Where ideas and people meet
Countdown to 2030
The new responsibilities of business for people, the planet and our future prosperity
Your independent digital advisor We help you in the IT decision-making process to grow your business
Design the right digital & governance strategy
Digital adoption trends Train your team for the digital challenge
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Contrast the positioning of IT providers
Antonio Argandoña Editorial Director of IESE Business School Insight AArgandona@iese.edu
What’s your resolution? o one ever said leading was easy, much less leading with ethics in today’s complex world. But the latter is very important. It’s the difference between being a technically good executive and a good executive in the fullest sense, one who knows not only how to do things but how
to do the right things. Admittedly, this is made harder when there’s so little time for reflection and per-
verse incentives abound, leading people to act in ways they shouldn’t because they get paid to do things they shouldn’t. There’s a lot of inertia, and if it works to keep doing things the same old way, that creates a success trap. There are human errors and, just as inevitably, the human tendency to deny or cover up those errors. In this context, frameworks such as the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) help us to find our way.
Cover Photograph © Mandy Barker
This magazine is full of stories of people who are trying to
“Lost at Sea” was
deep sense of purpose and responsibility. As we face 2020,
created by artist
we stand at an inflection point: 10 years to achieve as many
Mandy Barker for
of the 17 SDGs as possible; 10 years to create the better world
the IKEA Art Event
that governments and businesses around the world collec-
lead their organizations in the right direction, acting with a 154 IESE Business School Insight | 154
Where ideas and people meet
Countdown to 2030
The new responsibilities of business for people, the planet and our future prosperity
2016. The visually
tively agreed to aspire to. As you read these stories, consid-
beautiful image is
er what your own company is doing. Are you doing enough?
entirely made up of
What leadership qualities do you need to develop in order to
plastic debris recov-
do even more?
ered from beaches on six continents, highlighting the disturbing world of plastic waste
In doing this reflection ourselves, we have made sure that
hidden under our seas. By drawing in the
the paper in this magazine comes from recycled material or
viewer through aesthetic attraction, the art-
controlled wood certified by the Forest Stewardship Council
ist aims to provoke an emotional response,
(FSC). The mailing wrapper is a polyethylene film made from
making us question how and why these ev-
biomaterials, which the supplier assures is completely safe
eryday objects have ended up in the ocean,
and emits no substance harmful to the environment.
and hopefully leading us to positive action in tackling a problem of global concern.
It’s all part of being consistent in what we say and do – one of seven key leadership traits we highlight, along with being inspiring. We trust that this issue of IESE Business School Insight will serve to inspire you!
Countdown to 2030
The new responsibilities of business for people, the planet and our future prosperity One word: plastics As the tide turns against single-use plastics, know where your business stands
7 LEADERSHIP QUALITIES FOR THE GOALS Check your personal readiness: which qualities are you lacking?
We’ll always do things because we believe they’re right Juvencio Maeztu, Deputy CEO and CFO of Ingka Group, describes what IKEA is doing to meet the goals 26
Goals made easier
It’s time for everyone to step up Lise Kingo, CEO of the U.N. Global Compact, recommends
what more companies can do to meet the goals by 2030
Do your projects create social, environmental and economic value? Use this framework to find out
“Above all, you need to determine which of the goals you’re going to tackle as a company” Lise Kingo
“Making true progress on sustainable development will entail multistakeholder partnerships” Joan E. Ricart and Pascual Berrone
“The old way has an expiry date. Either you focus on making a positive contribution to the world or you’re gone” Juvencio Maeztu
THE BIG PICTURE
The pursuit of happiness
Tips for giving and receiving feedback better
“Happy new year,” we say. But what does it take for it to be so? Consider what these experts say
5 tips to knock an M&A disaster on its head
The effect of worldview on relational mobility
Decide ethically, and justice will follow
When morals meet models
Don’t fool yourself
By Daniel Beunza
By Pedro Nueno
+IESE The more you learn, the greater your impact Cristina Ventura, a catalyst for innovation
By Roberto García-Castro and Miguel A. Ariño
Driving transformation Gaby-Luise Wüst on Audi’s growth in China
All work and…play Entrepreneur Luis Pallares loves the underexplored opportunities
Walk the talk A coffee a day keeps the poachers away
“I learned the biggest lessons when I left my comfort zone” Steffen Sauer
Innovative spirit Leadership lessons from Gaudí’s Sagrada Familia
Editorial Director Emeritus
Design, Infographics and Layout
Fabrizio Ferraro, Strategic Management
Carlos García Pont, Marketing Beatriz Muñoz-Seca, Production,
Technology and Operations Management
M&N Consulting - Antonio Moré. Tel.: 93 544 12 34
Sebastian Reiche, Managing People in Organizations Joan E. Ricart, Strategic Management
Carles Vergara, Financial Management
IESE Business School — University of Navarra Legal Deposit: B 24325-2018 — ISSN 2604-5907
Editors Marta Comín, Emily McBride, Jordi Navarrete, Roger Perelló, Cintra Scott, Philip Seager Audited circulation: 44,998 Editorial Contributors
Spanish edition (average): 31,313
Nacho Benavides, Nicholas Corbishley,
English edition (average): 13,685
Javier Moncayo, Larisa Tatge Photos Mandy Barker, Quim Roser, Roger Rovira, Joel Sheakoski Illustrations
The opinions expressed in the articles published in this magazine are solely those of the authors. Articles may only be reproduced with prior written permission of IESE Business School, University of Navarra, and the original source must be cited.
Ajubel, Raul Arias, Javier Tascon
Barcelona Avda. Pearson, 21
Munich Maria-Theresia-Strasse 15
08034 Barcelona, Spain
81675 Munich, Germany
Tel.: +34 93 253 42 00
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Meeting the Sustainable Development Goals. Are you ready?
Countdown to 2030
n August 2019, the Business Roundtable rep-
Climate Action Summit upon her arrival in New
resenting top U.S. companies released a head-
York. “We are in the beginning of a mass extinction.
line-grabbing “Statement on the Purpose of a
And all you can talk about is money and fairytales of
Corporation” signed by 181 CEOs. In a signif-
eternal economic growth. How dare you!”
icant about-face from previous statements
issued since 1997, the signatories affirmed that a
Perhaps sensing the tide of public opinion was turn-
corporation exists to create value for all stakehold-
ing against them, the CEOs appeared to be scram-
ers, not just shareholders, and they committed to
bling to position themselves in the “woke” camp,
leading their companies based on this logic from
and critics dismissed their statement as PR. Others
now on. Investing in people through fair pay, edu-
were less cynical, welcoming their statement with
cation and training; dealing fairly and ethically with
cautious optimism. Everyone agreed that for the
suppliers; protecting the environment; embracing
statement to amount to more than nice words, we’d
sustainable business practices: these were to be
need to see business leaders really starting to put
companies’ animating purpose going forward.
their money where their mouth is.
The announcement got a mixed reception. At the
Time is of the essence. The 2030 Agenda for Sus-
time, teen climate activist Greta Thunberg was
tainable Development is 10 years away and there
crossing the Atlantic in a zero-emissions, solar-pow-
are legitimate fears that it won’t come anywhere
ered boat to deliver a stinging rebuke to leaders for
near to being met unless the business communi-
their lack of action on environmental sustainability.
ty wakes up and begins to act with more urgency.
“People are suffering. People are dying. Entire eco-
Certainly, the countdown has begun.
systems are collapsing,” she told the United Nations
We need to see business leaders really starting to put their money where their mouth is
How did we get here? Back in the 1990s, the United Nations initiated a series of conferences that brought member states together to define the most urgent priorities for the 21st century. This led to the development of eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which all member states were meant to achieve by 2015. The MDGs were aimed at lifting up developing countries, doing things like eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, reducing infant mortality rates and improving access to education. Almost from the start, the U.N. recognized that this would require a concerted effort by everyone – not just governments but companies too – so it established the Global Compact in 2000 specifically to enlist the help of the business community in advancing the goals. By 2004, the U.N. Global Compact had agreed a list of Ten Principles, grouped under four broad headings: human rights, labor, the environment and anti-corruption (see
8 | IESE Business School Insight | no. 154
Which goal is your company taking action on? 20%
Sized to show which goals companies have prioritized to date.
13% 48% 39%
Top 5 goals that IESE alumni are pursuing, according to a poll conducted during IESEâ€™s Global Alumni Reunion 2019.
source: U.N. Global Compact Progress Report 2019, based on 1,584 respondents representing 40 industries and 107 countries
no. 154 | IESE Business School Insight | 9
Countdown to 2030
Your company must have its purpose clear. This purpose needs to act as the lodestar for the organization, lending legitimacy to all its activities
More and more firms are embracing the agenda. For example, Inditex – the parent company of Zara, whose fast-fashion business model is viewed by some as inherently unsustainable – recently announced that all its garments would be made from sustainable fabrics by 2025 and that the energy its distribution centers, offices and stores consumed would shift to renewables. And Schneider Electric, which sponsors a Chair of Sustainability and Business Strategy at IESE, has committed to become carbon neutral by 2025 and achieve net-zero operational emissions by 2030. “Sustainability issues are an increasingly visible part of the business landscape,” says Mike Rosenberg, who has been studying and teaching sustainability for more than 20 years. “There has been a clear spike in awareness and public commitment, and I think we might finally be seeing a tipping point in the response of business.” Pressure is building from multiple sources. “Increasingly consumers are asking more from
the Lise Kingo interview for more on this). These
brands, with millennials, in particular, saving their
were meant to set a minimum standard for com-
dollars for those with responsible business practic-
panies’ actions around the world. By 2015, admira-
es,” says Rosenberg.
ble progress on the MDGs had been made and the Ten Principles were becoming broadly accepted.
In his classes at IESE, Rosenberg gets diverse
To keep this momentum going, another 15-year
groups of students to weigh up the SDGs and try
plan was launched, the current Sustainable Devel-
to figure out which ones they would implement in
opment Goals (SDGs). These consisted of 17 goals,
their part of the planet, and why. “They study the
along with 230-plus allied indicators, broader in
link between business strategy and sustainability,
scope but similarly trying to get public and private
and build wikis on their chosen topics. One of my
stakeholders worldwide to work together to build
favorite ideas that they came up with was to use
“an inclusive, sustainable and resilient future for
satellite technology to measure the achievement
people and the planet,” in the words of the U.N.
of the SDGs using direct measurement of the planet from outer space.”
IESE Dean Franz Heukamp believes the shift toward sustainability is a positive development and
Some of these visionary students go on to be-
the SDGs represent one of the most practical
come socially engaged employees and business
frameworks for thinking about the issue. “They’re
leaders, trained to think strategically about sus-
resonating with more businesses, investors and
tainability, and they change their companies
people in society,” he notes.
from within. Rosenberg mentions a former MBA
10 | IESE Business School Insight | no. 154
student who went on to head up Responsible
To stay on track, your company first needs to have
Retailing for a major multinational – a role that
its purpose clear. “One of the most effective means
didn’t exist before but was now considered a key
of building strong relationships with stakeholders is
pillar of the company’s growth strategy. “Some
to have a relevant purpose shared by all members of
members of this generation are combining their
your organization and which gives meaning to their
passion and energy for sustainability with busi-
daily work,” says Nuria Chinchilla. This assumes that
ness fundamentals like never before,” he says. “To
leaders have dedicated time and resources at three
stay competitive in the labor market, companies
levels: 1) to reflect deeply on what their purpose is;
have to embrace these values.” He cites recent
2) to communicate it well, both to employees and
pledges by Silicon Valley tech firms to become
to other leaders; and 3) to adapt their management
carbon neutral as evidence of them recogniz-
systems accordingly, with good feedback mecha-
ing they need to boost their brand proposition
nisms and measurement instruments in place. This
among 20- and 30-year-olds.
purpose needs to act as the lodestar for the organization, lending legitimacy to all its activities.
The pressure is also coming from investors. Rosenberg’s Strategy Department colleague,
For too long, companies haven’t had a clearly de-
Fabrizio Ferraro, has been studying responsi-
fined stance on sustainability. Their purpose was to
ble investing for over a decade. He points to the
make as much money as possible, without sparing
staggering growth of a sector that is going main-
much, if any, thought for the social consequences.
stream: “There are now more than 2,000 signa-
As Rosenberg remarks in his book, Strategy and
tories to the U.N.-sponsored Principles for Re-
Sustainability, for decades many companies simply
sponsible Investment, with almost $90 trillion in
refused to accept that a problem existed, or if they
assets under management. This form of invest-
were aware, they chose to cover it up, employing cri-
ing integrates Environmental, Social and Gov-
sis managers and PR professionals to put the best
ernance (ESG) criteria and increasingly uses the
possible spin on their activities rather than engaging
SDGs as its guide. These shareholders, through
in any serious reflection or redesign of their prod-
their investment decisions and engagement ac-
ucts, services or operations. But those represent
tivities, are forcing corporations to confront ESG
reactive responses, when what is urgently needed
issues directly at the board level. And their ef-
are more proactive strategies – in particular, a deep, broad engagement with these issues by senior management, if not a full-scale transformation or renewal of the firm itself, one that treats the SDGs not as boxes to tick but as opportunities for reinvention.
forts are starting to pay off. The Climate Action 100+ coalition of investors, for instance, recently convinced Royal Dutch Shell to set stricter carbon-output targets and commit to halve its net carbon footprint by 2050.”
So how do we get from where we are now to where we’d like to be? For Antonio Argandoña, the SDGs provide “a useful framework to help us move forward, giving us reference points to check our progress, so we don’t find ourselves in the position a year from now of having to start all over again.”
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach, Rosenberg insists. Each company needs to look at its own situation in terms of its customers, employees, shareholders and relationships with governments and interest groups to determine what the right level of response might be. This could range from making sure that your company is fully compliant – what he calls “taking the low road” – to realigning your business purpose and then
no. 154 | IESE Business School Insight | 11
Countdown to 2030
A great transformer of society The Grand Chancellor of the University of Navarra, Monsignor Fernando Ocáriz, presents this positive vision of the company. Companies are, above all, communities of peo-
nourishes people and transforms them, as the
ple. And those people show up to work every
enterprise interacts with society and endeavors
day for the usual reasons: to earn a living and
to generate prosperity for all.
support their families; to acquire new skills and knowledge; to enjoy career opportunities and
For this, we are prepared to devote our time,
experience personal satisfaction.
effort, attention, knowledge and enthusiasm, beyond the salary or benefits in the employment
But people also seek and need relationships with
contract. Indeed, the greatest opportunity a
others, since we are inherently social beings.
company can provide is for each and every one
Companies should be an expression of that, too,
of us to transform ourselves.
meeting not just people’s material needs but our spiritual ones as well. Through work we make
Too utopian? Certainly, our daily news confronts
friends and help others; we feel useful and con-
us with the negatives: fraud, layoffs and market
tribute to a common project. And in the process
manipulations; work that is inhumane and incom-
of serving others, we get to know ourselves
patible with family needs; technology that worsens
better, grow and become more complete human
inequality and threatens people’s future prospects.
beings, for the betterment of society as a whole. Yet such realities should spur us to make an urgent Satisfying the needs of other people is an ob-
course correction away from the lopsided focus
vious part of every company’s mission, namely
on economic dimensions, efficiency and market
through its provision of goods and services. But
share, and put our focus back on people. Ultimate-
satisfying the social dimension is no less im-
ly, transforming the world comes down to how we
portant. Companies need a purpose or goal that
transform the people inside our companies.
From a speech delivered by Monsignor Fernando Ocáriz on July 5, 2019, when he inaugurated a conference on business and social responsibility to mark IESE’s 60th anniversary
12 | IESE Business School Insight | no. 154
proudly “showing and telling” the world about your achievements with respect to the goals. But make sure “show and tell” is not just for show. “When sustainability is intertwined with the strategy of an organization, then we should expect to see that reflected, not just in the annual report, but in everything,” adds Joan Fontrodona, holder of the CaixaBank Chair of Corporate Social Responsibility and director of the Center for Business in Society. So, if we conceive of a company as a community of people, serving other people, in a society made up of people, then all other considerations – capital, facilities, technology and legal realities – become subordinate to that, and the story we “show and tell” about our company’s progress will begin to look rather different. Using the right indicators and metrics appropriate to your goal is important, but even more so if you decide to adopt the strategic option that Rosenberg refers to as “pay for principle.” This is where your company may be willing to sacrifice some financial performance for the sake of a compelling, socially responsible agenda. In some cases, shareholders might support a company doing things that are difficult or even impossible to justify purely from a bottom-line perspective, but this still entails being able to put a number on it, for the sake of transparency.
Lead by example, going above and beyond baseline compliance. Always act with integrity and a social commitment Leaders must also cultivate a hybrid mindset, able to blend different logics. Ferraro sees this job of orchestrating the pluralistic demands of multiple stakeholders as increasingly part of the CEO agenda. He highlights the unlikely collaboration
This necessitates a specific management style,
between Dow Chemical and The Nature Conser-
as Fontrodona describes. Managers must cou-
vancy. Not that long ago, a partnership between
rageously lead by example, going above and be-
a chemical company, seen as polluting the envi-
yond baseline compliance. Their leadership will
ronment, and an NGO, responsible for protecting
be characterized by integrity (always behaving in a
it, would have been unthinkable. But as he notes,
responsible manner with stakeholders) as well as a
“Rather than pitting conservation goals against fi-
social commitment (getting involved in activities
nancial ones (as would have been done in the past),
that improve society as a whole) and in particular
the chemical giant and the environmental NGO
a commitment to the local community in which
collaborated on finding operational solutions
the business is based and has influence.
that jointly addressed business concerns and the
no. 154 | IESE Business School Insight | 13
Countdown to 2030
Sustainability = better performance
of the studies showed that stock price performance was positively influenced by good sustainability practices.
of the studies showed that sound sustainability standards lowered the cost of capital.
ESG & financial performance
19 Up to
The University of Oxford and Arabesque Asset Management analyzed 200 academic studies to determine if sustainability business practices and economic performance were linked…
of the studies showed that Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) practices resulted in better operational performance.
In certain industries, the top performers in ESG topics (such as ensuring a responsible environmental footprint or promoting equal opportunity) reported…
12.4 Higher margins by up to
higher market valuation premiums
Boston Consulting Group study of five industries: consumer packaged goods, biopharmaceuticals, oil and gas, retail and business banking, and technology
protection of the natural environment.” In short,
a bit slow to pick up and run with the sustainability
CEOs are learning how to reconcile the pursuit of
agenda is that the arguments haven’t always been
sustainability goals with profitability, and to work
convincingly framed in business terms. And when
in partnership even with strange bedfellows.
the subject is raised, the language has tended to
Finding common ground
be combative rather than constructive in tone. To make headway on the goals, companies and their
Both Ferraro and Rosenberg have long argued that
shareholders and investors need to change the way
part of the reason why the private sector has been
they talk to each other and find common ground.
14 | IESE Business School Insight | no. 154
It’s worth reflecting on the way we talk about the SDGs in our own companies. Framing everything as a business problem isn’t enough In his research on shareholder engagement, Ferra-
be more effective at producing the real, lasting
ro studied the early history of engagement on cli-
social change that sustainability advocates seek.
mate change, specifically how the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) – a coalition of institutional investors who advocate for ESG
That said, there are other key factors that could move
concerns – engaged with U.S. carmakers on the
the SDGs up the corporate agenda: executives’ ca-
issue of global warming in the 1990s. With Ford,
pacity to tap moral convictions and their suscepti-
one of the keys to successful engagement was the
bility to “system justification.” According to research
active reframing of the issue from climate policy
by Sebastian Hafenbrädl, those who see the world
(which could be dismissed as a matter for public
as just and fair, who believe that everyone gets what
policymakers, not a business concern) toward cli-
they deserve and deserve what they get, tend to be
mate risk, a concept more likely to resonate with
numb to social and environmental problems. So, no
executives. Risk is something that demands man-
matter how sound the business case may be for sup-
agerial attention. Through this, Ford became one
porting the SDGs, if that business case is predicated
of the early carmakers to break ties with the cli-
on a “fair market” ideology, then its effectiveness as
mate-change-denying lobby, launching a first-of-
a driver of change is neutralized.
its-kind climate risk report and focusing on making more environmentally friendly cars.
“Framing everything as a business problem isn’t enough. To make authentic improvements in what
As such, it’s worth reflecting on the way we talk
are essentially moral and ethical problems, they
about the SDGs in our own companies. It’s not just
need to be recognized as such,” says Hafenbrädl.
semantics: the language we use, and our strategic
“Most people are quite capable of moral reasoning
use of dialogue vs. in-your-face activism, genuine-
in their personal lives. Our research suggests that
ly does influence managerial receptivity, attention
if executives were able to access their moral emo-
and adoption. Naming-and-shaming activism can
tions and intuitions and use their capacity for moral
lead to boardroom standoffs and showdowns,
reasoning at work, they would engage more strong-
whereas making a persuasive business case may
ly, and more substantially, in socially responsible
no. 154 | IESE Business School Insight | 15
Countdown to 2030
activities than if they just analyzed every decision
Today, Interface is well on track to meet the bold
in terms of the business case. And this applies even
Mission Zero vision that Anderson set in motion be-
for executives who strongly believe in the business
fore his death in 2011, to fully eliminate the negative
case for corporate social responsibility.”
impacts of its manufacturing processes by 2020.
The late Ray Anderson, founder of the carpet maker
Interface, is a case in point. In the documentary The
As we head toward 2030, companies have an im-
Corporation, he recounts his personal journey from
portant window of opportunity before them. Over
apathetic executive to champion of sustainable
the next decade, it will be up to you and your com-
manufacturing, owing to a moral awakening. “For 21
pany’s leaders to decide the role you want to play
years I never gave a thought to what we were taking
in this ambitious effort.
from the earth or doing to the earth in the making of our products.” It was when he was asked to present
“At IESE, we’ve been talking about the purpose
his vision to a task force on the environmental im-
of the company and its social responsibilities
pact of their operations that he began to read up on
since our school was founded in 1958,” says An-
the matter, and his conscience was pricked. “I was
tonio Argandoña. “While the Business Roundta-
amazed to learn just how much stuff the earth has to
ble statement may not, in itself, be revolution-
produce through our extraction process to produce
ary, it can help spark a revolution. How? If all
a dollar of revenue for our company. When I learned,
those signatory companies truly began to be-
I was flabbergasted.” It was biologist E.O. Wilson’s
have as their declaration says – upholding the
phrase “the death of birth,” referring to species ex-
needs of their customers, employees, suppliers
tinction, that Anderson said felt like the “point of a
and local community stakeholders in addition
spear into my chest” which was “an epiphanal expe-
to their shareholders – then that will foster a
rience – a total change of mindset for myself and a
new culture and new habits in terms of the way
change of paradigm (for my business).”
business is done. That is how virtue is developed. And the more that people behave with
Later, he addressed civic and business leaders as
virtue, the more that others follow their exam-
“fellow plunderers.” In a provocative speech, he
ple, giving rise to even more virtue. In this way,
said: “There is not an industrial company on earth,
companies can become moral transformers of
not an institution of any kind, that is sustainable. I
society. May it be so.”
stand convicted. But not by our civilization’s definition. By our civilization’s definition, I’m a cap-
As you reflect on your own progress toward 2030,
tain of industry, a kind of modern-day hero. But
let these final words from Greta Thunberg echo in
really, the first Industrial Revolution was flawed, it
your ears: “How dare you pretend that this can be
is not working, it is unsustainable, it is the mistake.
solved with business-as-usual. The eyes of all fu-
And we must move on to another, better industri-
ture generations are upon you. We will not let you
al revolution and get it right this time.” He painted
get away with this. Right here, right now is where
a picture of an organization of people committed
we draw the line. The world is waking up. And
to a purpose of doing no harm.
change is coming, whether you like it or not.”
IESE is a signatory of the Principles for Responsible Management Education and the U.N. Global Compact, dedicated to supporting the Sustainable Development Goals through management education, research and thought leadership globally. IESE runs various initiatives to promote social responsibility and sustainable development in business, including its research centers and chairs (notably the Center for Business in Society, the Fuel Freedom Chair for Energy and Social Development, and the Schneider Electric Sustainability and Business Strategy Chair) as well as regularly organizing Energy Prospectives seminars with the Naturgy Foundation.
16 | IESE Business School Insight | no. 154
Positive impact achieved so far
Companies reporting significant or somewhat positive impact on the goal to date.
1. No poverty
2. Zero hunger
3. Good health and well-being
4. Quality education
5. Gender equality
6. Clean water and sanitation
7. Affordable and clean energy
8. Decent work and economic growth
9. Industry, innovation and infrastructure
10. Reduced inequalities
11. Sustainable cities and communities
12. Responsible consumption and production
13. Climate action
14. Life below water
15. Life on land
16. Peace, justice and strong institutions
17. Partnerships for the goals
source: U.N. Global Compact Progress Report 2019, based on 1,584 respondents representing 40 industries and 107 countries
no. 154 | IESE Business School Insight | 17
Countdown to 2030
“I want to say one word to you, just one word: plastics.” The businessman who uttered this immortal line in the classic movie The Graduate turns out to have been right in predicting the growth area of the future, as global plastic production since 1967 has grown exponentially. However, his other prediction that “There’s a great future in plastics” is looking less certain these days – a point that today’s generation of graduates would do well to contemplate. When it comes to the business of plastics, to quote the film again: “Think about it. Will you think about it?”
of plastics enter the world’s oceans each year
if we don’t change our ways
pieces of floating plastic in the Pacific trash vortex
Plastics in the ocean come from...
20% - 40% sea-based sources
In million tons 400
300 200 100
The rise of global plastic production
source: Geyer, Jambeck & Law (2017)
Microplastics have been found in drinking water, soil, fish, even tea bags
60% - 80% land-based sources
of plastic waste generated every year
What worries Europeans most about plastics?
74% health 87% impact their
18 | IESE Business School Insight | no. 154
agree plastic packaging should be drastically reduced and products designed to ease recycling
The EU initiative
The main offenders
Already a world leader on data protection, the EU adopted the Single-Use Plastics Directive in May 2019, with rolling deadlines of between 2 and 5 years for member states to implement its rules to:
1 2 3 4 5 6
80% waters comes from plastics of marine litter in EU
70% a few main sources
plastic items for which alternatives exist
of that comes from
10 single-use plastics 43% Top found on European beaches
consumption of food and drink containers
producer responsibility to include clean-up
90% of plastic bottles to be collected through deposit refund schemes
products on plastic content and how they should be disposed
Cutlery, plates, straws and stirrers
Balloons and balloon sticks
Cups and lids
Sanitary items and wet wipes
consumers on waste and recycling
Business action plan Know how it affects your industry
By 2030 Avoid
of CO² emissions
in environmental damage
If you’re a producer of single-use plastics, know where you stand. Some plastic products, such as cotton swabs, straws, plates and cutlery, will be banned outright.
Spot opportunities Some plastics will have to be phased out, but others may be more in demand. Additives that change certain plastic properties could be a business opportunity. New recycling technologies will also be necessary.
See the bright side Green companies are growing, and European regulation is likely to make the region a hotspot for sustainable product development and – as with General Data Protection Regulation – a reference point for the world.
Countdown to 2030
ustainability: we talk a lot about it but what is actually being done? Lise Kingo left her private sector job at Novo Nordisk, where she championed the cause, to help
lead the charge with the United Nations. Here she discusses where the U.N.’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) stand today and what more companies can do to put them into practice. Is the world on track to meet the goals? There has been good progress but not the kind needed to meet the goals by 2030. The two biggest gaps are in terms of climate action and gender equality. Another area where progress is lagging is young people: close to a third don’t have a job or any kind of education. Also, when it comes to workers in the global supply chain, there are real issues on human rights and living wages. So, the world still faces huge challenges. But it’s good to see that almost 10,000 companies around the world, large and small, have joined the U.N. Global Compact, the largest corporate sustainability initiative in the world, and 81% of them tell us they have taken action on the SDGs. What else are companies saying? We just published a study with Accenture in which we asked
the Ten Principles of the U.N. Global Compact and the SDGs
more than 1,000 CEOs to assess the state of sustainability
are very much setting the direction for the future of their
and share how they were adopting the global goals. While
firms. We recommend that the principles and goals be in-
99% of the largest companies believe that sustainability is
tegrated in the whole corporate strategy; in the company’s
critical to their future success, just 21% think business is
articles of association; in its purpose, vision, mission and val-
doing enough. They cite “absence of market pull” and the
ues statements; and in its governance, including the board
trade-off between cost pressures and long-term strategic
agenda, board competencies and board responsibilities.
investment as the main barriers to overcome. What else do you recommend? How important is CEO involvement?
One best practice we’re seeing is companies taking a small se-
It’s a prerequisite. Among participating companies, we find
lection of goals they find most relevant to their business and
that the vast majority have CEOs who are personally involved
then anchoring their strategy in them, building targets into
and see this as a strategic business innovation agenda, where
their balanced scorecards and rolling them out across their
20 | IESE Business School Insight | no. 154
U.N. Global Compact/Joel Sheakoski credit :
CEO and Executive Director of the United Nations Global Compact, which urges companies to adopt a principles-based approach to doing business in support of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.
Itâ€™s time for everyone to step up
Countdown to 2030
operations. This ensures that business strategies, investments and management systems are operating under the same set of principles and
Ten Principles of the U.N. Global Compact Sustainability starts with a company’s value system. These principles will lay the foundation for success. HUMAN RIGHTS 1. Support and respect the protection of internationally proclaimed human rights. 2. Make sure your business is not complicit in human rights abuses. LABOR 3. Uphold freedom of association and recognize collective bargaining rights. 4. Eliminate all forms of forced labor. 5. Abolish child labor. 6. Eliminate employment and occupation discrimination. ENVIRONMENT 7. Take a precautionary approach to environmental challenges. 8. Promote greater environmental responsibility. 9. Encourage the development and diffusion of environmentally friendly technologies. ANTI-CORRUPTION 10. Fight corruption in all its forms, including extortion and bribery.
working toward the same set of goals. What’s your advice for those taking their first steps? We operate more than 60 Global Compact Local Networks in over 160 countries under the motto of “Making Global Goals Local Business.” So, a good way to start is to contact your local network and find out how to participate in local activities and events. There are a number of easy-to-use tools on our website (www. unglobalcompact.org), including the Blueprint for Business Leadership on the SDGs. Above all, you need to determine which of the goals you are going to tackle as a company and how to integrate them into your business. And if you want to work on a particular issue, such as climate action or gender equality, we can offer specific guidance as well. Is adopting the goals feasible for smaller firms? There are great examples of small companies adopting the goals. I think adopting a responsible approach is more of a mindset issue than a resource issue. Developing the company into a purpose-driven organization to create a better world is simply a choice that has nothing to do with size. Small companies may do an easier version, perhaps picking fewer goals but really using them as unique selling points and boosting engagement. Many of the companies taking some of the most innovative measures in sustainable food or sustainable fashion, for example, are small startups that have wholeheartedly embraced the sustainability agenda. Indeed, smaller companies are sometimes able to be more innovative than larger ones when it comes to these issues. When companies become too big, it can be harder for them to integrate or embed these concepts into their existing systems and to do it in a proper way that is credible. Which global trends concern you personally? The No. 1 trend that worries me right now is the geopolitical instability that we are seeing in many forms, like trade wars.
22 | IESE Business School Insight | no. 154
“Above all, you need to determine which of the goals you’re going to tackle as a company”
And it’s not just me: 63% of the CEOs we surveyed are also
culture of integrity, based on the conviction that your long-
significantly worried about how this instability will affect
term success depends on upholding certain fundamental
their ability to run their business successfully. Many CEOs
responsibilities to people and to the planet. It can’t just be a
know they should be doing more – 71% believe that with in-
few colorful items in an annual report; it has to be genuinely
creased commitment and action, businesses can play a cru-
embedded into your business or it won’t work.
cial role – but, like I said before, only 21% feel they’re doing enough. So this mix of a serious geopolitical situation and
Ultimately, it comes down to a choice. You can choose to do
companies not being sufficiently ambitious is problematic.
very little and just make it look like you’re doing the right thing, but risk it being seen as window dressing. Or you can
What do you say to critics who suggest that companies
choose to take it seriously and give it 100%. It’s the same
are only doing this for PR?
with everything in life, right? With less than 4,000 days to
From day one, we’ve been absolutely clear that the goals must
go until the 2030 target, it’s time for everyone to step up.
be anchored in principles. This means that all your strategies, operations, policies and procedures must be rooted in a
no. 154 | IESE Business School Insight | 23
Countdown to 2030
LEADERSHIP QUALITIES FOR THE GOALS
Making progress on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) requires these special qualities in a leader. Ask yourself these questions and make necessary improvements in any areas where you see yourself lacking.
Based on the U.N. Global Compact’s “Blueprint for Business Leadership on the SDGs” (2017) and complemented with original research by Phu Nguyen Thien, Anneloes Raes and Yih-teen Lee, done in collaboration with leaders of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) who participated in a senior leadership development program customized for them at IESE (2019)
24 | IESE Business School Insight | no. 154
Are the SDGs an integral, deliberate part of your company ’s strategy, incorporated into your long-term business goals?
From the means of value creation to how you manage your people and supply chains, are the Ten Principles and your chosen SDG s driving your company from the highest levels?
Is support for the SDGs recognized across all organization al functions? Is ethical behavior em bedded in your senior management tea ms?
Is there consistency and alignment between what your com pany says – through its public voi ce, advocacy and communications – and what it does throughout its bus iness, with regard to the SDGs?
Are the targets you set sufficiently ambitious and based on accepted scientific thresholds? Is your company challenging existing practices to transform how business is done?
Do you hold yourself accountable for the impact your company has on people and the planet?
ships with ing partner Are you forg rnments, ve esses, go other busin ns, y organizatio civil societ d local investors an academia, es? communiti
Are there risk management proc esses and systems in place to prevent adve rse impacts, with mechanisms to remedy any grievances?
making ed decisionIs there shar the so s tnership in those par d? ne w -o being co actions are
Are you transparent with stakehol ders and acting lawfully in accordance with international norms, even if these are not lega lly mandated in the country where you do business ?
3 steps for leadership on the goals As the business environment changes, your leadership must evolve accordingly by repeatedly going through these three steps:
Take time and contextspecific action that is intentional, ambitious, consistent, collaborative, accountable, resilient and inspiring (as described on these pages).
Prioritize the action you want to take on the 2030 Agenda. â€œPrincipled prioritizationâ€? means that you will always uphold the Ten Principles of the U.N. Global Compact, even if more expedient market opportunities might present themselves.
Are you able to stay cal m and determined when fac ing challenges and setbacks in the pur suit of ambitious SDGs?
Have you developed eff ective mechanisms for coping with frustrations and difficulties when imm ediate results are not yet visible?
Share what you learn along the way, both internally and externally, so that other actors can benefit from your experience. Continuously monitor and assess your impact. As you learn, you may want to expand your action on the 2030 Agenda, which brings you back to Step 1.
vel Are you motivated by a higher-le ugh thro rs othe g vatin moti and ose purp s? SDG your shared pursuit of the
Do you articulate your vision and as well mission clearly to guide yourself ired to insp are le peop that as others, so es for selv them of ion vers best give the le? who ctive colle the of good the
Countdown to 2030
We’ll always do things because we believe they’re right
uvencio Maeztu calls himself “an aspirant.”
of the company, then those dilemmas go away. Talking with
Despite a long track record of managing re-
colleagues around the world, I find more and more have
tail operations and finances for IKEA since
reached that point in their thinking. Now the question is:
2001 in Spain, Portugal, the U.K. and India,
how can we make sustainability happen in a faster way?
Maeztu happily admits that he still has a lot
to learn. There’s no shame in saying so, he says, “because it
How is IKEA answering that question?
gives you much more confidence and energy about learn-
It helps that our mission has always been “to create a better ev-
ing. And we all need to embrace learning.” Having earned
eryday life for the many people,” which is more relevant than
an MBA at IESE and now sitting on IESE’s International Ad-
ever. To that we’ve added a People & Planet Positive agenda with
visory Board, Maeztu is currently on a learning curve along
specific goals to transform our entire business. This is what I
with many other CEOs around the world as they collectively
mean by anchoring the SDGs in your core values. It’s also a pro-
apply the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to
cess of responding to the values of society, and determining
their businesses. Here he shares what he has learned so far.
your company’s role in that society. I look at my children: their generation is leading the way on sustainability issues. That puts
How seriously do you think companies are taking the
a big responsibility on companies like ours to welcome new
Sustainable Development Goals?
generations and allow them to influence our future direction.
Companies used to view sustainability as a dilemma: if we do this, it won’t be good for our P&L or it might compromise
So, consumers and employees are driving this agenda…
customer preference. But when we stop treating sustain-
It’s the coming together of our values and vision with the
ability as an activity and instead anchor it in the core values
demands of society and new generations. As they make
Deputy CEO and CFO of Ingka Group, which manages IKEA operations.
these demands, we have a responsibility to provide solutions and integrate them into our business model. So, when IKEA makes products, it’s about the design, the quality, the functionality, the price – and the sustainability. We have to consider all these dimensions. And when we do this, the outcome is a sustainable business model that can help the people and the planet. How do you ensure sustainability stays core, and avoid mission drift? Three ways. The first has to do with the company culture you build and the expectations you set, starting with the people you hire. We’re obsessed with recruiting by values, not curriculum. If you hire people who already share the same values of wanting to build a better world, then everything else becomes easier. In this regard, we find the blind CV is a good technique to find people – not profiles but people. Second, as I said before, sustainability has to be embedded in the business model, in the strategy, in the operations, in all planning, across all layers. You can’t have a business plan
no. 154 | IESE Business School Insight | 27
Countdown to 2030
and then a few CSR activities on the side. Finally, you have
Third is having humility and willpower. Why this com-
to report. As the saying goes, what gets measured matters.
bination? Because when going through transformation,
And after you measure, you have to follow up.
you’ll have to act fast in the face of a lot of unknowns. You need to be humble enough to accept what you don’t
How should companies approach reporting?
know, and then super determined to go through with it.
Reporting is not just to fulfill some statutory obligation; it’s
It would be very dangerous if you felt you had to have all
to show how you’re doing with regard to your mission. We
the answers or if you spent limited time trying to find the
don’t issue a financial report and then a sustainability one.
Because all our KPIs are measured with sustainability, we combine numbers and stories in one document. I would stress that the main objective of reporting is not to justify things externally (though, obviously, subjecting your performance to public scrutiny is a good thing) but to challenge your colleagues and those working inside the organization to keep moving the company forward in its mission. What’s your advice to companies trying to transform themselves to become more sustainable? First, transformation doesn’t have to mean a 180-degree change. For us, transformation is about deciding what will never change, which for IKEA is about having a deep, genuine interest in the way you live at home. We’ll never touch that. And we’ll always do things because we believe they’re right. Then, it has to make business sense. But notice the sequence: you start with your values and doing what’s right, and after that you consider how. Second, have a transformation agenda. Ours is called “10 Jobs in 3 Years.” It’s about identifying 10 jobs that represent strategic choices where transformation has to happen. What new roles do we need in our stores to position IKEA as People & Planet Positive? How do we need to transform – not improve but transform – the way that IKEA is today to what it will need to be in the next three years? We could have said “10 jobs in 10 years” but then it just becomes an ambition. Three years forces actionable strategies. That’s how transformation happens. credit :
28 | IESE Business School Insight | no. 154
The circular model is one of your goals. How does a retailer make that work? It goes back to values. Take one of our business principles: quality. The higher the quality of a product, the longer it’s going to last, and the less need there will be to buy a replacement. Does that mean we should stop investing in quality? Of course not. We invest in quality, despite the apparent tradeoff, because it’s the right thing to do according to our values. In designing with circular principles, if we do something in plastic, it has to be recycled plastic, or if we do something with wood, it has to be FSC certified. It can also be recycled at the end of its life and sent back into the supply chain. In India, we started a project to turn food into compost, which was given to female entrepreneurs who grew vegetables, which were then used in IKEA stores. We’re doing things like that to really close the loop. We’re also testing services to give a second life to IKEA products. Through a sharing platform, people can list, sell, buy or rent secondhand IKEA furniture or obtain spare IKEA parts. In 2018, we repackaged more than 8 million pieces of furniture and redistributed more than a million spare parts to consumers. From the way the product is made to the end of its life and everywhere in between, we’re exploring many activities. And the bottom line is, this doesn’t compromise your turnover. In the end, by being more relevant to many more consumers, revenues will grow. What would you say to a businessper-
People & Planet Positive IKEA has prioritized these three focus areas in its sustainability strategy: 1. Healthy & sustainable living Inspire and enable more than 1 billion people to live a better everyday life within the limits of the planet by 2030. • Creating a movement in society
around better everyday living. • Inspiring and enabling people to live healthier, more sustainable lives. • Promoting circular and sustainable consumption. 2. Circular & climate positive Become climate positive and regenerate resources while growing the IKEA business by 2030. • Becoming a circular business. • Becoming climate positive.
• Regenerating resources, protecting
ecosystems and improving biodiversity.
3. Fair & equal Create a positive social impact for everyone across the IKEA value chain by 2030. • Providing and supporting decent and
meaningful work across the IKEA value chain. • Being an inclusive business, providing opportunities for the many. • Promoting equality.
son who might respond with: “But you could make even more money doing it the old way”? I’d say the old way has an expiry date. Either you focus on making a positive contribution to the world or you’re gone.
no. 154 | IESE Business School Insight | 29
Countdown to 2030
EASIER Joan E. Ricart and Pascual Berrone
are professors of Strategic Management at IESE where Ricart holds the Carl Schroeder Chair of Strategic Management and Berrone holds the Schneider Electric Sustainability & Business Strategy Chair. They co-direct the IESE Cities in Motion platform on smart and sustainable cities.
he magnitude and ambition of the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) mean that no single entity can go it alone; achieving the 17 goals requires a joint effort. In fact, SDG 17 calls for “partnerships for the goals,” recognizing that making true progress on sustainable development will entail multistakeholder partnerships in general and effective public-private partnerships (PPPs) in particular. PPPs are long-term collaborative relationships, by design,
How transferrable are the results to other geographies?
making them natural vehicles for delivering on the goals.
Capacity building is key: offering training and education,
They leverage the resources and competencies of the private
and then transmitting the know-how and lessons learned
sector – a willingness to take risks, assume upfront costs,
to other stakeholders.
connect markets and create jobs – and then bring them to bear on the provision of a public service or good. And the
value they create is not just economic but social and en-
velopment equitable and inclusive, starting from the design
“No one left behind.” Is the growth and de-
vironmental. This “blended value” approach is inherently
to the building to the operation of the project? Can it be
aligned with the essence of the SDGs.
accessed by all individuals, especially the most vulnerable? Does it promote women’s empowerment?
Despite these apparent advantages, there is limited research on how PPPs can advance economic, social and en-
vironmental goals in parallel. And what work has been done
pact, it’s not just how much money was saved. Rather, it’s how
In measuring the project’s economic im-
tends to focus on the economic dimension only. We wanted
many local jobs were created – decent jobs, with long-term
a different model to assess PPPs’ contribution to the SDGs
employment prospects and the potential to reduce inequali-
beyond the notion of value for money. So, we developed an
ties. Is there technological upgrading and technological trans-
evaluation model that we call EASIER, a mnemonic device
fer, fostering research and innovation, and helping left-behind areas to catch up? Does the project promote more sustainable,
for these six dimensions:
ecological patterns of consumption and production? engagement of stakeholders.
Does the project count on
the participation of all relevant stakeholders (e.g., suppli-
resilience and environment.
How well does the project meet
ers, local community groups, unions, ecologists)? Involving
the needs of the present without compromising future gener-
stakeholders, particularly at the outset of a project, can be
ations? Is there capacity in the system to respond to and re-
a decisive factor in its success. This implies not just mak-
cover quickly from disaster? Does it seek to preserve the nat-
ing information public, but actively seeking stakeholder
ural environment and take action to combat climate change?
input through surveys, public hearings or web forums, and then incorporating their values and preferences
Our EASIER model offers a simple yet holistic diagnostic tool to assess projects, particularly during their design phase. It’s
in subsequent decision-making.
timely and relevant, as the United Nations is studying how access.
Does the project increase access to ser-
people-first PPPs can be used as powerful tools to achieve
vices in the interest of diverse populations? The
the targets and goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable De-
more people who can benefit, the greater the
velopment. Although fulfillment of the goals may seem chal-
impact on well-being, social justice and equality.
lenging, by paying attention to the six dimensions we highlight, the job should be a whole lot easier.
scalability and replicability.
project be enlarged or expanded to meet growing demand, without significant social or environmental costs?
read more: “EASIER: an evaluation model for publicprivate partnerships contributing to the sustainable development goals” by Pascual Berrone, Joan E. Ricart et al. is published in Sustainability
no. 154 | IESE Business School Insight | 31
THE BIG PICTURE Handling feedback
A new perspective
Annual performance appraisals shouldn’t be a time of dread. Self-knowledge is key for your personal and professional development, and feedback is a great way to know thyself more. Look to it as an opportunity – both in giving and receiving feedback – with these tips. It’s never too late to resolve to handle feedback better.
Discover your hidden strengths
My behavior, as rated by me
My behavior, as rated by others
By comparing your self-perceptions with the way others see you, 360o feedback – a system for assessing habitual behaviors observed by multiple sources – can allow you to discover your blind spots as well as your hidden strengths.
Remember: how you perform does not define who you are.
Areas to improve
Assume your evaluator has positive intentions.
Regard it as an opportunity for improvement.
32 | IESE Business School Insight | no. no.154 154
Recognize your biases.
Ask for the basis of a critique.
Take time to digest comments before responding.
When receiving feedback
An underutilized tool…
…but less feared than most think
When asked about the prior six months, only:
23% of employees report that their manager has provided them with any meaningful feedback.
of employees report having spoken with their manager about the steps they can take to reach their goals.
of professionals believe that negative feedback, if delivered appropriately, is effective at improving performance.
source: The State of the American Workplace (Gallup, 2017)
More feedback, please How to get your colleagues to tell you what they really think:
Make it clear that you want to receive feedback.
Try informal get-togethers to touch base.
When offering feedback
Choose an appropriate setting.
Thank people who offer it.
Show that you are serious: ask questions, listen, take notes.
Be specific and avoid judging the person.
Establish regular avenues for feedback.
Link the evaluated behavior with its impact on the organization.
Seek as much specific information as possible.
Steer clear of issues unrelated to professional performance.
Focus only on aspects that are directly relevant to performance.
Don’t surprise: any deficiencies should have been discussed periodically.
Based on technical notes written by IESE professor Alberto Ribera as well as other authors
HACK 5 tips to knock an M&A disaster on its head Most mergers destroy value for shareholders. So, what is it about bad M&A deals that seem to blindside management teams time and again? That’s the multibillion-dollar question at the heart of Nuno Fernandes’ book, The Value Killers, which offers these five tips to prevent merger mayhem from springing up and taking you by surprise.
DON’T RELY ON INVESTMENT BANKS FOR VALUATION Because investment banks receive much larger fees when M&A deals are closed, they’re on the side of the deal, rather than on the company’s side. Companies should develop valuations inhouse or look to unbiased third-party advisers.
34 | IESE Business School Insight | no. 154
AVOID “STRATEGIC” DEALS Too often the word “strategic” is distracting and empty, with no financial meaning. Always ask: why merge, why choose this company, and why now?
LINK THE BEFORE AND AFTER Whenever possible, put the people making promises about merger synergies in charge of putting those synergies into place. Continuity – with at least some of the same team members working on pre- and post-merger integration – is key to success.
THINK LIKE A FINANCIAL INVESTOR As an investor, would you buy shares of a company at any price? Keep a reasonable number in mind for your acquisition target, set a cap and stick to it, because overpaying is the single biggest predictor of a merger disaster.
MOVE QUICKLY AND TRANSPARENTLY Merger uncertainty can take a toll on employees and customers. Thus, even bad news is better than no news. Start work on integration challenges while awaiting regulatory approval, and try to answer questions even before the final answer is known.
Worldview affects your moves
How easy or hard is it to make (or lose) friends where you live and work? The degree to which relationships are fluid (+) or fixed (-) in a given society is measured as “relational mobility.” A culture’s “relational mobility” score has been linked to people’s thinking styles and worldviews. So, the next time clashes arise at work, rather than dance around the subject, consider the extent to which cultural factors like this may be at play, and take the lead on managing these dynamics.
Lower relational mobility
Higher relational mobility More individualism, with internal or personal controls, and more analytical thinking. (As seen in the Americas and Western Europe, i.e., places where subsistence was traditionally tied to herding, hunting and other migratory activities.)
More collectivism, with external controls, and more holistic thinking, placed in a broader context. (As seen in East Asia, North Africa and the Middle East, i.e., places where subsistence was tied to collaborative farming and stationary activities.)
“Relational mobility and cultural differences in analytic and holistic thinking” by Alvaro San Martin et al. appears in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology: Attitudes and Social Cognition
Decide ethically, and justice will follow One might assume that ethical leaders are those
treated. More than any specific action, what
who follow all the rules and apply them in a
sometimes counts more is that employees per-
consistent manner, so everyone is treated fairly.
ceive the boss as behaving in an ethical manner,
But that isn’t always possible. When taking disci-
so when a hard call has to be made, they trust
plinary action or resolving disputes, “justice” in
that it has been done for the best.
one case might be applied differently in another, especially when some actions might collide with a
Promoting ethical leadership has positive spill-
higher priority for management or involve inordi-
over effects in creating a sense of workplace
nate amounts of time or money.
harmony. Ethical leaders are also freed up to act without having their every move analyzed.
Adhering to traditional rules of justice isn’t the only way to ensure that employees feel fairly
“Ethical leadership as a substitute for justice enactment: an informationprocessing perspective” by Tobias Dennerlein et al. appears in the Journal of Applied Psychology
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Chief Catalyst Officer at The Lane Crawford Joyce Group, Asiaâ€™s preeminent luxury lifestyle group, based in Hong Kong. An avid traveler, certified yoga and meditation instructor and reiki master, she associates success with believing in something bigger than oneself.
THE MORE YOU LEARN, THE GREATER YOUR IMPACT
ristina Ventura’s career can be summed up in one word: evolution. Having worked for Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy (LVMH), Gucci, Prada and Apple Asia-Pacific, in markets
d.school, allowing us to bring design-thinking workshops to
spanning Europe and Asia, the Barcelona
our industry and community in Hong Kong.
native embraces transformation in every facet of her life and work. Now, as Chief Catalyst Officer at The Lane Crawford
Second, my role is about connecting with talent and creat-
Joyce Group, her job is to inject fresh knowledge and in-
ing ecosystems. Over the past three years, we’ve built up a
sights, connect internal stakeholders with diverse networks,
global community of over 6,000 experts whom we can col-
and find new ways of investing and partnering, including
laborate with. This ensures that we stay close to our cus-
through The Cage program, as she explains in this interview.
tomer and stay focused on enhancing their experience.
How does a Chief Catalyst Officer differ from a Chief
The third aspect to my role is social responsibility through
LUXARITY.com, a social initiative whose vision is to inspire
A CIO is mainly focused on technology, whereas a Chief
conscious living for all.
Catalyst Officer goes beyond that to discover new ways of working, new business models and investments in startups.
So, it’s not only about intellectual growth but spiritual growth, too, to reach your maximum potential. The more
My role has three parts. First is igniting curiosity in internal
you learn about yourself, your purpose and your role in so-
teams, continuous learning and challenging the status quo.
ciety, the more you can lead evolution in a human way and
One example is a partnership we launched with Stanford
deliver change and impact. no. 154 | IESE Business School Insight | 39
Agent of change
How did working at Apple prepare you for this role? Apple was a remarkable experience. I was the youngest among 50 leaders, mostly men, and I was leading the biggest locations in the world with the fastest growth. Every month, I had to go to California to share the challenges we faced and bring back new ways of working. I had to learn how to adapt practices from headquarters and make sure they were applied with local nuances. Apple had a policy that leaders had to interview every single new member, which meant meeting thousands of people. This experience taught me how to hire by values. I realized that academic or industry background needs to be integrated with “culture fit.” This meant looking at their personality, their empathy and their ability to think critically and be solution-driven. I believe the best hire is the person who has the background, in terms of knowledge and intellect, but also a lot of humanity and empathy, in terms of understanding the culture and values. The way we measured success was by retention. The team was strong because we focused on their purpose, happiness, fulfillment, growth and well-being. We had this strong
“The future of a business is about leading with responsibility, not responding. Build your power from the inside out, and co-create business success together”
sense of community, an aligned way of working, and we were transparent in our communication. We said absolutely everything; there were no taboos. This was unique in Asia where it’s more about politeness. We ended up with some of
Leadership means being Triple A Aware of the changes and your personal impact and responsibilities. Authentic in expressing who you really are and never losing your roots and values. Aligned so everything you think, say, feel and do is in harmony with your values, the values of the company and the community you’re in.
the highest retention rates in the world, around 90%. This is massive in retail, which is normally below 50%. Tell us more about The Cage... The Cage is a 12-week ignition and development program created to support early-stage technology startups that enhance customer experience in the luxury and lifestyle retail industry. We see hundreds of companies, but we only select a few each year. Once we select, we commit to them, letting them take up residence in our Hong Kong headquarters, giving them access to our retail platforms for prototyping their ideas, and allowing them to leverage our industry connections. How do you sell corporate entrepreneurship? By working closely with internal teams. I talk with the presidents of the company, C-level teams and key stakeholders about what’s happening in the industry and learn what their challenges and pain points are. By identifying these individual needs, we can then find the best startups with solutions to their challenges.
40 | IESE Business School Insight | no. 154
In what other areas are you committed to change? Sustainability. The fashion industry is the second biggest polluter in the world, so the way we organize our production and distribution makes a difference. Our social enterprise, LUXARITY (luxury + circularity), engages our top customers, designers and celebrity networks to donate luxury items that they don’t use anymore in exchange for loyalty points. Then, we curate all these pre-loved items and, using blockchain technology, we’re able to create a clear line of traceability. This means anyone who acquires the item will know exactly where it came from, its authenticity and the impact made by the benefits of the sale. We use the proceeds to invest in new projects – including grants to nonprofits and design schools – that focus on responsible consumption. This initiative addresses U.N. Sustainable Development Goal 3 (Good Health & Well-Being), 4 (Quality Education) and 12 (Responsible Consumption & Production). How do you find doing business in Asia? When I first arrived, I made a lot of mistakes. I just brought what
do just about anything with it – not just connect with people,
I had learned in Europe and copied and pasted it to Asia. Of
but pay for goods, sell online, even buy a luxury car. Any new
course, that didn’t work. From then on, I’ve focused on being
brand wanting to enter the Chinese market needs to under-
humble, open to change, listening to and learning from local
stand such things.
customs, and being agile enough to improve and adapt. Wherever I go, I spend the first few days or even months just listening
What other trends are worth noting?
and understanding before starting anything big, to learn about
In Asia, as elsewhere, there’s a growing appetite for experi-
each culture at its core. This can come from conversations with
ences, for connecting to the human. This is why I’ve loved
locals as much as with senior decision-makers. It’s about listen-
doing programs at Harvard, Stanford, Insead and IESE. The
ing first and getting feedback to localize the idea, then bringing
Global Executive MBA is teaching me so much about the hu-
change while simultaneously respecting tradition.
man side of doing business. It’s all about having self-knowledge and self-awareness, and then working together with
What’s different about the Asian retail environment?
others to maximize the best version of yourself, taking re-
The profile has changed enormously over the 15 years I’ve been
sponsibility and creating positive impact. I see this as a trend
here. The Asian consumer is very tech savvy, much more so
for leadership: how can we be conscious leaders and cata-
than any other consumer in the world. For example, the Chi-
lysts, as part of a bigger ecosystem? That’s why we created
nese messaging app, WeChat, is a unique, multipurpose plat-
SiliconBali.io, to connect leaders with the purpose of being
form with messaging, social media, mobile payments, chat-
Catalysts for Impact.
bots and an enterprise platform, all bundled into one. You can no. 154 | IESE Business School Insight | 41
President, Audi China. Executive Vice President of Sales & Marketing, Volkswagen Group China. Vice President of Sales China, Audi AG.
transformation 42 | IESE Business School Insight | no. 154
ith 1 in 3 Audi sales current-
Why should young people want to work for a
ly in China, the Asian giant
car manufacturer today?
represents a top market for
I think it’s an exciting time to join the automotive
the German car manufac-
industry – to be part of transforming it from what
turer. Audi foresees 40% of
it was traditionally to the new age. We need new
its sales there by 2025, thanks to younger buyers
skills and progressive mindsets. That, combined
and successfully meeting the demand for electric
with a strong company brand, a strong industrial
cars, digitalization and technological innovations
base and strong processes, will help bring us to
such as autonomous vehicles. Gaby-Luise Wüst
the next phase of our transformation. For young
has witnessed this growth firsthand, working
talent, there are so many opportunities, not only
in and for the region with BMW Group, Nissan
in China, but on a worldwide scale, to develop in
Group and, since 2018, with Audi AG in Ingol-
so many aspects. We really welcome new talent.
stadt. Since July 2019, she has been President of Audi China in Beijing. Here she talks about man-
We don’t yet see a strong representation of
aging the future, as the automotive sector shifts
Chinese nationals in the industry. Do you think
that will change? The Chinese market is a big contributor to our per-
What’s the key difference between Chinese
formance, so it’s important that we have Chinese tal-
and European automotive markets?
ent on board. We put a special focus on offering op-
The most obvious one is our customers. The average
portunities for Chinese talent to work in our group
Chinese customer is about 15 years younger than a
and develop their career paths with us. A lot of our
European customer, making their requirements and
top managers are Chinese and they’re playing a big
expectations very different when it comes to connec-
role in our Ingolstadt headquarters. It’s only a mat-
tivity, for example – the seamless integration of their
ter of time before we see a Chinese board member.
devices into their cars. And it’s up to us, as a manu-
Definitely, to succeed in China, it’s important to have
facturer, to respond to their requirements and even
local talent. That’s a competitive edge.
exceed their expectations.
How would you summarize your management How do you see the new energy vehicle (NEV)
market in China evolving?
I go by these four. First, be able to organize the
The Chinese government really helped to develop the
actions necessary to get problems solved. Sec-
NEV market very fast. Five years ago, the market was
ond, be able to identify potential, whether peo-
zero and now there are an estimated 1.3 million NEVs.
ple or opportunities, and then materialize that
That rapid growth was fueled by subsidies and incen-
potential. Third, especially in large corporations,
tives. Now that the government has reduced or can-
be able to convince all the stakeholders and get
celled those subsidies, we’re seeing a sharp decline.
them on board. For that, it’s important to have a purpose that you’re able to communicate clear-
That said, we’re confident that any decline will only be
ly, and you’re able to express complex matters
short term and the market will recover. For one thing,
in simple terms, to convince other people and
the government is investing heavily in infrastructure.
get them on board. Finally, and maybe the most
So, even if the financial subsidies have been reduced,
important, be able to form and mobilize teams
there are still a lot of incentives, especially in cities: for
– to really get people into the team – in order to
example, it’s much easier to register your car and get a
support the cultural transformation.
license plate in a city if you have an NEV. As such, we firmly believe that the NEV market will grow further. By 2025, NEVs are projected to account for 25%-28%
of the premium market in China.
IESE Prof. Marc Sachon, chair of IESE AUTO, the 34th edition of which was held at IESE Barcelona on October 29-30 on the theme of “Diversity: Technology, Ecosystems & People.”
no. 154 | IESE Business School Insight | 43
All work and…play
ust a few months after formally setting up his company, Plyzer Technologies, in 2016, Barcelona-born Luis Pallares managed to get it listed in the United States – thanks to an agreement with a Canadian colleague who controlled a company
looking for a radically new direction. Since then, having man-
Luis Pallares’ company, Plyzer Technologies, aims to put AI at the service of decision-makers. A simplicity and love of play can be felt throughout this venture.
aged to secure 4 million euros in startup financing from both sides of the Atlantic, Pallares, as the new company’s founder and CEO, has been dividing his time between Barcelona (where
He’s a prolific reader, devouring at least five periodicals a day
his team works) and Toronto (the official headquarters). It’s not
and subscribing to more than 10 business, economics and tech
the conventional route to go, but then, little that Pallares has
magazines. He maintains close ties with tech labs and univer-
done in his life and career has been conventional. He is an en-
sities. Above all, he loves “listening to other people, learning
trepreneur who frequently pushes the boundaries.
from their experiences and points of view.” This is key, he says, to his ability to identify new, underexplored opportunities.
By his own admission, Pallares, while bright, was not a model student. When he got expelled from high school in Barce-
Vive la différence
lona, his mother sent him to finish his studies in the United
Back in the late ’90s, Pallares set up the first digital radio in
States. He did better there, making it into the Massachusetts
Spain. He tried – and failed – to push streaming and podcast-
Institute of Technology (MIT) – but halfway through his com-
ing, which at the time was a nascent field. No matter: the expe-
puter science degree, he dropped out.
rience taught him that sometimes innovation leads to failure.
This doesn’t mean he isn’t educated – far from it. For him,
“When you enter a field with no competitors, you probably
“there’s nothing more important – only education allows you
arrived too early,” he reflects. Now, he approaches his inno-
to understand what’s happening in the world.” Indeed, he
vation challenges this way: “Instead of always trying to be the
has since gone back and done various other programs at MIT
first to do something, it’s much better to be the first to do
and recently completed the Advanced Management Program
(AMP) at IESE. This is what he has done with Plyzer Technologies. The company has developed proprietary software that uses artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to monitor the 44 | IESE Business School Insight | no. 154
Founder and CEO of Plyzer Technologies. Having run in the North Pole Marathon, he says the book Lifelong Kindergarten: Cultivating Creativity through Projects, Passion, Peers and Play sums up his philosophy of life.
no. 154 | IESE Business School Insight | 45
prices of online products and deliver all sorts of real-time information and market trends on pricing, delivery and other important data useful for product managers, advertisers, corporate customers and consumers. Although business intelligence has been around for ages, “many of these tools have a very steep learning curve and can take up endless hours of your time. They’re designed for technicians, not for
Pallares ran in “the coolest marathon on earth” Distance: 42.195 km/26.2 miles Temperature: -25 C /-13 F Conditions: winds of up to 60 kph/37 mph Finishing position: 5th Time: 6:21:15
those who make day-to-day decisions. I’ve tried to simplify the process,” he explains.
lot of value, because just having an idea and executing it is an achievement to be proud of, in and
And in simplification lies the difference. “Whenever I failed to explain a project in the simplest of terms, it usually flopped.” His new litmus test: “If a 5-year-old can understand your business, then it probably has a chance at succeeding.”
of itself. That, too, is success.”
Worth the effort
In 2010, Pallares experienced another sort of success when he ran the North Pole Marathon. As if running a regular marathon weren’t enough of an
Yet even the flops hold value. “It’s great if you
endurance test, he had the added risk of hypo-
make money but, for me, success can also be
thermia and spatial disorientation from the bliz-
measured by how much you learned. There are
zard-like conditions. “There were times when I
two parts to success: first, having an idea and ex-
couldn’t see anything around me and I thought I
ecuting it; and then, when it’s done well and it’s
was lost. My body was shaking for two hours after I
working, selling the business. That first part has a
crossed the finish line.”
“Focus on your goal and embrace the effort that must go into achieving it” 46 | IESE Business School Insight | no. 154
“I try to make sure that anyone who has a dream can fulfill it”
As someone who is pursuing his own dreams, Pallares wants to create workplaces where others can pursue theirs. In running a transatlantic tech company, he is vying for talent against big players like Google, Apple and Facebook. To attract top talent, he builds on employee networks and tries to offer something different, to foster a climate where people will want to work. “I try to make sure that anyone
The key to not giving up, he says, is to “focus on
who has a dream can fulfill it with us. Some employ-
your goal and embrace the effort that must go into
ees, like me, have other things going on in their lives
achieving it.” He kept that same attitude when he was
but few opportunities to pursue them. I encourage
diagnosed with cancer two years ago. And he puts
employees to explore their ideas and see how they
things into perspective: “No matter what I’m going
might fit with our strategy, with a view to possibly
through, I always consider myself lucky. There’s al-
implementing them and even creating spin-offs.”
ways someone worse off, so I can’t complain.” The company also hires PhD candidates, giving That grateful spirit has made him want to give back
them the necessary resources to investigate com-
to society. “I want to create companies that help
mon areas of interest. “We make it possible for them
others – and not just by creating jobs. For example,
to make as many mistakes as they need to, in order
I’d like to provide more AI tools for the healthcare
to get their articles published in academic journals,
sector. My wife (a former professional rower) and
so that in two, three or four years’ time, they can ap-
I are creating a rowing foundation to help people
ply to the best universities in the world. This, in turn,
with limited means who are suffering from an ill-
allows us to maintain good relations with those in-
ness to overcome it through sport.”
stitutions, thus creating a virtuous circle.”
WALK THE TALK
Walking with rangers in Kenya inspired Steffen Sauer to set up a business that supports rangers and reforestation to protect African wildlife.
Co-founder of Ulinzi Conservation Coffee. Process Excellence Lead at Lilium. Formerly Head of Manufacturing Footprint for ZF Group.
n eye-opening trip to Kenya in 2018 changed
experience,” he says. He would help the rangers find and
Steffen Sauer’s life. The German executive
dismantle animal snares and destroy kilns used to burn
volunteered to live and work alongside rang-
trees for charcoal. “We even caught an illegal logger.”
ers as they patrolled Kenya’s wilderness in search of illegal poaching and logging. Ken-
The hot, sweaty, dangerous business of being a ranger im-
ya’s elephant population and forests are under threat from
pacted him, as the rangers showed him their scars from be-
black-market trade in bush meat, ivory and timber.
ing attacked by a wild animal or by a local with a machete. And those were the lucky ones who had lived to tell the tale.
“Witnessing the beauty of wildlife and the rangers fighting
“It took me some time to digest all of that.” Even more dis-
for it every day while being exposed to so many threats and
turbing for him to learn was that few of these rangers had
challenges really made me think,” he recalls.
any health, life or disability insurance or received any PTSD counselling triggered by a colleague’s death in the line of
Little could he have imagined, as he watched the
duty. They lacked basic supplies like boots, tents and GPS
sunrise over his camp, that in a year’s time he would
devices, and needed more training.
launch a social enterprise, and the hot drink in his hand would be a Kenyan coffee whose purchase would go toward wildlife conservation in the country he had grown to love.
Getting his hands dirty
Brewing up a new business
This started Sauer thinking: “How could I generate a sustainable source of funding for the foundation? What product could I sell that’s linked to Kenya and/or the purpose of wildlife conservation? What’s something that people need, want
“Leave your comfort zone.” That’s one of Sauer’s mot-
or do on a daily base that I could link to Kenya and/or the
tos. And it’s something he has done throughout his
purpose?” His answer: coffee.
career. Working for the German automotive supplier ZF Group, he jumped at the chance and moved to
Sauer, who had just completed a Program for Management
China when a role came up as Head of Production for
Development (PMD) at IESE, decided to follow two of his
the Asia-Pacific region. “If you get a chance to work
other mottos: “Be the change you want to see in the world”
abroad, do it,” he says. “It will totally change you. You’ll develop a completely new skillset, collect lots of new impressions, and meet people along the way who will leave a mark on you or become your friends.” After three years in Asia, he returned to Germany and got in touch with Raabia Hawa, a Kenyan conservationist who runs the Ulinzi Africa Foundation, a nonprofit focused on ranger welfare and wildlife protection. Sauer explains, “At that point, I wanted to get more involved than just sitting on my couch watching nature documentaries and donating to organizations at Christmastime.” He signed up for one of her initiatives, Walk With Rangers, which involved two weeks of doing exact-
“I wanted to get more involved than just sitting on my couch and donating at Christmastime”
ly what the name suggests. “It was a mind-blowing
no. 154 | IESE Business School Insight | 49
in Kenya through local partners, the Ulinzi Africa Foundation (www. walkwithrangers.org) and Seedballs Kenya
“Everyone involved gets a fair share – I believe that’s the only way to do it,” he says. and “Follow the gold and money will follow.” Regarding the
Besides Raabia Hawa, Sauer’s own brother, who did an MBA
first point, he took a sabbatical from his job to set up Ulinzi
at IESE, also became a partner: “Tobias was already curi-
Conservation Coffee (www.ulinzi-conservation-coffee.com).
ous about my trips. He liked the idea so much he joined the
And with regard to the second, he says: “What do you want
team.” And he convinced an IESE PMD classmate, Kai Grad-
to do in life? I believe it’s important to work for a purpose, to
ert, to join him on a return trip to Kenya this past summer
contribute to something bigger, to chase a dream (the gold).
to experience Walk With Rangers for himself.
If you start with that, money will follow.” Though it’s still early days, he’s optimistic about the future: The idea is to sell fair-trade coffee products – enabling a larger
“Things may not work out how we want them to be, but it’s all
share of the sales price to reach the coffee farmer, contribut-
about how we react, adapt, learn, stand up and do it again, but
ing to the development and living conditions of the producers’
next time better.”
business, while supporting wildlife and reforestation activities His final advice for those contemplating their New Year’s resolutions: “It’s so easy to stick with what you know, but if you stay too long where you feel comfortable, you won’t achieve any further development. As soon as you feel too comfortable, you need to change something. Keep moving forward. I learned the biggest lessons when I left my comfort zone. Always go for the choice that scares you most.” Once again, he’s heeding his own advice: after eight years with ZF Group, and amidst the launch of his new coffee venture, he recently joined Lilium, the German startup building a flying electric taxi. For Sauer, things are literally starting to take off.
Raabia Hawa and Steffen Sauer (bottom left) pictured with the rangers
50 | IESE Business School Insight | no. 154
Amplify Your Impact. Be a part of the IESE Scholarship Program In the last academic year, 480 students were able to live the IESE experience with the support of an IESE Scholarship. The Alumni Association regularly contributes to the IESE Scholarship Program, but you can help us achieve much more. Donate to the Scholarship Program and amplify our impact.
giving.iese.edu/scholarships and be part of our project.
Food for thought
SMART PICKS Jonathan Haidt Haidt’s book, The Happiness Hypothesis, is a search for modern truths in the ancient wisdom shared by several of the world’s civilizations – from China, India, Greece, and so on. Through the HappinessHypothesis. com website, many of the book’s best ideas can be explored online, such as “the felicity of virtue,” echoing Aristotle’s belief that “a good life is one where you develop your strengths” and “realize your potential.”
The pursuit of happiness For centuries, philosophers have been reflecting on what happiness means and how to achieve it. Today’s authors, many of whom hail from the field of positive psychology, borrow from the classical idea that happiness should not be pursued as an end in itself. Instead, happiness comes from having a purpose that gives meaning to your life and improves the lives around you. The lesson applies to the personal as well as professional realms. Consider what these experts have to say. 52 | IESE Business School Insight | no. 154
Daniel Gilbert Professor of psychology at Harvard, Gilbert is the author of Stumbling on Happiness, in which he explains why people fail to see what will make them truly happy. In “The surprising science of happiness,” a TED talk that has attracted more than 18 million views, Gilbert refers to a study of lottery winners and others who become paraplegic. One year later, the happiness levels of the two groups were similar: the winners were not as happy as they expected, while the latter group was not as unhappy.
FROM MY DESK
By Santiago Álvarez de Mon
Martin Seligman The author of Authentic Happiness says happiness lies in knowing your strengths and virtues and in making sense of both good and bad times. He directs the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania, where he has developed various questionnaires to measure happiness and signature strengths. You can find them at www.authentichappiness.org.
Angela Duckworth The author of the book Grit: The Power
Professor of Managing People in Organizations and holder of the José Felipe Bertrán Chair of Governance and Leadership in Public Administration
The happiness paradox Are you happy? Universal question, personal answer. The more we obsess about it, the more it eludes us. The French philosopher Gilles Lipovetsky wrote about this in his book Paradoxical Happiness. In our “hyperconsumption society,” as he called it, we are driven to expect instant gratification, always, effortlessly and by all means – and yet “none of this has opened the doors to the joy of living.” Happiness is as much a matter of interpretation as it is a fact. The attitude we adopt in the face of adversity is crucial. Helen Keller, deaf and blind since she was 19 months old, had this to say: “Most people measure their happiness in terms of physical pleasure and material possession… If happiness is to be so measured, I who cannot hear or see have every reason to sit in a corner with folded hands and weep.” But she didn’t do that. In spite of her deprivations, she embraced an optimism “so deep that it is a faith, so thoughtful that it becomes a philosophy of life.”
of Passion and Perseverance, and the wildly popular TED talk of the same name, insists that, beyond being smart and talented, “grit” is a key determinant of success in achieving long-term goals. And being “grittier” can make us happier while pursuing meaningful goals.
Tal Ben-Shahar “Give yourself permission to be human,” the former professor of psychology at Harvard and co-founder of the Happiness Studies Academy told IESE’s Global Alumni Reunion 2019. The key to happiness is not to suppress painful emotions: “The first step to happiness is
The human adventure of living requires moving in two directions. First, inward, exploring our inner world, untying personal knots, and keeping our insecure, envious egos at bay, until, through training in solitude and silence, we unveil the best version of ourselves. From that cultivated personal epicenter, our heart widens and projects us outward. Then, the idea of serving the community arises. In thinking of others, life makes sense, and we caress the face of happiness. I’ll finish with what the Slovenian artist and Jesuit theologian, Marko Ivan Rupnik, told me when I asked him if he was happy: “I’d say I’m a cheerful person who feels a confluence of peace and energy inside… If (happiness) means having serenity; a sense of harmony that satiates or satisfies; a certainty that, no matter what happens, I’m at least taking the right steps – then, yes, I am deeply happy.” His body language agreed.
allowing in unhappiness.” So, embrace the full range of emotions: happiness flows from being human.
Helen Keller (pictured right) with her teacher, Anne Sullivan
Value Creation Through Effective Boards
Looking for a way to improve your boardroom effectiveness? This joint IESE and Harvard Business School program is designed for board members in both public and private sector companies from a broad range of industries. Â We invite you to join us if you are looking for strategies to boost your contribution as a board member and toÂ promote overall boardroom effectiveness.
Barcelona May 18-21, 2020 More information: www.iese.edu/boards Yolanda Serra: firstname.lastname@example.org Managing Director International Open Programs EMEA
By Daniel Beunza
By Pedro Nueno
By Roberto García-Castro and Miguel A. Ariño
When morals meet models
Don’t fool yourself
Has our reliance on financial models gone too far? In the post-crisis order, more and more people are taking ethics in banking seriously. Here is how managers can take back control. By Daniel Beunza
hether it’s toxic derivatives, NINJA loans or fake Libor submissions, the ever growing list of Wall Street’s misdeeds has fueled financial
reform debates. One thing is clear: if financial re-
form is to make real progress, morality needs to be brought back into finance. Yet, if presenting bank employees with a brand-new set of values – like being given a new corporate uniform to wear – is unlikely to alter their actions, what type of reform might avoid a repetition of the problems that led to the last crisis? One solution is to employ more algorithmic risk-management models to constrain bankers’ ability to engage in unethical behavior. However, as I contend in my book – Taking the floor, based on a 16-year field study of a trading floor on Wall Street – relying on complex models to remedy the crisis of ethics on Wall Street poses many risks. At worst, models aimed at improving the ethical function of banks may actually give rise to moral disengagement, leading to even more immoral conduct. But it doesn’t have to be that way, provided that banks and their regulators follow the steps outlined in this article.
After decades of entrusting the elimination of financial misconduct to the exclusive care of the legal system, regulators on both sides of the Atlantic now seem to favor an approach that targets banking ethics. While some may not be pleased with
A shift of focus this shift (see sidebar), the fact that people are now taking ethics seriously is a reflection of just how deeply the fallout of the last crisis has shaken the intellectual foundations of the financial industry. For this latest effort not to end up as yet another well-intended but ineffective measure, there must be an accurate diagnosis of the underlying issues that fueled the crisis in the first place. Some have pointed to banks and credit rating agencies working in silos. Others have blamed a trading culture obsessed with short-term gains. While both of these factors played a role, there is another cause, often overlooked: the sweeping organizational, technological and regulatory changes that radically reconfigured Wall Street, starting in the mid-’80s. These changes include: the disappearance of investment banking partnerships, in which partners were jointly liable and thus had skin in the game; the repeal of the 1933 Glass-Steagall Act, which for over half a century had separated commercial and investment banking units in the United States; and the proliferation of new financial models. The latter are of key significance: they frame choice, reduce uncertainty and, in many cases, make calculation possible. But, apart from helping market operators calculate the value of financial products, some models end up changing the market and, in some cases, corroborate the theory that inspired the tool in the first place. For example, one study on the Black-Scholes equation (which governs the price evolution of stock options) showed that although the predictions of the
The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 has been described as the most significant change to financial regulation in the United States since the 1930s. Yet it has as many detractors as it does champions. Opponents object to its rigidity while even proponents fault it for its limited effectiveness, pointing to the continued problem of too-big-to-fail banks. In the U.S., the initial response to the 2008 crisis was structural reform, based on laws, rules and prohibitions. By 2014, the head of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, William Dudley, was focusing his gaze elsewhere, stating that “improving culture in the financial services industry is an imperative.” A similar shift has taken place in the U.K. A 2011 report by the Independent Commission on Banking recommended structural reforms aimed at ring-fencing the retail and investment arms of British banks. By 2015, the emphasis had turned to culture, culminating in the creation of the Banking Standards Board to “raise standards of behavior and competence across the (financial) industry.” They all talk about culture but morality in the financial industry is what many are thinking. When pressed to specify what he meant by culture, Dudley himself admitted “it’s really about ethics and conduct.” Despite such shifts, no one is under any illusion that change will be easy. Thomas J. Curry, Comptroller of the Currency of the United States, captured the mood of many bankers when he said: “I’ve had some bank executives and directors say, ‘I’m not a damn sociologist’.” Admittedly, culture is a vague concept, making practical, actionable implications hard to pin down. Yet, people on both sides of the debate acknowledge that moral, not just legal, standards do contribute to a healthy financial system.
no. 154 | IESE Business School Insight | 59
When morals meet models
formula were inaccurate when first developed in 1973, once the formula was adopted by financial exchanges and Wall Street banks, option prices changed in line with the modelâ€™s predictions. This is known as performativity, in which the tools ef-
that many financial institutions didnâ€™t have time
fectively shape the economy rather than just ob-
to make the organizational and cultural changes
serve its functioning.
needed to integrate the new practices.
A quantitative revolution
Some contend that the models allow for more
The proliferation of financial models like the
rational decision-making and enable traders to
Black-Scholes equation, coupled with the cre-
confront their own biases. Others argue that the
ation of new asset classes and the widespread
introduction of complex models, which were mis-
adoption of financial technology such as trading
understood by bankers or their clients, contribut-
terminals and trading algorithms, have amount-
ed to systemic risk in the 2008 crisis.
ed to nothing short of a quantitative revolution. And as with many revolutions, this one has a
This complex interplay was the focus of my field
dark side: not only did the changes have unin-
study. Based on interviews with industry prac-
tended consequences, they occurred so quickly
titioners and my own observations, I found that the widespread use of models radically transforms the way a setting like a trading floor functions. When fully diffused, they can dramatically alter strategy, managerial discourse, customer relations, product design and the degree to which ethical norms are enforced, self-enforced and interpreted. Taken to their logical conclusion, they can reshape the very nature of the organization, with these negative consequences:
60 | IESE Business SchooI Insight | no. 154
use of models by banks for the purpose of corporate strategy and risk management can shift their focus away from their relations with the clients that they lend money to and toward transaction-based banking, where banks treat each lending transaction as a single deal. erosion of managerial authority.
In the rela-
tionships between managers and traders, the use of models for risk management can erode mana-
The reliance on models can shift the focus away from the clients that banks are meant to serve
gerial authority as well as generate perceptions of injustice when those models fail. Such perceptions
a deal (in this case, the traders) is privy to more
may invite retaliation and reckless risk-taking on
information than the other. This gives traders a
the part of traders. To compound matters, exces-
competitive advantage and allows them to cap-
sive dependence on financial models can lead to a
ture most of the value they generate. In fact, it’s so
managerial focus that not only permits the erosion
easy to make money this way that traders are in-
of its own authority but celebrates rationality and
centivized to develop even more needlessly com-
self-interest rather than responsibility to protect
plex models with which to confound their clients.
the customers’ interests. Taken together, these can impair self-sanctioninformation asymmetry.
In dealings between
ing behavior, leading to moral disengagement.
traders and a bank’s customers, models often cre-
In extreme cases, the self-regulatory function of
ate information asymmetries – when one side of
individual managers and workers ceases to apply no. 154 | IESE Business School Insight | 61
When morals meet models
obligations. In the area of strategy formulation, banks prioritize trading in capital markets, where
Models, when used correctly, need not create moral disengagement
customers are treated as counterparties or economic adversaries. In the case of divisional managers, their reliance on models for risk management prevents them from exercising their own managerial judgment and intervention.
Taking back control
That said, models, when used correctly, need not create moral disengagement. The previously mentioned consequences can be avoided or mitigated by adopting these strategies and practices:
altogether, freeing them from self-sanction and
avoid instruments prone to abuse. At the level of
the guilt that accompanies behaviors that would
strategy, banks should avoid asset classes or finan-
normally violate their ethical standards. I refer
cial instruments that create information asymme-
to this process as model-based moral disengage-
tries between them and their corporate custom-
ment, and it manifests in different forms at dif-
ers, which invite abuse. One example is the use of
ferent levels of a bank. At the top, senior executives start to treat market actors as both rational and self-interested, which, in turn, allows them to justify a narrow legal definition of responsibility and eschew broader moral
Taking back control Strategy: avoid businesses that create opportunities for abuse.
Discourse: avoid celebrations of rationality and caveat emptor; instead, use symbols that promote collaboration and responsibility.
62 | IESE Business School Insight | no. 154
Control: avoid model-based management; stress importance of middle managers, personal engagement, judgment and moral intuition. Structure: use internal labor markets while limiting employee rotation across teams.
The author Daniel Beunza is an associate professor of management at Cass Business School, City University of London. Having previously taught at Columbia University, the London School of Economics and Copenhagen Business School, he explores in his work the ways in which social relations and technology shape financial value. He edits the blog Socializing Finance.
over-the-counter derivatives such as interest-rate
stands in stark contrast to governing at a distance.
swaps, where banks structure a made-to-measure
Instead of relying on cost data and remote mon-
contract with the customer that may be difficult
itoring and measurement technology, proximate
for the customer to understand.
control relies on vicinity in supervision, including face-to-face evaluations, personal judgment, the
promote ethics from the top down.
use of intuition and interpersonal trust.
comes to discourse, managers should underscore the importance of organizational norms over fi-
This is not to say that all financial models (equa-
nancial returns. They should also avoid celebra-
tions, visualizations, trading terminals) should be
tions of rationality and caveat emptor (let the
spurned â€“ so long as they are being used to eval-
buyer beware). Instead, they should promote col-
uate external objects, such as a stock or bond, and
laboration, compliance with the law and respect
they are complementing, not substituting, the role
for back-office employees. These norms can be
of management. Where models fail are when orga-
reinforced in offsite meetings, through internal
nizations turn the models inward on themselves.
labor markets or by middle managers. But the primary enforcement vehicle should be in the
In their quest to make tomorrowâ€™s financial sys-
day-to-day, one-on-one interactions between line
tem safer, regulators and central bankers are quite
managers and employees.
right to target culture. However, shaping banking culture in modern, quantitative financial markets
exercise proximate control.
calls for a sound, detailed understanding of how
of organizational norms requires limiting the use
models and morals come together. And that is
of models for the purpose of control, as models
where proximate control becomes paramount.
constitute a rival, often incompatible source of authority. I refer to this as proximate control, which encompasses a broad set of choices in the areas of strategy, discourse, structure and supervision. This
Taking the floor: models, morals and management in a Wall Street trading room by Daniel Beunza (Princeton University Press, 2019).
no. 154 | IESE Business School Insight | 63
Donâ€™t fool yourself Six blind spots that can harm your business By Pedro Nueno
Javier Tascon illustrations :
ow did Nokia go from global market lead-
2. always going for the external hire
er to being absorbed by Microsoft in only a
Before going for an external hire, make sure you’re not over-
few short years? One reason was a workplace
looking hidden internal talent. It’s generally a good idea to
culture in which nobody wanted to be the
promote from within, as it helps motivate and retain talent
bearer of bad news. It just goes to show that
over time. Provide professional training and development:
nobody is immune to self-deception. Whether overestimat-
this incentivizes people to work better. Recognize the value
ing your own abilities or underestimating the competition,
that your employees bring to your company, and give them
self-deception causes real damage, not only in poor results,
responsibility and compensation accordingly.
but to your image, making others less interested in collaborating with you and supporting your projects. So, take off the
3. having a distorted view of your company
blindfold and manage more effectively by paying attention
The affection that you have for your company may cause you
to these six blind spots:
to overvalue it. You may be too tolerant of certain behaviors. Or you may fail to face up to certain challenges with the nec-
1. thinking you know it all
essary business mindset and speed. You need to be able to do
If the people around you perceive you as humble, they’re more
things better than, or at least as well as, your competitors. This
likely to speak frankly to you. But if they regard you as proud
can be measured by market share and profitability. Monitor
or they’re afraid of hurting your feelings, they’ll probably keep
how these variables evolve and make contingency plans to re-
their mouths shut. This is a serious problem, particularly if you
act quickly to scenarios that put the future of your company at
end up being the last to know anything. The more years you
risk. When you can no longer see a way forward or you lack the
spend in post, the more you need trusted advisers around you
capacity (of talent, resources or knowledge) to improve, then it
telling you when it’s time to take a step back from the brink.
may be time to sell while some value remains.
no. 154 | IESE Business School Insight | 65
Don’t fool yourself
4. taking your eye off the competition
A corollary of overvaluing your company is underestimating the competition. To avoid this, keep close tabs on what’s going on “out there.” Go to trade shows, conferences and industry meetings, and get to know as many people as possible from similar companies and from larger firms that might someday impact you. Have a global focus: even if your company wishes to remain small, collaborating with bigger players through alliances or business clusters is unavoidable on some level. 5. not thinking your strategy through
A lack of coherence between strategy, operations and resources is a familiar problem. You might plan to expand internationally, but if you don’t have the right people in place, or you’re unwilling to invest what’s required, then your plan is just wishful thinking. When setting strategic objectives, be realistic: make sure you have key leaders to implement the strategy in each relevant market; motivate and support those leaders; and give them the resources they need. 6. forgetting to make the numbers add up
Don’t lose sight of your balance sheet: operating without being aware of the current state of your company’s finances is the worst kind of delusional. And don’t give in to the temptation of lowering your prices just to hold on to a few customers. It makes little sense to try to gain market leadership by losing money. While you may be able to get away with some delusions for a while, this is one that you need to face fast. Remember, going through life with your eyes open is the best way to avoid walking off a cliff. source: Cheating yourself in business (Autoengaño y empresa) by Pedro Nueno (Plataforma Editorial, 2019)
66 | IESE Business School Insight | no. 154
Pedro Nueno is professor emeritus of Entrepreneurship at IESE, and founder and honorary president of the China Europe International Business School (CEIBS). He has written numerous books on corporate turnarounds, innovation and entrepreneurship.
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WONDERFUL DECISIONS Keep your balance with these diagnostic tools and ensure your organization’s quality stays on target. By Roberto García-Castro and Miguel A. Ariño
ne of the hardest things for com-
ness represents an organization’s ability to achieve
panies to do is to make good,
the minimum necessary cash flow to pay its em-
sound decisions on a consis-
ployees, suppliers and creditors, it’s the most tan-
tent, long-term basis. As many
gible parameter for managers to grasp. Yet, it can’t
as two-thirds of corporate de-
be the only one. Let’s look at each in turn.
cision-makers rely on failure-prone tactics, research has shown. This may explain why roughly
4 out of 5 corporate mergers fail to deliver their
effective, it must generate some profits, as that
anticipated revenue synergies, and why around
determines the extent to which it can actually
80% of startups don’t make it to their second year.
achieve any of its goals. And there’s no shortage
Certainly, for a company to be
of profitable companies. In its heyday, GenerOne of the main reasons why companies are prone
al Electric was a well-known example. People
to bad decision-making is their blind obsession
lauded the management effectiveness of Jack
with short-term results. When you get down to it,
Welch, who during his two decades as chairman
the basic purpose of any company is to deliver a
and CEO saw GE multiply its profits sixfold. He
product or service that meets a customer’s need.
stripped away the company’s organizational lay-
But to do that, it needs to have not just the neces-
ers and demanded that it be No. 1 or 2 in the in-
sary minimum effectiveness to survive in the short
dustries in which it operated. Between 1981 and
term but also the maximum possible attractive-
2001, GE went from bureaucratic behemoth to
ness and unity to guarantee future longevity.
one of the world’s most productive, profitable and admired companies.
To make “wonderful decisions” – the title of a book we’ve written on the subject – companies first need
Yet there can be such a thing as being “too ef-
to strike the right balance between effectiveness, at-
fective.” Welch once said that the proof of his
tractiveness and unity. The reason they fail in that
effectiveness as CEO for two decades would be
endeavor is often because of a lack of discipline. To
measured by the company’s performance in the
regain their footing, managers need to hone three
two decades after he stepped down – for which
key abilities: their strategic ability (to enhance effec-
the facts speak for themselves. GE’s profitabil-
tiveness), their executive ability (to generate attrac-
ity declined and it was forced to sell off major
tiveness) and their leadership ability (as the basis for unity). A deficit in any one of these three should set off alarm bells, signaling that urgent action is required before organizational quality begins to suffer.
Parameters of quality
Effectiveness, attractiveness and unity are all decisive factors in organizational quality. However, it’s the first factor – effectiveness – that usually gets the most managerial attention. Because effective-
70 | IESE Business SchooI Insight | no. 154
To make wonderful decisions, firms need to balance effectiveness, attractiveness and unity
competitive landscapes, thereby improving the company’s chances of longevity. One policy you hear about is “20% time,” in which employees are encouraged to spend 20% of their work time experimenting on outside projects. This is supposed to make them more motivated and productive, leading to more innovation. However, as before, you can have too much of a good thing. Google has reportedly abandoned the policy, as the reality for employees felt more like “120% time.” unity.
How closely employees iden-
tify with organizational goals determines the third parameter: uniacquisitions made under Welch. In hindsight,
ty. And that identification is based not on how
maximizing effectiveness (profit-making) at the
much the person is paid or the learning oppor-
expense of attractiveness or unity can lead to a
tunities they’re offered, but on the belief that
deterioration in organizational quality and the
the organization’s goals are worth striving for.
gradual loss of competitive advantage.
As countless experiments have shown, human
This parameter relates to the
over, as research by Lea Cassar finds, “a proso-
satisfaction that organizational members derive
cial mission to the job increases agents’ effort,”
from belonging to the organization. There are
and in certain circumstances “the benefits of
beings prefer work that is meaningful. More-
a number of ways that companies can increase
the job mission” can be “a substitute for mon-
their attractiveness. Some involve extrinsic ben-
etary incentives.” This gives mission-oriented
efits (a salary, a raise) but it’s worth emphasizing
firms a competitive edge over companies with
that financial remuneration is only one compo-
a mere profit-maximization objective, since the
nent that contributes to employee satisfaction.
former can economize on monetary incentives
There are also intrinsic motivations related to
while still getting maximum employee effort
the nature of the job itself: the tasks performed,
new professional challenges, knowledge and skills acquired through training and develop-
The “transcendent” nature of unity may not be as
ment. Attractive companies are those that not
tangible or as measurable as the other parameters,
only recruit highly skilled individuals but also
but it is one of the first things people notice upon
invest in developing them professionally. This
arriving in a new workplace. It can be gleaned from
makes them better prepared to adapt to new
the way people interact with each other, from the
no. 154 | IESE Business School Insight | 71
cooperative (or competitive) atmosphere that per-
One reason is the prevalence of biases. Cognitive,
vades the workplace, and from the pleasure (or dis-
intertemporal and interpersonal biases push us in
pleasure) workers express about their work. Firms
directions that make it harder to be effective, at-
with a strong sense of unity tend to prioritize val-
tractive and united at the same time. These biases
ues in recruitment; refrain from making layoffs;
are an inescapable part of being human and often
pursue organic growth; and distribute the fruits
arise from a good impulse: to navigate complex-
of everyone’s labor fairly through employee-wide
ity, we seek to reduce it to simpler forms, using
profit-sharing schemes, for instance.
mental shortcuts. Unfortunately, these shortcuts
But unity can’t be forced. If a company fails to
evaluating gains and losses using different crite-
provide a clear mission worth striving for, then
ria, exhibiting preference reversals (i.e., preferring
employees will cease to identify with the firm,
A to B and then, simply because of the order in
resulting in widespread employee alienation. Ac-
which they appear, favoring B to A), making differ-
cording to a Global Workplace Report by Gallup,
ent choices depending on the wording of a prob-
a staggering 85% of employees in large compa-
lem, and wrongly assigning our own motives to
nies are not engaged, or are actively disengaged,
other people’s decisions. Perhaps the worst bias
at work. Such companies will struggle.
of all is favoring immediate, short-term results at
frequently come with blind spots. These include:
If delivering on effectiveness, attractiveness and
the expense of long-term sustainability. Another reason things go amiss is the narrow defini-
unity is so (apparently) simple, why do so many
tion used to measure value creation, which is almost
companies miss the mark?
always reduced to net income – that is, the value
72 | IESE Business SchooI Insight | no. 154
appropriated by shareholders. Not only does this
get skilled employees to identify with a company’s
ignore the value captured by the firm’s employees,
mission. Southwest is fiercely loyal to its workers.
customers and suppliers, it also piles huge pressure
In the wake of the September 11, 2001, terrorist
on managers to prioritize short-term, market-driv-
attacks, when other U.S. air carriers were slashing
en incentives, which can end up destroying organi-
jobs in response to falling demand for air travel,
zational unity and attractiveness.
Southwest opted not to lay off a single worker.
A third reason is that excelling at each of the three parameters requires huge reserves of discipline. Mastering one or two of them isn’t enough. Unity, in particular, requires a deft combination of bias-free decision-making, virtue, moral character, rationality and imagination in order to come up with creative solutions to complex dilemmas. One company that places a very high premium on organizational unity is Southwest Airlines, whose motto of “hire for attitude, train for skill” captures a basic truth about recruitment: it’s easier to train employees who believe in the company’s goals and are willing to learn and develop, than it is to
To navigate complexity, we use mental shortcuts, but these shortcuts come with blind spots no. 154 | IESE Business School Insight | 73
Excellent executives don’t just help employees learn; they also allocate them to where their skillsets and competencies will be put to best use Instead, it temporarily reduced working hours,
Without an effective strategy, the purpose and
restrained salaries and took a short-term hit to
mission of a firm are merely good intentions.
profits. As a result of Southwest’s decision not to make any redundancies, staff unity grew and em-
If strategizing is about achieving re-
ployee productivity soared. Southwest made the
sults, executing is about learning how to make
strongest recovery from 9/11 in comparison with
them sustainable. And the best way to do that is
any of the other U.S. carriers.
to identify, recruit and train employees who are intrinsically motivated to perform their tasks and
This case underscores another important point
about discipline: knowing what not to do is as important as knowing what to do. While other
There is, of course, a trade-off between strat-
airlines would like to emulate Southwest, few
egizing and executing. While positive learning
have the discipline not to fly to the biggest air-
usually increases a firm’s effectiveness in the
ports, not to lay off workers during a downturn,
future, it implies forfeiting at least part of its
not to grow via mergers and acquisitions, and
short-term earnings and profits. On the other
not to increase their financial leverage during
hand, if a firm seeks always to maximize extrin-
the good times.
sic results, it will be unable to offer attractive
Three core abilities
learning opportunities to the many employees it will need to safeguard its future.
Now let’s take a closer look at the three core abilities required to run an organization that is at
once effective, attractive and united:
Excellent executives don’t just help employees learn; they also allocate them to the teams and departments where their skillsets and compe-
This is the ability to formulate strate-
tencies will be put to best use. This process, on a
gies that give the firm a competitive edge. Strategic
large enough scale, helps to reinforce the firm’s
managers must scan the business landscape for
opportunities, size up their competitors, position the firm advantageously, and deploy the firm’s
resources and capabilities toward the business
one main purpose: to instill the organization’s goals
opportunities with the highest expected returns.
and values in its members, which is essential for
74 | IESE Business School Insight | no. 154
The final discipline, leadership, has
achieving unity. It is done not by offering extrinsic benefits (monetary gain) or intrinsic benefits (professional development opportunities) but by tapping into employees’ transcendent motivations and getting them to identify with the company’s mission.
Roberto García-Castro and Miguel A. Ariño are professors in the Department of Managerial Decision Sciences at IESE and co-authors of the book Wonderful Decisions (2019).
At companies renowned for their high degree of unity, such as Wegmans Food Markets, Southwest Airlines and SAS Institute, employees wholeheartedly identify with the firm’s purpose and are fully committed to meeting customers’
trigger some remedial action. The following di-
real needs. All of these firms have a passion for
agnostic questions may prove useful in gauging
what they do. They also have low rates of person-
the quality of your own organization:
nel turnover, in some cases less than 5% a year, and a no-layoff policy; they use financial incen-
• Does your firm solve a real need of someone?
tives sparingly and promote people from within.
• Does your firm provide learning opportunities that are attractive to someone?
Of the three managerial disciplines, leadership is the easiest to understand as it doesn’t require the formulation of sophisticated strategies or the development of advanced technologies or complex learning processes. But it is the hardest to implement. Leaders must lead by example and they must command the respect of both their
• Is your firm really effective or are there other, more productive ways of working? • Are incentives consistent with the firm’s purpose and do they support cooperation among employees and other stakeholders? • Does your firm have clear boundaries (what not to do)?
peers as well as the general workforce. That respect has to be earned, and that can take time.
It’s the role of the strategist, the executive and,
But it can be lost in the blink of an eye.
especially, the leader to act as the guardians of
Check your health
ercise is to achieve sustainable competitive ad-
these parameters. The ultimate goal of this ex-
The three parameters of effectiveness, attrac-
vantage by developing an effective competitive
tiveness and unity should serve as a diagnostic
strategy, a distinctive competence and an organi-
tool. In the same way that a physician monitors
zational mission that unites the whole organiza-
the levels of glucose or cholesterol in a patient’s
tion. And it starts by making the most wonderful
body, if you, as a manager, note that the balance
decision of all: choosing to do things right over
is off in any of the three parameters, that should
choosing what’s expedient.
no. 154 | IESE Business School Insight | 75
all photos :
© Fundació Junta Constructora del Temple de la Sagrada Família
Innovative spirit Lessons in leadership from the Sagrada Familia, Barcelona’s emblematic basilica, built by the famous architect Antoni Gaudí.
he tree outside my
Nearly 140 years and counting in the making, the
Sagrada Familia demonstrates how visionary lead-
teacher,” the architect
ership can prioritize the truly important over the
distracting noise of short-term results and ego. By
taking a cue from Gaudí and seeking the extraor-
ping into the temple of the Sagrada Familia,
dinary in the ordinary, executives may be inspired
his most famous and perennially unfinished work, is like stepping into a forest. Pillars rise
like trees, separating into overlapping branches that hold up the ceiling. It’s a revolutionary
in ways they never thought possible before.
An inspiring vision
Gaudí was a man with a vision, and one who un-
structure in architecture, and yet the structures
derstood that the vision must be clearly commu-
can be found in nature.
nicated to be effective.
Nature is everywhere in the Sagrada Familia, both in
A master craftsman who worked among master
decorative elements – sculpted lizards, birds and
craftsmen, Gaudí created drawings and extensive
ivy on the façade, turtles supporting columns,
plaster models of his planned church, and then al-
clusters of fruit atop towers – and, crucial-
lowed his colleagues – ironworkers, stoneworkers,
ly, in its structure. There is the internal forest,
ceramicists, many of them lifelong collaborators –
but also the spiral staircases that echo the form
to work out the details without constant oversight.
of mollusks and innovative elements such as catenary arches. For Gaudí, the new was to be found in
Another effect of this clearly communicated vi-
the timeless and in our everyday surroundings that
sion was that when many of these drawings and
we see so often we sometimes fail to see them at all.
models were lost in a fire after the architect’s
no.1 54 | IESE Business School Insight | 77
Innovative spirit cr
death, those assistants and collaborators were able to recall much of the plan and communicate it to the next generation of architects. And what was this vision? The church is immense, with 18 spires, some of them colorfully enameled. It’s also richly detailed: façades crammed with natural and religious motifs, spiral staircases, a forest-like interior and stained glass refracting different primary colors onto the cool white walls as the day progresses. With such an awesome vision, Gaudí wanted to both dazzle and humble the visitor, for them to “see what is there and what is not there.”
The inescapable fact of money
The practicalities of turning such a vision into reality were daunting. If the master craftsman was, on the one hand, a dreamer, he was also, on the other, a realist. The Sagrada Familia required vast sums of money to build. As an expiatory temple, it would need to rely on individual alms rather than institutional grants for funding. Many of Gaudí’s iconic works were funded by an industrial entrepreneur and wealthy patron named Eusebi Güell. However, the Sagrada Familia represented a much bigger undertaking, requiring a great deal more money than any
lion’s share of the funds came from thousands of
of his previously funded projects. It would also take
individual donations, truly making it a work by
a great deal more time, measured not just in years
and for the masses who had been moved to buy
into Gaudí’s vision.
Gaudí accepted this reality of innovation: just
Building a legacy
having a great idea wasn’t enough; he also need-
Work on the Sagrada Familia was done in stops
ed to convince others of its greatness and inspire
and starts. Gaudí didn’t see this as a bad thing. In-
them to contribute, both now and long into the
deed, “it is necessary to alternate between reflec-
future. He was a tireless fundraiser, even pouring
tion and action, which complete and moderate
his own earnings into realizing his dream. Yet the
each other,” he said.
78 | IESE Business School Insight | no. 154
Executive reflections Actual comments from IESE program participants on what they took away from the Sagrada Familia experience.
“A vision is something between an intangible dream and a concrete objective” “Knowing you
might not be the one to see the project through to the end really helps to concentrate minds on what’s important”
“I shouldn’t complain about a lack of resources, but optimize the use of what I have”
“I’m reminded to share my vision in an understandable way and align everyone to a common goal”
Slow periods in the building were used to take
For Gaudí, it was clear to him that the Sagrada Fa-
stock, to dream and design new solutions, and for
milia was not a moneymaker but a legacy project,
Gaudí to develop his skills in new directions, as he
a work he would never live to see realized. When
worked on many other projects at the same time.
he died in 1926, hit by a tram while walking to
Later, from 1914 until his death, he devoted his
Mass, he had built the Nativity Façade and erect-
time exclusively to building the Sagrada Familia.
ed four towers, only one of which was complete.
no.1 54 | IESE Business School Insight | 79
After dedicating a lifetime to a project, a lesser person might feel frustrated not to see its completion. Yet Gaudí’s big-picture vision accepted, even welcomed, that possibility. “There is no reason to regret that I cannot finish the church,” he said. “I will grow old and pass away … but its life must depend on the generations it is handed down to.” Words to live by, in any profession. IESE professors Yih-teen Lee and Alberto Ribera present a case study on Gaudí and lead a tour of the Sagrada Familia, followed by a discussion, during Executive Education programs at IESE Barcelona. article by:
Lead like Gaudí Show passion When pursuing your own projects, follow Gaudí’s advice: “To do things well, first you need love, then technique.”
Delegate Surround yourself with the best people. Develop them. Align them with your vision. Discover how they work best, then let them get on with it.
Be humble From a working-class family of coppersmiths, Gaudí knew a craftsman’s worth was in his creations, not his origins. He was able to “walk with kings” but never lost the common touch.
Stay disciplined You don’t have to go as far as Gaudí did – actually living in his workshop – but the point is, cut out the distractions, don’t waste time, and give it your full focus.
Take failure in stride When trying new things, accept some of them will fail. Learn and grow from the experience.
80 | IESE Business School Insight | no. 154
Antoni Gaudí: the focus was on the project, not himself. What kind of leader are you? What kind of leader do you want to become?
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