Entries for November 2006

Concern for the triple bottom line: From margins to center

On Saturday, I participated in a conversation about how to strengthen locally-owned businesses and deal with the challenges represented by national chain competition. (I invited my blog readers to participate in Unchained America day, which was the reason that the conversation at Phoenix Coffeehouse on Lee Road took place.)

One of the assertions I made during that conversation was that the values of the Millennial generation suggest that they are going to care more about the social and environmental impact of the businesses where they shop and work. This press release outlines the results of a survey supporting my assertion. Here's a quote:

"66% will consider a company's social/environmental commitment when deciding whether to recommend its products and services."

Another piece of data, more anecdotal, would be the article about giving circles like the Cleveland Colectivo, which I believe is made up of Millennials and some younger Generation Xers.

Want more background on the Millennial generation?


I would be curious for any suggestions about where to find information on the positions of millenials regarding their preferences for shopping at, or working in, local vs. corporate businesses.

challenging students, supporting students: reflecting on the HR simulation

Have you ever read the research of Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi? He's the director of the Quality of Life Research Center at the Drucker School of Management (and he must know that the spelling of his name overwhelms people, because his bio on that site is labeled about Mike.)

Csikszentmihalyi's research over the last few decades has examined the role of flow in human life. Flow is a state of consciousness in which our attention is fully invested in the task at hand, and when we are in flow, time seems to disappear or to stand still. When we are in flow is when we do our best, most creative work. Flow is a natural high.

I don't often think about it this way, but my purpose as a teacher is to create the context in which my students can engage in learning management in a such a way that they experience flow. When I can do this -- when I can balance the challenge that students experience when they encounter new concepts or practice new skills against the support that they receive from me, from each other, and from their learning context -- that is when students get turned on to management. If they have that experience often enough, then they will become intrinsically motivated to learn more, and to pursue mastery of the field of management.

Of course, it would help a lot of I had had this revelation in August, rather than in November. There are signs in many student blog entries that the balance of challenge and support is out of whack. This is especially true with regard to the HR simulation. (Click through to read more.)

(With thanks to the Mutual Improvement Blog, which linked to this post on self-awareness and staying engaged, which, in turn, linked to this Kathy Sierra entry on keeping users engaged, which reminded me of what I had learned long ago, and then forgotten, about the research on flow.)

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a noble profession

Which is the most noble of professions? Certainly, medicine is a top contender -- and one of the reasons is the Hippocratic Oath. In the next 100 years, though, it's possible that management will give medicine "a run for its money", so to speak. Here's a quote from my colleague, Julia Grant:

"all business schools are under an imperative to try to get better at teaching strong ethics, at teaching strong business values that do have to do with creating a better world. Business cannot be just about profit."
(from Peter Krouse's October 28 article in the Plain Dealer, "Honor among managers")

The dean of Thunderbird, the Garvin School of International Management, told the story of Thunderbird's new oath during the BAWB conference in Cleveland last month. Some are skeptical about the ability of a voluntary oath taken by students at one management school to change the practices of managers around the world. Normally, I'm known for my skepticism. In this instance, though, I believe it's more important to match the high intent of those students with practical actions which will reinforce their intent.

I'm lining up beside those recent Thunderbird graduates who signed their oath, and beside any Weatherhead students who will draft and then sign our own version. I will do whatever I can to make management practice more ethical, day by day, so that we can truly say, 100 years from now, that management is a noble profession.

Polishing our message

In Northeast Ohio, we typically think of ourselves as old manufacturing powerhouses (think TRW and the like), new financial services companies (think Progressive, MBNA, etc), and internationally reknowned healthcare (think University Hospitals, the Cleveland Clinic, and MetroHealth). One of the arenas in which I'm increasingly aware of our strengths, though, is in a different service industry: marketing, public relations, and the design of products and services.

Take a look at John Booth's recent blog entry over at Crain's Cleveland Business, for example. Or, think about the powerhouse that is Nottingham Spirk (as highlighted in the recent New York Times article about University Circle as a commercial real estate gem). Definitely check out the slide show available through the NYT, with glorious photographs by David Maxwell, entitled Rebuilding Cleveland.

The opportunities available for employment in communications, marketing, and public relations have never been more visible to me. As our region continues its climb to the top of the global heap, we will need individuals who can grasp those opportunities and polish the messages about Northeast Ohio and its companies, nonprofits, and government agencies. That's why I'm so pleased that Weatherhead is now offering our undergraduates the opportunity to concentrate in Marketing, within the B. S. in Management degree. Check out the course listings. (We also offer a minor to students in the College of Arts and Sciences, and a minor or a sequence to students in the Case School of Engineering.) Of course, those course listings understate the opportunities available to our students, because so much learning within the management major is experiential. My students demonstrate all the time how quickly they learn from their internship, career panel, and campus leadership experiences. Still, the chance to learn from and with six faculty in marketing (including our interim Dean) should draw many students into management in the coming years.

I'm delighted to see our region polishing our message -- Northeast Ohio is rebuilding, a renaissance is well under way, and we are proud of what we do here. And I'm heartened to know that my university is playing a role in building that justifiable pride.

metaphors for social change

Remember back in May, when I wrote about the metaphors of motivating change? We need a whole new set of metaphors for understanding how social change occurs, as well -- metaphors that acknowledge the relational dynamics that accelerate or dampen social change processes.

Political social change seems to be occurring in the United States. The timeframe for that change ranges from the year (2006) to the generation (1980 to 2006), at least according to Joe Kein at Time Magazine. (Thanks to John Ettorre for his blog post bringing this article to our attention.) Klein's article is headlining 2006 as "the year the Democrats punched back", suggesting that political social change occurs in part as a battle of the fists (or at least of the political ad blows and counterblows). Klein's article ends with a very different metaphor, though -- the metaphor of tides cresting and receding:

"2006 may be remembered as the year that the Reagan Revolution finally crested and began to recede."

I recognize that some may consider 26 years more than a generation, and yet Strauss and Howe's 1992 book Generations called 1982-2003 the Millenial Generation. In political writing, this notion that great waves of right-oriented and left-oriented governing alternate is a familiar one, suggesting that perhaps no social change actually occurs; instead we are just watching a pendulum swinging back and forth very slowly... or, we are the grains of sand on the beach, washed first by one wave, and then by another.

And yet our individual experiences suggest that social change does occur, within one lifetime or less, and that relational dynamics are an important part of how social change occurs.

A generation from now, will history acknowledge that the BAWB conference in NEO two weeks ago was actually the tipping point for how business and academia began to act differently together, to make themselves agents of world benefit? Nadya Zhexembayeva is convinced that it was a tipping point, October 25, 2006. She has been watching for this tipping point for a long time -- she heads up the World Inquiry, an action research project of the Center for Business as an Agent of World Benefit (BAWB). She also served as the host of the Virtual Conference that extended the BAWB Global Forum to additional 500+ participants from all over the world.

Be sure to read what Nadya Zhexembayeva wrote for GreenBiz about BAWB and the tipping point. Read it not just to explore some of the metaphors for social change she evokes -- but also to become your part of the social change that is happening among us and around the world.

responsible capitalism and ethical behavior in the face of discrimination

One of my posts from last spring which gets a lot of traffic is on responsible capitalism and ESOPs. This morning I decided that I wanted to reinforce the connections between responsible capitalism and individual proactive behavior in organizations.

What is responsible capitalism? William Pfaff wrote about it in 2002 in the International Herald Tribune (and Common Dreams provides the text online). He provides a history lesson, distinguishing responsible capitalism from the popular capitalism that was championed by Henry Ford. Responsible capitalism is about more than simply paying workers well so that they can afford to buy the products they make in their workplaces. It is about decisions for the long-term benefit of all, rather than for the quarterly earnings reports. It probably even involves regulation of businesses, rather than assuming that the invisible hand will always reward the companies which act ethically.

In business schools, there is a trend to return to the teaching of ethics. We now realize, after Enron and Worldcom and other scandals, that we have not done enough. It is not enough to assume that all our students have already learned the Golden Rule. It is not enough to mention ethics at the beginning of the semester. It's not even enough to address it through one required course in the MBA curriculum dedicated to ethics in business.

I have always discussed ethical issues in my teaching of organizational behavior, and I'm sure that I will continue to improve the effectiveness of those discussions. Last week, in MGMT 250, both class sessions were focused on ethics.

Click through to read more about students' responses to Thursday's class session.

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the journey toward perfection: a status report

On Sept. 1, I posted a blog entry about the speaker at Fall Commencement, entitled food for thought. In it, I discussed speaker Michael Ruhlman's words, both during his speech and in his book, which was assigned as a common reading for all entering first-year undergraduates in August of 2007. The book is entitled The Soul of a Chef: The Journey Toward Perfection. One week later, an article about Fall Commencement was published in the Case campus newspaper, the Observer -- Soul of a Chef Author Addresses Case.

One week before, Mano Singham had also written about his reactions to the book, as a professor who teaches first seminars here at Case. He tells a bit of the story of how Ruhlman's book was selected as a common reading for Case first-year students, and outlines how he dealt with his initial lack of enthusiasm for reading the book. Professor Singham makes two important points which may be helpful reminders for students in MGMT 250: (click through to read more)

Continue reading "the journey toward perfection: a status report"

managers can keep their top talent with strategic conversations

Here's an excerpt from Janet Cho's article in the Oct. 30, 2006, Cleveland Plain Dealer, entitled "Keeping the top talent":

Sandy Kristin Piderit, associate professor in organizational behavior at the Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University, says managers absolutely have to initiate conversations with their best performers.

“You want to have a private conversation as soon as you sense that someone you consider indispensable may be thinking about leaving,” she said.

Piderit suggests an open-ended question such as, “What do you like best about working here?” and letting the employee bring up any negative aspects.

“It has to be the high performer’s decision at the end, but you want to open up the conversation before it’s too late and they have another job and they’re coming in to give notice,” she said.

“If you open up a conversation when you’re trying to retain somebody by saying, ‘I can only give you this much of a raise,’ you could offend them,” Piderit said.
To read or print the whole article, click here: Keeping the top talent: Star performers tire of jumping through hoops while others loaf.