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What’s Behind the Success of Some Tech Start-Ups?


HANNAH BATES: Welcome to HBR On Strategy, case studies and conversations with the world’s top business and management experts, hand-selected to help you unlock new ways of doing business.

You might think that t he secret to success for many Silicon Valley tech companies is that they’re ultra-nimble start-ups, or they’re led by tech-savvy geniuses.

But Andy McAfee, a principal research scientist at the MIT Sloan School of Management,  corporate culture. One that is all about finding unconventional solutions to hard business problems.

McAfee outlines the pros and cons of that approach to management in his book, The Geek Way: The Radical Mindset that Drives Extraordinary Results.

In this episode, you’ll learn why it’s important to center your company culture on norms rather than organizational structure.

McAfee also explains how to build an organization that can get things right even when the person at the top is wrong. And he has tips for finding that delicate balance between human judgement and data-driven insights.

This episode originally aired as part of HBR’s New World of Work video series in September 2023. Here it is.

ADI IGNATIUS: Welcome to Harvard Business Review’s The New World of Work. I’m Adi Ignatius, Editor in Chief of HBR. Each week on the show, I interview a CEO, a thought leader, or somebody to inspire us, to educate us on the changing dynamics of the workplace.

Our viewers come from all over the world. And they work at everything from Fortune 500 corporations to fledgling startups, from family businesses to nonprofits. The aim of this show is to give insights for everyone as they navigate this transitional moment in how we organize ourselves in the business world.

So, on tonight’s episode, we have another great guest, Andrew McAfee, a Principal Research Scientist at the MIT Sloan School of Management. His research focuses on how information technology changes how companies perform, how they organize themselves, and how they compete.

He’s a frequent contributor to HBR and is the author of the forthcoming book, The Geek Way, the Radical Mindset that Drives Extraordinary Results. The book is out in mid November. But you can pre-order it now wherever you pre-order your books.  So, Andy, welcome.

ANDREW MCAFEE: Adi, it’s great to be here. Thank you.

ADI IGNATIUS: Yeah, it’s great to have you. It’s exciting about the book. So, I’ve read the book. It is a great read. It lavishes fulsome praise on geeks and business, not just for their technological innovation, but also for developing an approach to business itself that you’ve come to respect.

So there’s a lot to talk about. Let’s start with definitions. So how do you define a geek?

ANDREW MCAFEE: Yeah, so I’m walking away from the computer-based definition of a geek, which was kind of where it started. And my definition is two-part. For me, a geek is somebody who gets obsessed with a hard problem and is willing to embrace unconventional solutions.

And for me, the patron saint of geeks is probably Maria Montessori, who about 100 years ago, got obsessed with the problem of, how do you educate young children best and came up with the Montessori educational method, which is this radical departure from industrial-scale model of schools that was dominant then and, sadly, still dominant now. So, think about Maria Montessori when you think about a geek.

ADI IGNATIUS: So, there’s a definition. Then, how do you define the Geek Way that you’re talking about in the book? What is the Geek Way?

ANDREW MCAFEE: So, the particular geeks that I got excited about that led me to write the book were not educational geeks like Maria Montessori. They were business geeks. They were a group of people, concentrated but not exclusive to the West Coast of the US, who got obsessed with this problem of, how do we run a company in an age of really fast technological change and lots of uncertainty?

And in particular, how do we avoid some of the classic dysfunctions of the internet era? And the Geek Way is what they’ve come up with. It’s the business model or the culture or the set of norms that they’ve settled on to try to accomplish that really hard goal.

ADI IGNATIUS: So, if you’re watching this if you have questions yourself for Andy McAfee, put them in the chat. We’ll get to as many audience questions later as possible.

So really, the way you’re defining geeks, the way you’re defining Geek Way, I mean, it seems to be– I’m trying to think of other terms that we might have used, other coinages. Lifelong learner, but that’s not quite it. It’s people who nerd out on, in this case, management, right?

ANDREW MCAFEE: Obsessive maverick is my preferred phrase for a geek. And the obsessive mavericks that I got really interested in were the ones who dove. In again on this problem of how do we run a company, and keep doing well in our markets, and avoid the dysfunctions that seem to plague so many successful companies as they get older and bigger?

How do we avoid those dysfunctions? How do we do something that’s higher performing, more sustainable, and a better place to work?

ADI IGNATIUS: So, as I read the book, some of those attributes you talked about, they had to do

with speed. They had to do with experimentation. Is this just another term for being digital or for applying design thinking in the business? Is that– are we talking the same thing here?

ANDREW MCAFEE: No, I don’t think. You remember Quibi, right? The Jeffrey-Katzenberg-led video startup– it was going to do short form videos and was going to change the way we consume entertainment. It was going to be entirely digital. It was a completely digital enterprise. It was a miserable failure. They raised $1.75 billion.

They shut down within 200 days of their launch. It was just a catastrophe. It was a completely digital enterprise. Netflix is a geek company. They follow all four of my great geek norms of science, ownership, speed, and openness. And I think the results speak for themselves.

So geek for me is entirely separate from digital. You can be a non-m digital geek. And you can certainly be very digital and not geeky at all.

ADI IGNATIUS: When I meant digital, I meant more of a mindset than a product. So it sounds like– so the Quibi thing is an interesting example. I guess what was missing in terms of from your framework was the openness, right? I mean that you had a powerful guy who had been successful, Katzenstein, who wasn’t listening to–

ANDREW MCAFEE: Evidence, to his peers, to his colleagues, to his advisors– he didn’t appear to be a great listener, which is this kind of archetypal, stereotypical trap that a lot of industrial-era companies fall into. And tech leaders also fall into this trap quite often. You become enamored of your own success and you really stop listening.

It’s incredibly common. And one of the things that I really think is powerful and respect about people like Reed Hastings at Netflix is he was able to build a business that got important decisions right when he, himself was wrong about them. And in the book, I talk about a couple of them. He was dead flat wrong about the utility of downloading to the Netflix app.

He thought it wouldn’t be very useful at all. It’s incredibly useful. He was wrong about the importance of kids programming for Netflix. And he admits this in the book No Rules Rules that he wrote with Erin Meyer. But he successfully worked hard on building a company that would correct him, the boss, the high-status, prestigious person at the top of the organization.

It’s part of this great geek norm of openness that I talk about, how do you build a company that will get it right when the person at the top of the org chart is wrong? Man, that’s a hard problem.

ADI IGNATIUS: It’s a hard problem. And I’m sure some people are going to read your book and think, hang on, a lot of these companies we’re talking about are– not exclusively– but are Silicon Valley startups or somewhere in that realm. The popular perception, I would say, is these are not cultures that you necessarily want to emulate, that they’re often male-dominated bro cultures that you may have the boss– frequently, in these cases, is a kind of overly-demanding bully individual.

So how do you how do you square all this?

ANDREW MCAFEE: And there clearly is some of that going on in the Valley, right? There are toxic cultures. You mentioned the bro culture. I would say that Theranos is one of the most toxic cultures I’ve ever heard about, was headquartered in Silicon Valley. So, I don’t think those are geek companies at all.

They might be in the right geographic location. But they’re not following the Geek Way, which is, again, about these norms and about creating a culture that is fast-moving, free-flowing, argumentative, autonomous, evidence-driven and pretty egalitarian. That’s the goal of the Geek Way.

Now, you point out some of these companies that I do think follow the Geek Way are still too pale, stale, and male. And I think that’s absolutely true. The evidence is pretty clear on this. I hope that gets better over time. But you said something that I disagree with is that a lot of these cultures, that they’re not good places to work.

That’s true in some cases. You remember when LinkedIn did its top attractors survey, I believe, in 2016. They said, look, we’re just going to look at objective criteria. We’re going to look at which company pages get viewed the most often by LinkedIn members, which companies get the most interest from LinkedIn members, the most applications, and where do people stick around when they take their first job?

The top 11 attractors in the LinkedIn list were all companies headquartered on the West Coast

in the industry that we loosely call tech. The geek culture is an extremely attractive culture to work in.

ADI IGNATIUS: So again, if you have questions– if viewers have questions for Andy, please put them into the chat. I’ll get to them later. So, one thing I’ve always wondered is some of these, let’s say, founders, entrepreneurs who got into whatever they got into because they wanted to make the world a better place.

And Sergey and Larry in their garage trying to systematize our access to all the world’s information, these sort of great ideals– when they are actually running companies, they not only are trying to run a company great. They become killers, wanting to wipe out the competition, to foster monopolistic practices, to just grab up as much market share as possible.

ANDREW MCAFEE: Is any of this new? No, I’m serious. Were the businesses of previous eras cuddly? Did they want their competitors to succeed? Were they trying to rise all boats? I don’t need to tell you that capitalism is an inherently competitive process. These companies are very, very good performers.

If you want to use the adjective “killer” for them, yeah, I think that’s by design. You’re not in business not to succeed. You want to grow your market share. You want to grow your profits. You want you want to grow. That is often at the expense of somebody else.

I think it’s for the courts to decide whether they meet the definition of monopolist. It’s a word we toss around a lot. I think the courts so far have tossed out a lot of the recent lawsuits against some of these giant tech companies. I don’t think they meet the definition of “monopolist.”

I think, in general, for a lot of these companies, the competition is one click away. And is Tesla a monopolist in the auto industry? You simply can’t make that case. SpaceX has become pretty close to a monopolist in the rockets and satellites industry.

But they didn’t start that way. And they’ve become so large and influential because they do the job better.

ADI IGNATIUS: All right. So, let’s talk about companies that are doing it right. As you say, this is not this is not universally. For digital companies, some follow the Geek Way, as you’ve laid it out. Some don’t. You mentioned a couple. Or maybe a different question is, how many companies– large, small, digital, otherwise– live into these principles, do you think?

ANDREW MCAFEE: I think that’s a really interesting question. And I don’t have a great way to answer it yet because the only way that I can think to answer it is to administer a survey to everybody and get them to fill it out. But that’s just not going to work. They’re not going to fill out that survey.

ADI IGNATIUS: Well, roughly.

ANDREW MCAFEE: But you can look at what we know about the cultures at these companies. You can also look at the fantastic culture 500 research that Don and Charlie Sull did published in a competitor magazine of yours, Sloan Management Review, where they grabbed all of the LinkedIn reviews and they put them through a machine learning analysis to see what companies’ own employees said about them.

And the three areas that I was most interested in were execution, agility, and innovation. And wow, the scores for companies clustered on the West Coast, clustered in Silicon Valley, clustered in industries that we call “high tech,” those scores are off the charts. There’s not any real competition for them.

So there’s something brewing on the West Coast in industries that we label “high tech” for reasons that I don’t very much. There’s something brewing that’s new, that is different than what’s going on elsewhere in the economy, and that’s pretty demonstrably powerful. The label that I hang on that is the Geek Way.

ADI IGNATIUS: So, was Steve Jobs a geek? And did his Apple follow the Geek Way? Or was that a different model?

ANDREW MCAFEE: And Jobs has some really classic non-geek characteristics. He believed that he knew best right. He had a very, very large ego. He also screamed at his subordinates all the time, which I think is absolutely not what an open leader does. However, I interviewed Eric Schmidt for the book.

And I brought this up to him. And he said, look, I was on Apple’s board for a while, I knew Steve pretty well. He said Steve was a tough person in all those ways. But he learned that if you want to stay on top, you have to listen to the people around you. You have to stop thinking that you have all the answers.

We see a really clear example of that with the App Store. And Adi, like you probably remember, Jobs did not want to open up his beautiful, perfect, walled garden iPhone to outside developers. He had to be talked into it. He eventually realized that he was wrong about that. So, there is a little bit of that openness going on.

One thing that Apple is pretty fanatic about, as I understand it, is they make decisions based on evidence. And whether or not that’s a A/B testing infrastructure is one thing. Apple loves to demo features and gets everybody in the room to look at this and say, for example, is it better to have blurry portrait photos where you can adjust the blur before you take the picture?

The instant they did a demo, they had the answer to that question. They did not sit around and argue from their different points of view. They said, OK, let’s run an experiment. Let’s do a demo here. That’s an extremely geeky approach.

ADI IGNATIUS: I mean, one of the interesting things about Jobs, and certainly something he would say about– he would have said about himself, he did say about himself– was that he didn’t and that one shouldn’t slavishly follow the focus groups, that people don’t know what they want.

So in a sense, yeah, the data, but not necessarily and a combination of, let’s get input. But there is a lot of personal touch, personal feel. It’s like it’s sort of like Moneyball versus the old school. And maybe the answer is a combination of skills.

ANDREW MCAFEE: Absolutely. And Ted Sarandos, who’s the co-CEO of Netflix says, our decision making is pretty algorithmic. It’s 70%/30% algorithmic versus human judgment. But he said, if anything the human judgment is on top, if that makes any sense.

And I think that makes a ton of sense because this norm of science that I talk about in the book, and that the geeks are pretty passionate about, it’s not just dry analysis and do whatever the data says. That’s an inaccurate caricature. Science is about settling arguments with evidence. It’s a ground rune for how you’re going to come to a decision.

You’re going to do a test. You’re going to do an experiment. You’re going to sit around in a group and argue about it. And if you can’t agree, what evidence is going to settle this issue? Science is this inherently deeply social, deeply argumentative process with a ground rule.

Evidence is the queen here. And that’s what we’re going to follow. And a lot of the geek companies that I respect do that as naturally as breathing.

ADI IGNATIUS: So one of the examples in your book of geek culture triumphing is Microsoft,

and specifically when Satya Nadella came in to and kind of rekindle that early success and more. Talk a little bit about what he got right, particularly in the framework that–

ANDREW MCAFEE: Adi, can you think of a more impressive corporate turnaround story in living memory?

ADI IGNATIUS: No. Microsoft went from the tech company we liked least to maybe the one we like best.

ANDREW MCAFEE: And if you were an investor, you really didn’t like it for about a decade. The stock price was flat as a corpse’s EKG. And then, Nadella took over. And it’s become one of the most valuable companies in the world. It’s an astonishing comeback story. So, I got to interview Nadella for the book.

And he made brilliant strategic moves, a bunch of them– Microsoft embracing open source, wow. But I was interested in the cultural changes that he made. And he did a couple of things that I think are straight out of the geek playbook. Some of them are obvious. He embraced agile development methods as widely and quickly as possible inside Microsoft.

He did a couple things to reduce the sclerotic bureaucracy that was in place at Microsoft, which was just hamstringing their ability to do anything important out there in the world. One of the brilliant things he did was say, look, you cannot own a digital resource inside Microsoft. You cannot own the data. You cannot own the code.

And what he meant by that was, you can’t be the gatekeeper. You can’t say yes or no to other groups who might want to use it. So, with that one simple move, he said to the company, look, if the group wants to go grab all of the GitHub code to train up a model to help to provide assistance to programmers, you don’t have to ask permission.

Just go do that, subject to all the right constraints and safeties on it. Man, that is an astonishingly good bureaucracy-reduction mechanism. I think maybe the deepest thing that Nadella did, though, was he pulled off this amazing feat of helping Microsoft become a less defensive organization.

And what I mean by that was he says in the book and he said in his interview with me, we had a culture where it was not OK to be wrong to show any weakness, to not hit your numbers, to not be the smartest person in the room. He said, we just had that culture. And it had to change.

And so he did a number of really brilliant things to move from a culture of defensiveness to a culture of openness. And when I used to hear this word vulnerability in connection with leadership or business, I thought it was just the most kind of buzz phrase, hand-wavy nonsense business.

The company is not a therapy group. It’s not there so you can sit around feeling vulnerable all the time. I was just wrong. Now, the company is not your therapy group. However, a company is a place– a successful company needs to be a place where it’s OK to be wrong, to fail, to not have the answer, to show that you’re uncertain.

And Nadella helped get Microsoft down that path. And it was an absolutely fundamental thing to do. I also interviewed Yamini Rangan, who’s the CEO of HubSpot here in Cambridge, who took over a culture that had an amazing culture and has strengthened it through a really difficult time, through the pandemic.

And she said one of the things that she learned and that she was good at was saying in this unbelievably uncertain time of the pandemic, where tech companies were growing like crazy, and then they were shrinking, and it was all weird, she said to a lot of her constituencies, look, I don’t know.

I don’t know what the future holds here. I’m going to be honest with you. She also shared her board performance review with her direct reports– not just the good parts, but the stuff that she needs to work on too. These are all just great moves to start to show the rest of the organization, it is OK not to be perfect, not to put on the brave front, not to be winning all of the time.

Adi, Jack Welch’s autobiography was called Winning. And it was just kind of epitomized this industrial-era view of what you have to do all day, every day. I love the geek view, which is, hey, man, we’re going to launch some rockets. And they are going to blow up.

Now, we’re not going to kill anybody. But we’re absolutely going to launch some rockets that are going to blow up on the launch pad. Bezos said a few years back in a shareholders letter, we are incubating multibillion dollar failures inside Amazon right now.

That’s appropriate for a company of our scale. And you look at Alexa, and I think maybe he was right about that. But the point is, this obsession with winning, and being on top, and being right, and being dominant– that has to go away

ADI IGNATIUS: Those are great examples. I do want to get to audience questions. And there’s actually a couple. One came from Shabana in Pakistan, the other from [INAUDIBLE] in India. Similar questions, and it’s really getting at what kinds of organizational design, organizational structures do you need to foster this geek culture?

ANDREW MCAFEE: I don’t think org structure is the key because the companies that I surveyed have very, very different org charts. They also have very different formal practices. Netflix is fairly famous for having the no-vacation-days policy. Amazon has extremely strict vacation policies for different levels of employee.

So, I think it’s not a matter of the org chart or the org structure that you have. It’s not so much a matter of how formal a lot of your policies are. It’s a matter of your norms. And I love that book. And Adi, like you know, I use it– I love that word. And I use it in the book all the time.

A norm is a behavior that the people around you expect. Maybe it’s written down in the employees’ manual. Very often, it’s not. It’s community policing. It’s what the people around you expect. And if you go out of line and you violate a norm in a community, you will know that fairly quickly.

And you will either come back into line. Or you’re just not going to stick around very long. So, for me, if you can work on these norms of science, argue about evidence, of ownership, push authority and decision making down to an uncomfortable degree. Speed, iterate, don’t plan, don’t analyze, build stuff, get feedback, learn from reality.

And then, openness, don’t be defensive. Be willing to pivot. Be willing to admit that you’re wrong. They show a little vulnerability. Those are the norms that are critical for the Geek Way.

ADI IGNATIUS: So, I think our audience is impressed with you and with your argument. Maybe it’s the glasses. But we have a question.

ANDREW MCAFEE: It’s probably the glasses.

ADI IGNATIUS: It’s probably the glasses. It’s always the glasses. Bob, if you had an English accent, it would blow it away.

ANDREW MCAFEE: Damn. I need a posh British accent, don’t I?

ADI IGNATIUS: So, Bob Jernaki is asking, is the stack of books on your right your reading list for the week?

ANDREW MCAFEE: So, these are from all over the place. But there was a stack of books that I kept referring to when I was writing The Geek Way. And they were not business books. I’m sorry to admit this as a business book writer. They were books from this relatively new field called “cultural evolution,” which gets at this fundamental question, why are we the only species on the planet that builds spaceships?

Nothing else is even close. We’re really the only ones out there. The octopuses are not going to do it. The ants, the bees, the chimpanzees are not going to do it. Why are we humans, the only spaceship-building species on the planet? And this field of cultural evolution, to me, has come up with the best answer to that question.

Which is, we are the only species that cooperates intensely with large numbers of people that we’re not related to. And we are the species that learns the quickest, that improves its tool kit, its technologies, its cultures most rapidly over time. Now, you can take that. And man, you can put that to work in a company.

A company is a large group of mostly unrelated people. And the goal of a company is to improve its culture, its artifacts, its technologies, its practices over time. So the goal of a company is to practice very rapid cultural evolution. Now that we a bit about how cultural evolution happens, we can put those insights to work.

And I think there’s this massive unexplored opportunity to take the insights from this field and put them to work inside the company. I think it’s so massive because I haven’t heard anybody talk using cultural evolution’s terms inside even very geeky companies. This is very, very new stuff. And I think The Geek Way, I think my book is the first applied business book of cultural evolution.

ADI IGNATIUS: I think I just figured something out. You’re a total geek.

ANDREW MCAFEE: Adi, we’ve been working together for years. It took you this long to realize this? But the thing that I got obsessed with was in my career, I’ve spent a lot of time in the– I hate these labels– the old economy and the new economy, lots of industrial-era incumbents and then a lot of companies clustered in the tech space, clustered on the West Coast.

And for my whole career, I have just been trying to pattern match and figure out what the real what the deep differences are between the two. Is it the foosball tables? Is it the hoodies? Is it bring your dog to work? No, obviously not. Where the action is in the economy, where the excitement is in the economy, what are they doing differently?

And The Geek Way contains my answers to that kind of career-long, geeky, head-scratching question.

ADI IGNATIUS: So, let’s get practical now for our viewers and HBR, I hope, stands for practical, useful, suggestions and inspiration. So, for our viewers who aren’t in classically geeky, say, startup culture or something, how can they apply the approaches that you’re championing at their own companies?

ANDREW MCAFEE: Here are a few things you can start doing tomorrow that are extremely geeky practices. And I think they will get some traction. When you’re in charge of your group or you’re a team member or you’re leading a team, if you say things like, that’s a good point.

I hadn’t thought of that, let’s go that way or I was wrong about, that that’s really good to know. You have just demonstrated openness and vulnerability instead of classic defensiveness. Now, that’s hard to do. We human beings are inherently defensive people.

We don’t like being shown to be wrong in public. It’s deeply uncomfortable. But if you model that behavior, it will start to spread. And I’ve seen geek leaders do that over and over. You can start to push decisions and responsibility down to a place that makes you uncomfortable and to get out of the, let me just run that by me first or, make sure I’m included on that– to try to get rid of the hard and soft bureaucracy that gets in the way.

I was talking to Sebastian Thrun, who’s an alpha geek and all kinds of things. And he said, one of the things I try to get my teams to do is to stop so much communicating. And he had this great image. He said, a team works on something. And then, they kind of run it up the flagpole.

And he said, the really natural tendency is for the people at every layer of the org chart to add something to that because they want to be part of the solution. They want to be part of this winning idea. And he said, by the time that idea gets back down to the originating team, it’s kind of unrecognizable.

Get out of that business. Again, this is uncomfortable stuff to do. But it’s a big step toward the Geek Way. And then, finally, you can start to say, well how are we going to make this decision? Can we agree on what evidence we’re going to look at to make this decision?

As opposed to saying, well, I’m the boss, I got it, or I got it right last time, so you should listen to me this time. All these other ways, we have to make decisions– credentials, hierarchy, charisma, excellent PowerPoint, all these things. Get out of that business and start asking for the consensus on how are we going to settle this argument, what evidence are we going to look at?

These are all super geeky practices you can start doing tomorrow.

ADI IGNATIUS: Yeah, that’s great. I should have mentioned before, when you were in praise of Satya Nadella so he was our guest on this show. And if you want to see a really good interview that I did with Satya Nadella, go to YouTube, The New World of Work, HBR interview with Satya Nadella.

ANDREW MCAFEE: Just go listen to Nadella whenever you can. He’s got this wonderful, cheerful demeanor. He’s always got a smile on his face. And the amount of knowledge that he laid on me in one interview was fantastic. You see from the book, Adi, I had this amazing experience of getting to interview a lot of my favorite alpha geeks.  And I learned a ton from them. It’s the kind of thing that makes this geek very happy. So, they’re in the book. And I thank them.

ADI IGNATIUS: So, here’s another audience question. This is Laurie from North Carolina. And this is another very practical kind of question. How can organizations get leaders to unlearn the idea– who think that failure is bad? How do you–

ANDREW MCAFEE: I see we’re just about out of time.

ADI IGNATIUS: Nice try.

ANDREW MCAFEE: This is a super hard question. This is a super hard question. And I fall back on something that I learned from Clay Christensen– Adi, you know, the late, great scholar of management and organizations. One of the things Clay taught me is that managers are voracious consumers of theory.

And he said, don’t be afraid to tell them why this needs to change, what the principle, what the framework is. And he said, if you want to get people to change, there’s a kind of a tripod. There are three things you have to do over and over again until you’re absolutely exhausted.

He said, first of all, tell them a vivid story. We humans respond to narratives. Second of all, give them some evidence. Give them some numbers to show that it works. And then, third, give them a theory explain. Why it works. And you’ve just got to go through all three of those legs.

Why can’t we make decisions this way? I’m a pretty smart person. I reached this place on the org chart because of my excellent judgment. What do you mean, we should be relying a lot less on my judgment? Again, three-part answer to that question, keep iterating on it. It is not an easy process.

I think a lot of companies who get interested in what Silicon Valley does differently or might want to embrace the Geek Way are going to find it hard going because a lot of it is unnatural and uncomfortable. Challenging your boss in a meeting in most circumstances is uncomfortable until it becomes a norm, until it becomes what people around you expect.

ADI IGNATIUS: All right, Andy. We’ve run a little bit long, so we’re going to cut you off here. I could talk all day with you about all these topics. And our audience is clearly into it and engaged. So, thank you very much for being on the show.

ANDREW MCAFEE: Adi, always a pleasure. Thank you for having me.

HANNAH BATES: That was Andy McAfee, a principal research scientist at the MIT Sloan School of Management, in conversation with HBR editor in chief Adi Ignatius. He’s the author of the book, The Geek Way: The Radical Mindset that Drives Extraordinary Results.

We’ll be back next Wednesday with another hand-picked conversation about business strategy from Harvard Business Review. If you found this episode helpful, share it with your friends and colleagues, and follow our show on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts. While you’re there, be sure to leave us a review.

When you’re ready for more podcasts, articles, case studies, books, and videos with the world’s top business and management experts, you’ll find it all at HBR.org.

This episode was produced by Julia Butler, Scott LaPierre, Anne Saini, and me, Hannah Bates. Video by Elie Honein. Design by Mikahla Dawson, Karen Player, and Kristen Petrillo. Ian Fox is our editor. Special thanks to Kelsey Hanson, Alex Kephart, Amy Poftak, Caitlin Amorin, Maureen Hoch, Nicole Smith, Erica Truxler, Ramsey Khabbaz, Anne Bartholomew, and you – our listener. See you next week.



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