Harvard Business Review: What Mad Men Can Teach You About Innovation


With the caveat that "it's usually not a great idea to look for innovation tips in the

storyline of television series, even award-winning ones," H. James Wilson of the Harvard Business Review explains why one scene in particular from Mad Men offers a vital lesson for innovators. In short, "bosses shouldn't hesitate to openly reward the execution of a solid

idea." HBR references a scene from Season Two in which Peggy Olson comes up with an idea for a new Popsicle campaign and aggressively markets the idea with her bosses at ad agency Sterling Cooper:

"I was reminded of an episode from season two

after reviewing fresh research results. In the episode, fast-rising

copywriter Peggy Olson confronts senior partner Roger Sterling in the

hallway, reminding him that she "landed the Popsicle account on her

own." Earlier scenes depict Olson imagining the ad campaign, testing it

on colleagues, and successfully pitching it to Popsicle executives. As

compensation, Olson asks Sterling for her own office. "It's yours," replies her boss decisively."

Giving Peggy her own office, it turns out, was the right move. According to the Babson Executive Education survey of 194 front-line employees on

trends and practices in corporate innovation, there is a striking

correlation between higher performance and overt leadership rewards for

execution of new ideas.


These findings were duplicated across three innovation practices: personal idea

creation, experimentation, and scaling ideas. For example, respondents working at "rewarders" are two and a half times more likely to personally develop new ideas on a regular basis than those working at non-rewarders (55% to 21%).

Now, if you'll excuse me, it's almost time for the premiere of Season Four of Mad Men -- time to put on a suit, tie and fedora and head out for an Old Fashioned or four with Don Draper, Roger Sterling, Pete Campbell, and the other Mad Men.

[image: "Mad Men" via AMC]

Related Articles

How does alcohol affect your brain?

Explore how alcohol affects your brain, from the first sip at the bar to life-long drinking habits.

(Photo by Angie Garrett/Wikimedia Commons)
Mind & Brain
  • Alcohol is the world's most popular drug and has been a part of human culture for at least 9,000 years.
  • Alcohol's effects on the brain range from temporarily limiting mental activity to sustained brain damage, depending on levels consumed and frequency of use.
  • Understanding how alcohol affects your brain can help you determine what drinking habits are best for you.
Keep reading Show less

Scientists sequence the genome of this threatened species

If you want to know what makes a Canadian lynx a Canadian lynx a team of DNA sequencers has figured that out.

Surprising Science
  • A team at UMass Amherst recently sequenced the genome of the Canadian lynx.
  • It's part of a project intending to sequence the genome of every vertebrate in the world.
  • Conservationists interested in the Canadian lynx have a new tool to work with.

If you want to know what makes a Canadian lynx a Canadian lynx, I can now—as of this month—point you directly to the DNA of a Canadian lynx, and say, "That's what makes a lynx a lynx." The genome was sequenced by a team at UMass Amherst, and it's one of 15 animals whose genomes have been sequenced by the Vertebrate Genomes Project, whose stated goal is to sequence the genome of all 66,000 vertebrate species in the world.

Sequencing the genome of a particular species of an animal is important in terms of preserving genetic diversity. Future generations don't necessarily have to worry about our memory of the Canadian Lynx warping the way hearsay warped perception a long time ago.

elephant by Guillaume le Clerc

Artwork: Guillaume le Clerc / Wikimedia Commons

13th-century fantastical depiction of an elephant.

It is easy to see how one can look at 66,000 genomic sequences stored away as being the analogous equivalent of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. It is a potential tool for future conservationists.

But what are the practicalities of sequencing the genome of a lynx beyond engaging with broad bioethical questions? As the animal's habitat shrinks and Earth warms, the Canadian lynx is demonstrating less genetic diversity. Cross-breeding with bobcats in some portions of the lynx's habitat also represents a challenge to the lynx's genetic makeup. The two themselves are also linked: warming climates could drive Canadian lynxes to cross-breed with bobcats.

John Organ, chief of the U.S. Geological Survey's Cooperative Fish and Wildlife units, said to MassLive that the results of the sequencing "can help us look at land conservation strategies to help maintain lynx on the landscape."

What does DNA have to do with land conservation strategies? Consider the fact that the food found in a landscape, the toxins found in a landscape, or the exposure to drugs can have an impact on genetic activity. That potential change can be transmitted down the generative line. If you know exactly how a lynx's DNA is impacted by something, then the environment they occupy can be fine-tuned to meet the needs of the lynx and any other creature that happens to inhabit that particular portion of the earth.

Given that the Trump administration is considering withdrawing protection for the Canadian lynx, a move that caught scientists by surprise, it is worth having as much information on hand as possible for those who have an interest in preserving the health of this creature—all the way down to the building blocks of a lynx's life.

Why cauliflower is perfect for the keto diet

The exploding popularity of the keto diet puts a less used veggie into the spotlight.

Purple cauliflower. (Photo: Shutterstock)
Surprising Science
  • The cauliflower is a vegetable of choice if you're on the keto diet.
  • The plant is low in carbs and can replace potatoes, rice and pasta.
  • It can be eaten both raw and cooked for different benefits.
Keep reading Show less