Excellence Comes From Saying No

In a new course designed by Frances Frei and Amy Schulman, business and law students help each other define and achieve their own interpretations of success. Lesson one: You can’t be great at everything.


We all know people who seem able to perform at a higher level than those around them; and we’ve all had moments ourselves where we are firing on all cylinders and everything just seems to work. But how do you achieve that kind of excellence on a consistent basis, day after day?

Harvard Business School Professor Frances Frei has explored that question for years in the retail realm, culminating in her 2012 book, Uncommon Service: How to Win by Putting Customers at the Core of Your Business.

This past semester at HBS, the UPS Foundation Professor of Service Management applied those lessons through a new course for MBA students, Why You Should Care: Creating the Conditions for Excellence , co-taught with Senior Lecturer and venture capital guru Amy Schulman.

Together, they created a course unlike any other at the school, both profoundly practical and intensely personal. “I can’t even express to you how exceptional the experience has been,” says Frei. “I have never received papers like this, ever.”

According to the course description, “CCE explores how to identify and overcome the barriers to personal and professional excellence, barriers that are often counter-intuitive such as a focus on individual achievement.”

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