|Appeal for the World|
Before I move any further, let me define what I feel will qualify as a "world-class management journal". I feel it's a publication that engages, enthralls, excites, and raised the reader's intellectual level without him/her even consciously realising that. It presents the real world problems in a colourful, tasteful, artistic and lucid manner that most people can comprehend. And most important of all, it lacks bullshit disguised as academic jargon. Stuff that's only there because some professor wanted to prove a point.
Example of bullshit - "Customer-engagement metrics were redesigned and recalibrated to create a sustained harmony of user-experience that was unparalleled in the industry landscape dotted with horror-stories of failed paradigms that threatened to obfuscate the need for ground level research"
Simplified, it reads - As many companies had failed in this sector, we redesigned our approach to customer service. We wanted them to get a fantastic user-experience.
This example is a strong indicator of the editorial scissors that must be used in ample measure.
So, why is the situation so bad when it comes to management journals from India? And is it really a bad situation? Let me offer a dispassionate review.
I have been a subscriber to the HBR for more than 15 years now - the international edition. They played around for a while in between automatically offering local Indian edition, but reverted quickly to the original western edition upon my protest. (This further gave me a strong insight on why Indian publications simply lack the kind of gravity you get addicted to when using the western editions.)
What makes HBR solid? Here are eight differentiators -
- Terrific presentation - from the cover page to the cartoons, and from the graphics to the colours, it's totally gripping. The graphics are outstanding, the cartoons very enjoyable!
- Cohesiveness - the whole issue looks cohesive end-to-end; one does not feel like putting it down without completely absorbing what's in it. Leaves a great impression everytime, and a deep sense of satisfaction
Colour, taste, style, substance
- ROI - there is a conscious effort through all this to make the reader feel there's a great ROI on what he/she is investing in - it's more than putting in colours and graphics.. it's a conscious effort by an owner to tie the whole thing together in a tremendously market-friendly package
- Presentation - dull, drab, almost colourless, academic graphs only
- Language - tough, definitely not user-friendly, replete with jargon amazingly arcane and senseless
- Big names - do not hit you hard anywhere
- Practical ROI for anyone who reads it sincerely - the big question :)
In all fairness, I must add that perhaps the global nature of business that Harvard is exposed to makes it easier for them to churn out issue after delightful issue... but then the Indian economy is no less colourful. So how come the leading Indian B-schools get it so wrong? Perhaps - and most likely - they just don't believe it's worthwhile investing so much energy into a publication. Perhaps it doesn't affect the Professors' career prospects. Perhaps they just don't understand it's the nation's image that can get bolstered with an honest effort.
It also reminds me of a painful conversation I had the other day with a student who reminded me that there was not a single Indian university in a recent top 200 ranking in the world. While that's a debatable issue, what's not debatable is the fact that there should be many Indian names in such lists, given the insanely high value we attach to a formal degree based university education in India.
My suggestions to make a desi HBR that would stand high and mighty one day -
- Create a dedicated team with a 5 year target - set specific metrics for what a world-class management journal from India should look like. It should be a dispassionate exercise, without fear or favour
- Get young blood into the driver's seat - desperately needed young drivers for a new world that demands speed, social media savvy and worldwide engagement
- Commercial engagement - this is the most important aspect. Understand this with an open mind - when you actively seek out commercial support from leading brands, you are forced to create a good product, a worthwhile return on investment. More than anything else, this can drive your project