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Harvard Business Publishing reimagines its archive as the LeadingEdge learning platform

November 17, 2015 | By Michelle Manafy, Editorial Director – DCN @michellemanafy

The Harvard Business Publishing archive has long offered a wealth of information to organizations that wanted to develop internal training programs or offer content to support the ongoing education of staff. However, this deep well of content was ripe for the functional overhaul that took place over the past year: an “archive reboot” that recently launched as a platform, LeadingEdge.

Rob McKinney, director of product management at Harvard Business School Publishing says they set out to “reimagine the archive as a mobile-first experience and make it really easy to access and use the best of Harvard content.” They started off by talking to their learning group customers to see what features and functionality they would find most useful. These customers fall into three groups: curriculum designers, group managers, and individuals within organizations that license the platform.

It is interesting to note that when McKinney’s team showed wire frames of the first version of LeadingEdge to users, they provided positive and constructive feedback but overwhelmingly said they didn’t think they’d use it on mobile. However, by the final iteration, these testers had swung to the other extreme, saying that they frequently found themselves wanting to use the product when they were away from the office.

This is reflective not only of today’s employees’ constantly-connected work life, but also of the expectation for informal, flexible learning opportunities. While organizations centrally deploy LeadingEdge, and many develop their own programs using the content, the platform also allows individual learners to access, organize and share content from any device and any location with the same seamless experience.

McKinney says that their mobile-first product development process allowed them to decide what to add in tablet and desktop viewsand to “create an experience that isn’t jarring for the user when they move from one to the other. If you’ve used one format, the interface is consistent and you don’t have to re-learn how to use it in other formats.”

HBPSearchLeadingEdge content includes Harvard Business Review (HBR) articles, case studies and commentaries, newsletters, videos, book chapters, as well as Harvard Business School (HBS) case studies. HBR editors will also preview content that is slated to appear in the magazine prior to publication. What this means, according to McKinney, is that LeadingEdge can be leveraged for formal learning or informal continuous learning. “When we reimagined our archive, we wanted to make a single place where you could search across all of this information and have a lot of options that suit your intentions or your available time—from a two-minute video, a lesson with a Harvard ManageMentor, or longer articles or case studies.”

Given the depth and breadth of content, made functional with an array of tools such as robust search and filtering, a “my library tool,” the ability to easily share individual assets or a collection, and callouts for newly-added content, McKinney believes that LeadingEdge provides curriculum managers with an easier way to access the appropriate HBR and HBS content to support their learning objectives. It also allows them to more easily make this content available to teams and individual leaders so that they can use the information “in their moment of need, or to make sure their knowledge is current when they find some time between meetings.” He points to the large body of research on intrinsic motivation, which he says is largely driven by the ability to make one’s own choices. “We are trying to get at that,” says McKinney, “this tool gives people a lot of power to choose the content they want to engage with to support their need to effectively coach their teams and achieve stated goals, but also to spark new ideas.”

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