Rosabeth Moss Kanter holds the Ernest L. Arbuckle Professorship at Harvard Business School, where she specializes in strategy, innovation, and leadership for change. Her strategic and practical insights have guided leaders of large and small organizations worldwide for over 25 years, through teaching, writing, and direct consultation to major corporations and governments. The former Editor of Harvard Business Review (1989-1992), Professor Kanter has been named to lists of the "50 most powerful women in the world" (Times of London), and the "50 most influential business thinkers in the world" (Accenture and Thinkers 50 research). In 2001, she received the Academy of Management's Distinguished Career Award for her scholarly contributions to management knowledge, and in 2002 was named "Intelligent Community Visionary of the Year" by the World Teleport Association.
Kanter is well known for her classic 1977 study of "tokenism" on how being a minority can affect one's performance due to enhanced visibility and performance pressure. She is the author or co-author of 17 books, focused largely on business management techniques, especially change management. Her most recent book, America the Principled: 6 Opportunities for Becoming a Can-Do Nation Once Again sets forward a positive agenda for the nation. Her previous book, Confidence: How Winning Streaks & Losing Streaks Begin & End was a New York Times business bestseller and a BusinessWeek #1 bestseller. The book draws on more than 300 interviews with leaders in business, sport and politics to explore the role confidence plays in the performance of institutions and individuals.
Question: Do you have a personal philosophy?
Rosabeth Moss Kanter: My personal philosophy … Do I have a personal philosophy? I have many personal philosophies. I am constantly quoting things to myself. I learned this when I was writing my book “Confidence", and I was studying how great athletes and great sports teams achieve winning streaks. And I learned about self-talk, that athletes engage in self-talk. They're always saying things to themselves. So I have a lot of self-talk. At the moment I'm saying to myself, “Don't push the river. Go with the flow. So I'm going back to Zen statements stemming from my formative years. And I'm doing that because I'm working on some very difficult projects, including a project to bring a new kind of education to Harvard. And I'm working on projects with companies that have some thorny problems to solve. And I'm impatient. I wanna have it done right away. And you have to wait for people to get back to you. You have to wait for coalitions of people to form. Meetings keep getting rescheduled. So I say to myself, “Go with the flow. Don't push the river. But I also know how important it is not to give up. So I repeat to myself, “Everything can look like a failure in the middle. Kanter's Law. I think persisting is more important than almost anything else. You have to listen to negative voices, but I say to myself, “Don't let the voices and the negativity drag you down. So most of my personal philosophies have to do with action … with getting it done.
Recorded on: 6/13/07