Finance & Economy

He means business: Editor in Chief of Harvard Business Review, Adi Ignatius, on hot topics and workforce trends

June 22, 2022

He means business: Editor in Chief of Harvard Business Review, Adi Ignatius, on hot topics and workforce trends

Adi Ignatius

Editor in Chief of Harvard Business Review

Adi Ignatius has held editorial positions at top publications such as The Wall Street Journal, Time Magazine, and Harvard Business Review (HBR).

Adi Ignatius has had an extensive career in journalism, holding editorial positions at top publications including The Wall Street Journal, Time Magazine, and now Harvard Business Review (HBR). As Editor in Chief of HBR, Adi has his finger on the pulse of the hottest topics facing the business world. He joined Willy to share insight into in-depth topics, including global conflict – particularly his thoughts on Putin and the War in Ukraine, the evolution of journalism in the digital age, how to compete in the new world of work, and so much more.

Prior to the HBR, Adi was Deputy Managing Editor for Time Magazine, where he was responsible for many special editions, including the Person of the Year and the Time 100 Franchises. He also served as Time's Executive Editor beginning in 2002, responsible for the magazine's business and international coverage. He wrote cover stories on Google and the 2007 Person of the Year profile on Vladimir Putin. Prior to joining Time, he worked many years at the Wall Street Journal, where he served as the newspaper's Bureau Chief in Beijing and later in Moscow. He received a Bachelor's degree in history from Haverford College. 

Adi's father served as the United States Secretary of the Navy, and Adi and his brother David became great journalists. Growing up in Washington, Adi recalls his family constantly discussing political issues. In college, he fell in love with Chinese culture and wanted to move to Asia after graduation. He applied to many jobs in the continent and was offered a position at a news publication in Hong Kong. Adi and Willy discuss how in China, people make money as long as they keep quiet about anything political. He stresses the importance for people outside of China to understand that Chinese people are happy with their lives and their government. It's easy to be critical from an outsider's perspective, but the Chinese people do not hope that their government will be overthrown. Adi predicts that China's role in the global supply chain will not end anytime soon. His own bias wants smart people in China and the U.S. alike to be able to talk to each other and work together 

Then, Adi speculates as best he can what the outcome of the war in Ukraine might look like. The east has emerged as an alternate market for Russian raw materials now that the west has cut them off. He believes it is in the best interest of the west to be careful not to push China into a position in which their only ally is Russia. When he was writing the Times' Person of the Year cover story, Adi met in person with Putin many times. He reflects that this Putin of 2007 strongly resembles the Putin of today in that he was very vocal about the loss of Russian pride. In 2008, Adi was editor of the book President Obama: The Path to the White House. The one word Adi uses to describe the Obama presidency is disappointing. President Obama, he shares, seemed completely disinterested in the work that has to go into complicated policy making. However, his gift for public speaking and the totally new way he engaged emotionally with the American public isn't to be ignored. 

The Harvard Business Review will celebrate its 100-year birthday this year. When it was founded, it was not meant to be a vanity publication of the business school. Their goal is simply to acquire and publish the most important ideas in business. Now, most of their content is accessed digitally. In the fast-paced world we are living in, it's important to deliver information to people wherever they are at the moment. In the old days, HBR only published long-form articles, while now they still offer those long articles in addition to shorter digital pieces. People most often come to the publication to solve a problem, deal with an issue, or acquire some sort of knowledge from their unique and practical value. While print revenue has declined, digital revenue has picked up in its place. 

Willy and Adi discuss their perspectives on work from home, diversity, and the labor market of today. Then, Adi shares how to draw the line between business issues and political issues and the role that corporations play in the world today. Ten years ago, CEOs felt they had no business getting involved in political issues. Now, however, silence is not an option as people want to work for and buy from companies that share their values. As the episode wraps up, Adi reflects on his career and identifies the two things he wishes he knew when he was younger. 

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