14 Apr 2020

Harvard Business Review Announces 61st Annual HBR McKinsey Award Winners

Top article explores paradoxical nature of innovative cultures

BOSTON, MA—Innovative company cultures require a combination of seemingly contradictory behaviors, argues the winner of the 2019 HBR McKinsey Award, which honors the best Harvard Business Review article of the year.

In “The Hard Truth About Innovative Cultures,” Gary Pisano writes that innovative cultures are generally portrayed as collaborative, psychologically safe, tolerant of failure, and just plain fun. But those characteristics are only one side of the coin, according to Pisano, a professor at Harvard Business School who studies innovation at companies. They must be counterbalanced by rigorous discipline, no tolerance for incompetence, brutal candor, and a high level of individual accountability.

“Pisano’s article perfectly encapsulates the tensions inherent in building and sustaining an innovative culture,” said Adi Ignatius, Editor in Chief of Harvard Business Review. “These insights are especially valuable at a time when innovation is needed more than ever.”

Gary Pisano is the Harry E. Figgie Professor of Business Administration and Senior Associate Dean for Faculty Development at the Harvard Business School.

The annual HBR McKinsey Awards, judged by an independent panel of business and academic leaders with input from members of HBR’s Advisory Board, commend outstanding articles published each year in Harvard Business Review. This year’s announcement appears in the May-June issue of the magazine.

This year’s HBR McKinsey Awards also recognizes two finalists:

- “Cross-Silo Leadership” by Tiziana Casciaro of Rotman, Amy C. Edmondson of Harvard Business School, and Sujin Jang of INSEAD.

- “Operational Transparency” by Ryan Buell, Harvard Business School.

The 2019 HBR McKinsey judges were: Bharat Anand, Professor, Harvard Business School; Cheryl Bachelder, Director, US Foods, Chick-fil-A, and Pier 1; Claudio Fernández-Aráoz, Former Partner, Egon Zehnder; and Francesca Gino, Professor, Harvard Business School.


Amy Poftak
Director of Communications


Since 1959, the HBR McKinsey Awards have recognized practical and groundbreaking management thinking by determining the best articles published each year in Harvard Business Review. Past winners include Clayton M. Christensen, Peter Drucker, Daniel Goleman, Rosabeth Moss Kanter, John Kotter, Mark R. Kramer, Michael E. Porter, and George Stalk.


Harvard Business Review is the leading destination for smart management thinking. Through its flagship magazine, 12 international licensed editions, books from Harvard Business Review Press, and digital content and tools published on HBR.org, Harvard Business Review provides professionals around the world with rigorous insights and best practices to lead themselves and their organizations more effectively and to make a positive impact.


Founded in 1908 as part of Harvard University, Harvard Business School is located on a 40-acre campus in Boston. Its faculty of more than 200 offers full-time programs leading to the MBA and doctoral degrees, as well as more than 70 open enrollment Executive Education programs and 55 custom programs, and HBX, the School’s digital learning platform. For more than a century, HBS faculty have drawn on their research, their experience in working with organizations worldwide, and their passion for teaching to educate leaders who make a difference in the world, shaping the practice of business and entrepreneurship around the globe.