Richard S. Tedlow

MBA Class of 1949 Professor of Business Administration, Emeritus

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Richard S. Tedlow is the Class of 1949 Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School, where he is a specialist in the history of business.

Professor Tedlow received his B.A. from Yale in 1969 and his M.A. and Ph.D. in history from Columbia in 1971 and 1976 respectively. He came to the Harvard Business School on a fellowship in 1978 and joined the faculty in 1979. From 1979 through 1982, he taught First Year Marketing. His involvement in marketing has continued, and he has been a member of the faculty of the "Strategic Retail Management Seminar," the "Top Management Seminar for Retailers and Suppliers," "Managing Brand Meaning," and the "Strategic Marketing Management" executive education programs. From 1978 to the present, he has been involved in the School's Business History program. In 1992 and 1993, he taught a course entitled "Business, Government, and the International Economy." He has also taught in numerous executive programs at the Harvard Business School as well as at corporations, including programs in marketing strategy and general management. His book -- Giants of Enterprise: Seven Business Innovators and the Empires They Built (HarperBusiness, 2001) -- was selected by Business Week as one of the top ten business books of 2001.

Prof. Tedlow’s book, Andy Grove: The Life and Times of an American, was published by Portfolio, an imprint of Penguin Group USA, in November 2006. It was selected by Business Week as one of the top ten business books of 2006.

Prof. Tedlow's most recent book, Denial: Why Business Leaders Fail to Look Facts in the Face, was published by Portfolio in March, 2010. It was selected by strategy+business as one of the best business books of 2010.

Featured Work

Publications

Books

  1. Denial: Why Business Leaders Fail to Look Facts in the Face--and What to Do About It

    This book deals with two of the biggest problems in business: Why do sane, smart leaders often refuse to accept the facts that threaten their companies? And how do they find the courage to resist denial when facing new trends, changing markets, and tough new competitors?

    Keywords: Change Management; Leadership; Problems and Challenges; Personal Characteristics; Competition;

  2. Giants of Enterprise: Seven Business Innovators and the Empires They Built

    Keywords: Business History;

    Citation:

    Tedlow, R. S. Giants of Enterprise: Seven Business Innovators and the Empires They Built. New York, NY: HarperBusiness, 2001. (Selected as one of the 10 best business books of the year 2001 by Business Week. It has also been translated into 7 languages, including Chinese (complex characters), Chinese (simplified characters), Indonesian, Hungarian, Korean, Portuguese (Brazil) and Russian.) View Details

Journal Articles

  1. Nothing to See Here: Richard Tedlow Explains Why So Many CEOs Refuse to Confront the Truth

    The article presents an interview with business historian Richard Tedlow on the topic of why chief executive officers (CEOs) sometimes refuse to acknowledge data or information that indicate they need to shift their strategy. He notes that denial is a typical response to terrifying truths. He says CEOs need to surround themselves with people unafraid to be truthful, and that CEOs should be proactive in soliciting contrary points of view.

    Keywords: Management;

    Citation:

    Tedlow, Richard S. "Nothing to See Here: Richard Tedlow Explains Why So Many CEOs Refuse to Confront the Truth." Conference Board Review (spring 2010). (A conversation with Richard Tedlow, by Matthew Budman.) View Details
  2. Leaders in Denial

    Henry Ford's stubborn refusal to admit the changeability of consumer demand allowed Chrysler and GM to horn in on his market. Half a century later the whole U.S. auto industry made the same mistake: Enter the Japanese. But denial comes in many forms, as Sears, Digital Equipment, and Bear Stearns can attest.

    Keywords: Decision Choices and Conditions; Judgments; Leadership; Demand and Consumers; Auto Industry; United States;

    Citation:

    Tedlow, Richard S. "Leaders in Denial." HBS Centennial Issue. Harvard Business Review 86, nos. 7/8 (July–August 2008). View Details
  3. The Dangers of Wishful Thinking

    Too many U.S. businesses (including tires, super-markets, and information technology) have been infected with the disease of denial. The answer? In Lincoln's words, “We must disenthrall ourselves.”

    Keywords: Knowledge Acquisition; Knowledge Use and Leverage; Leadership; Growth and Development Strategy; Success; Behavior; Cognition and Thinking;

    Citation:

    Tedlow, Richard S., and David Ruben. "The Dangers of Wishful Thinking." American: A Magazine of Ideas (January–February 2008). View Details
  4. Making Choices: Aspects of the History of the Harvard Business School MBA Program

    Keywords: Higher Education; History; Decision Choices and Conditions; Boston;

    Citation:

    Koehn, Nancy F., Thomas R. Piper, V. Kasturi Rangan, and Richard S. Tedlow. "Making Choices: Aspects of the History of the Harvard Business School MBA Program." MBA Leadership and Learning (1992). View Details

Book Chapters

  1. Theodore Levitt's 'The Globalization of Markets': An Evaluation After Two Decades

    Keywords: Globalized Markets and Industries;

    Citation:

    Tedlow, Richard S., and Rawi Abdelal. "Theodore Levitt's 'The Globalization of Markets': An Evaluation After Two Decades." In The Global Market: Developing a Strategy to Manage Across Borders, edited by John A. Quelch and Rohit Deshpandé, 11–30. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2004. View Details

Working Papers

Cases and Teaching Materials

  1. Sole-Sourcing the Intel 386: A Company and Industry Transformed

    Intel's precedent-breaking decision not to second-source its groundbreaking 386 microprocessor in 1986 propelled Intel to new heights and fundamentally transformed the computer industry.

    Keywords: Decisions; Technological Innovation; Production; Hardware; Transformation; Brands and Branding; Product Development; Computer Industry; United States;

    Citation:

    Tedlow, Richard S., and David Ruben. "Sole-Sourcing the Intel 386: A Company and Industry Transformed." Harvard Business School Case 809-076, November 2008. (Revised June 2009.) View Details
  2. Harrington Collection: Sizing Up the Active-Wear Market

    In the wake of slumping sales and sagging profit margins, a leading manufacturer and retailer of high-end women's apparel, Harrington Collection, must evaluate an opportunity to expand into the high-growth active-wear market. Sara Huey, Vice President of Strategic Planning, calls on two of her colleagues to help perform a comprehensive market evaluation. They must analyze the financial implications of the opportunity, assess trade and competitor reactions, consider the risks, and determine whether the Vigor division of the company will be able to successfully launch and manage the new product line.

    Keywords: Breakeven analysis; consumer behavior; Product introduction; Expansion; Consumer Behavior; Supply and Industry; Product Launch; Apparel and Accessories Industry;

    Citation:

    Tedlow, Richard S., and Heather Beckham. "Harrington Collection: Sizing Up the Active-Wear Market." Harvard Business School Brief Case 083-258, September 2008. View Details
  3. Du Pont: The Birth of the Modern Multidivisional Corporation

    Du Pont's realization in 1921 that its "U-form" corporate structure was ill-suited to its new diversification strategy led to a pioneering new kind of organization—the "M" or multidivisional form—that has been called the most important innovation of capitalism in the 20th century. This case examines how and why this pivotal transformation took place and what its implications may be for corporations that are trying to align their structure with their strategy as they undergo rapid growth and change.

    Keywords: Change Management; Innovation and Invention; Growth and Development Strategy; Organizational Change and Adaptation; Organizational Structure; Alignment; Corporate Strategy;

    Citation:

    Tedlow, Richard S., and David Ruben. "Du Pont: The Birth of the Modern Multidivisional Corporation." Harvard Business School Case 809-012, August 2008. View Details
  4. Benjamin Franklin and the Definition of American Values

    Discusses the value systems and their relationship to the conduct of business in 18th Century America. Also focuses on Benjamin Franklin, the preeminent colonial American, to examine how business was conducted in his era. Based on an earlier case by B.E. Supple.

    Keywords: Business Ventures; Values and Beliefs; Business History; Business and Government Relations; United States;

    Citation:

    Tedlow, Richard S. "Benjamin Franklin and the Definition of American Values." Harvard Business School Case 383-160, March 1983. (Revised March 2008.) View Details
  5. James Burke: A Career in American Business (A)

    Presents an historical overview of the professional career of James E. Burke, chairman and CEO of Johnson & Johnson. Examines the corporation's handling of three major occurrences--the Tylenol poisonings in 1982 and 1986 and the acquisition and subsequent sale of Technicare, a maker of diagnostic imaging equipment.

    Keywords: Business History; Marketing Strategy; Ethics; Personal Development and Career; Crisis Management; Consumer Products Industry; Health Industry; United States;

    Citation:

    Tedlow, Richard S., and Wendy Smith. "James Burke: A Career in American Business (A)." Harvard Business School Case 389-177, April 1989. (Revised October 2005.) View Details
  6. James Burke: A Career in American Business (B)

    Covers the history of Tylenol from the autumn of 1982 through the second tampering incident in February 1986. Also deals with other developments in the history of Johnson & Johnson, especially the acquisition and divestiture of Technicare.

    Keywords: History; Pharmaceutical Industry;

    Citation:

    Tedlow, Richard S., and Wendy Smith. "James Burke: A Career in American Business (B)." Harvard Business School Case 390-030, August 1989. (Revised October 2005.) View Details
  7. Westfield America

    The company is attempting to duplicate its Australian formula for successful mall ownership in the U.S. market. It must deal with rapidly evolving financial markets while recognizing and capitalizing on emerging trends in retailing.

    Keywords: Market Entry and Exit; Adaptation; Financial Markets; Property; Trends; Retail Industry; Real Estate Industry; Australia; United States;

    Citation:

    Poorvu, William J., Richard S. Tedlow, and Daniel J. Rudd. "Westfield America." Harvard Business School Case 899-260, May 1999. (Revised August 1999.) View Details
  8. Organizational Capabilities and U.S. War Production: The Controlled Materials Plan of World War II

    A vehicle for the discussion of a very important set of institutional arrangements that helped enable America to mobilize its economy for World War II.

    Keywords: Economy; Production; Organizational Change and Adaptation; Strategic Planning; War; United States;

    Citation:

    Cuff, Robert D., and Richard S. Tedlow. "Organizational Capabilities and U.S. War Production: The Controlled Materials Plan of World War II." Harvard Business School Case 390-166, April 1990. (Revised August 1997.) View Details
  9. Railroad Problem and the Solution

    A vehicle for a discussion of the causes and consequences of the Interstate Commerce Act.

    Keywords: Transportation; Rail Transportation; Fluctuation; Outcome or Result; Public Sector; Government and Politics; Business History; Complexity; Problems and Challenges; Rail Industry;

    Citation:

    Tedlow, Richard S. "Railroad Problem and the Solution." Harvard Business School Case 384-032, August 1983. (Revised March 1995.) View Details
  10. Why Bad Things Happen to Good Companies

    Describes the Darwinian internal and external processes that lead to poor performance from a previously well performing company. Demonstrates why any business design eventually fails and the role of organizational calcification and poor leadership in the failure. Also provides prescriptions to prevent and alleviate the problems.

    Keywords: Leadership; Management Practices and Processes; Organizational Design; Failure; Performance;

    Citation:

    Shapiro, Benson P., Adrian J. Slywotsky, and Richard S. Tedlow. "Why Bad Things Happen to Good Companies." Harvard Business School Background Note 595-045, November 1994. View Details
  11. Hart Schaffner & Marx: The Market for Separately Ticketed Suits

    Calls for a decision on whether Hart Schaffner & Marx, the nation's leading manufacturer of high quality, branded suits, should expand its product line by marketing suits that are separately ticketed (i.e., the coat, vest, and slacks are sold from individual hangers and priced separately by the retailer rather than being sold and priced as an ensemble). Serves as a vehicle for discussing product policy issues in the context of a fragmented, mature, and highly competitive industry. Related issues of channel management, pricing, and advertising also must be analyzed. Demands skilled quantitative analysis of a complex breakeven situation.

    Keywords: Advertising; Decisions; Price; Markets; Distribution Channels; Production; Mathematical Methods; Competitive Strategy; Apparel and Accessories Industry;

    Citation:

    Tedlow, Richard S. "Hart Schaffner & Marx: The Market for Separately Ticketed Suits." Harvard Business School Case 582-134, April 1982. (Revised June 1993.) View Details
  12. Federal Trade Commission and the Shared Monopoly Case against the Ready-to-Eat Cereal Manufacturers, Teaching Note

    Keywords: Monopoly; Food and Beverage Industry; United States;

    Citation:

    Tedlow, Richard S. "Federal Trade Commission and the Shared Monopoly Case against the Ready-to-Eat Cereal Manufacturers, Teaching Note." Harvard Business School Teaching Note 385-109, August 1984. (Revised June 1985.) View Details
  13. Federal Trade Commission and the Shared Monopoly Case against the Ready-to-Eat Cereal Manufacturers

    Keywords: Business and Government Relations; Monopoly; Courts and Trials; Food and Beverage Industry; United States;

    Citation:

    McCraw, Thomas K., and Richard S. Tedlow. "Federal Trade Commission and the Shared Monopoly Case against the Ready-to-Eat Cereal Manufacturers." Harvard Business School Case 384-265, June 1984. View Details

Presentations

  1. From 'Universalistic Rather than Particularistic' to 'The Treasure of the Sierra Madre:' Another look at Chapter 2 of Alfred D. Chandler, Jr.'s Strategy and Structure

    Keywords: Strategy; Books;

    Citation:

    Tedlow, Richard S. "From 'Universalistic Rather than Particularistic' to 'The Treasure of the Sierra Madre:' Another look at Chapter 2 of Alfred D. Chandler, Jr.'s Strategy and Structure." Paper presented at the Academy of Management Annual Meeting, August 11, 2008. View Details

Other Publications and Materials

    Research Summary

  1. Denial: Why Business Leaders Fail to Look Facts in the Face

    Richard S. Tedlow is currently working on a book concerning historical examples of outstanding businesspeople who faced daunting challenges.  The book is divided into two parts:  "Getting It Wrong" and "Getting It Right."  Many times, great businesspeople have simply refused to face reality, and they and their organizations have suffered dreadfully as a result.  The reality of which Prof. Tedlow writes was not only knowable to these businesspeople at the time, it was in fact known by them.  This is not a book that exploits hindsight.  The question which the first half of the book explores is:  Why, knowing that they were facing disaster, did these great businesspeople not change course?  The second part of the book explores business executives facing similarly difficult dilemmas who did change course.  The question with which the book deals is:  Why is it that some people "get it wrong" while others "get it right"?
  2. The American Chief Executive from 1850 to 2000

    Richard S. Tedlow's research explores changes in the leadership strategies, styles, and backgrounds of corporate chief executive officers in the United States over the past century and a half. This project has both a qualitative and a quantitative component. The qualitative issues are described and analyzed in his book Giants of Enterprise: Seven Business Leaders and the Empires They Built (New York: HarperBusiness, 2001). The discussion of these seven business visionaries provides a prism through which we can see the evolution of American business and the American chief executive officer over the course of a century and a half. Business Week selected Giants of Enterprise as one of the top 10 business books of 2001. The quantitative side of this research is composed of data gathered on the CEOs of the nation's 250 largest corporations at different points in history. This database consists of demographic information (such as age, income, education, and place of birth) and information on career path (including number of companies worked at, number of jobs held, and number of years in business before reaching the top). Professor Tedlow's most recent book is a dual biography of the Thomas J. Watsons, Sr. and Jr., and the long term impact of their leadership on IBM. Entitled The Watson Dynasty: The Fiery Reign and Troubled Legacy of IBM's Founding Father and Son. This book was published by HarperBusiness in November 2003. Professor Tedlow has just competed Andy Grove: The Life and Times of an American. It is forthcoming from Portfolio, an imprint of Penguin Group USA, on November 2, 2006.