Richard S. Tedlow

MBA Class of 1949 Professor of Business Administration, Emeritus

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.

Recent articles

Don't Deny the Facts

Investor's Business Daily, April 27, 2010

The ability to see facts objectively is paramount to business success. An interview with Richard S. Tedlow.

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

The Conference Board Review, Spring 2010

Q&A with Richard S. Tedlow about his new book, Denial: Why Business Leaders Fail to Look Facts in the Face.

Toyota Was in Denial. How About You?

By Richard S. Tedlow, BusinessWeek, April 8, 2010

You can just shake your head at Toyota's obvious denial of reality. Or you can take a hard look at your own company.

Ruthlessly Realistic: How CEOs Must Overcome Denial

HBS Working Knowledge, March 29, 2010

In this Q&A, Richard S. Tedlow discusses how denial can cripple a company, and what can be done about it.

Admit It: You're In Denial

By Richard S. Tedlow, The Washington Post, "On Leadership," February 26, 2010

There is no foolproof way to escape denial. But there are tell-tale signs of its presence in an organization.

Sears' Edifice Complex

By Richard S. Tedlow and David Ruben,, July 10, 2009

If you are involved in a company that decides to immortalize itself in glass and steel, proceed with caution.

GM and the World We Have Lost

By Richard S. Tedlow and David Ruben, The Boston Globe, June 3, 2009

The bankruptcy of General Motors Corp. is one tree falling in the forest that every American ought to hear.

Fast Track the New President

By Richard S. Tedlow and David Ruben, The Boston Globe, October 15, 2008

Most free nations change administrations with far greater dispatch than does the U.S. We can fix our system now, before it causes irreparable harm. Why wait?

Leaders in Denial

By Richard S. Tedlow, HBS Centennial Issue, Harvard Business Review 86, nos. 7/8 (July - August 2008)

History has lessons to teach about the role of denial in the decline of companies. The stubborn refusal of the U.S. automobile industry to admit the changeability of consumer demand is one of the best examples.

Will History Happen to You?

By Richard S. Tedlow, The Times of India, March 25, 2008.

Why is it that great firms -- companies with the smartest executives and the most powerful competitive advantages -- persist in the mistakes of their predecessors?

The Dangers of Wishful Thinking

By Richard S. Tedlow and David Ruben, The American, February 2008

Too many U.S. businesses have been infected with the disease of denial. The answer? In Lincoln’s words, "We must disenthrall ourselves."