graham, Spring 2010
Former s+b deputy editor Ann Graham profiled India’s Tata, a giant, diverse conglomerate in business since 1868. The company bases its global strategy on social entrepreneurship.

50. Why We Hate the Oil Companies - John Hofmeister, Summer 2010
In an article that was published just before the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the former CEO of Shell Oil spelled out how corporate leaders create their own reputations for arrogance.

Author profile:

  • Art Kleiner is the editor-in-chief of strategy+business and the author of The Age of Heretics (2nd ed., Jossey-Bass, 2008).


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