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The Sower by Jean-François Millet, circa 1865, Walters Art Museum, Baltimore

How Well Is CSR Embedded in Business Strategy?

Idea posted: May 2014
  • Strategy
  • CSR & Governance
  • Finance
  • Innovation & Entrepreneurship
  • Leadership & Change

CSR and sustainable development are now widely seen as core parts of business. This does not, however, mean they’re always treated as core parts of business strategy. The management control systems big companies use to design, implement and monitor CSR sometimes suggest a ‘reactive’ rather than a ‘proactive’ approach from leaders.

Idea #374
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Strategic investors. Dr. Stephan Goetz, Warren Buffett (on video link) and Baronin Ariane de Rothschild at the Munich Film Festival,2012 (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Investors’ Strategies for Wealth Creation

Idea posted: April 2014
  • Finance

Strategy, whether for business, military or political ends, involves the optimal use and deployment of resources in order to achieve an objective. In this Idea, using strategy for wealth creation is explored, in the context of individual investors.

Idea #361
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The Arctic Expedition - the Crow’s Nest. Cover illustration (detail) for The Graphic, May 1875, by Samuel Edmund Waller

Does Your Organization Need a Chief External Officer?

Idea posted: April 2014
  • CSR & Governance
  • Finance
  • Leadership & Change
  • Marketing
  • Operations

Many large organizations face challenges in managing the demands of external non-market environments — political and social aspects of their working environment. This Idea suggests the creation of a chief external officer and gives some guidance on how to ensure their success.

Idea #362
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Dr. Manmohan Singh in 1994, when finance minister. He subsequently became Prime Minister of India (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Modernizing without Westernizing: Social Ties and Indian Business

Idea posted: March 2014
  • Strategy
  • Finance
  • Marketing
  • Operations

The modernization of India’s economy, begun in the early 1990s when Manmohan Singh, then finance minister, introduced a series of reforms, has not reversed centuries-old traditions. Personal affiliations and kinship ties, long the bedrock of Indian society, continue to exert a powerful influence in the financial sector. India’s economy has been liberalized — but not, necessarily, Westernized.

Idea #341
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The Boyhood of Raleigh 1870, Sir John Everett Millais, The Tate Gallery , London

Storytelling for Entrepreneurial Endeavour

Idea posted: February 2014
  • Finance
  • Innovation & Entrepreneurship
  • Learning & Behaviour

Good stories can increase legitimacy and persuade investors and valued employees to commit to your organization. At the same time, an inauthentic story could be worse than none at all. In this Idea, six strategies that executives can employ to create, refine and deliver their stories are outlined. Read on to learn more.

Idea #324
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Investment Banking: Technology and the Decline of Trust

Idea posted: February 2014
  • CSR & Governance
  • Finance
  • Innovation & Entrepreneurship
  • Leadership & Change

‘Up or out’ promotion policies and reward systems that encourage ‘star’ bankers to ‘shine’ by taking unacceptable risks were significant factors in the 2007-2009 financial crisis. But they need to be viewed in a broader context. The seeds of trouble were sown decades previously, when a trend towards ‘transactional’ models, powered by technology, began to transform investment banks.

Idea #325
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The Virgin of Chancellor Rolin (detail), van Eyck, 1435, Musee du Louvre, Paris. Nicholas Rolin was Chancellor to Philip the Good.

Rebuilding Reputation after a Serious Financial Restatement

Idea posted: January 2014
  • Strategy
  • Finance
  • Operations

In the wake of a serious financial restatement, how can companies repair their reputations and increase the value of their shares? According to this Idea, the answer may lie in focusing not just on investors but on stakeholders who are non-capital providers and can be viewed as ‘softer’ constituencies. 

Idea #313
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King John signs the Magna Carta, engraving by James William Edmund Doyle, 1864 (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Corporate Governance from the Bottom Up

Idea posted: January 2014
  • CSR & Governance
  • Finance
  • Learning & Behaviour

Non-executive directors are often seen as a way to avoid corporate ‘buccaneering’ and tame reckless CEOs. Their exact contribution to companies, however, remains unclear. Independent executives, on the other hand, have been shown to be accurate ‘predictors’ of profitability, performance and value creation.

Internal monitoring by the CEO's immediate subordinates should be the new area of focus in the corporate governance debate.

Idea #299
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The Hare and the Tortoise, Jean Grandville (1803-1847) from the 1855 edition of La Fontaine's Fables (Source: Wikipedia Commons)

Crowdfunding: How a Slow Process Helps in the Long Run

Idea posted: November 2013
  • Finance
  • Innovation & Entrepreneurship

The open process of crowdfunding has some unexpected marketing and funding implications. For example, getting money for your venture faster undermines the marketing potential of crowdfunding. And, for donors at least, a sudden influx of money can lead subsequent donors to look for opportunities elsewhere.

Idea #255
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The Green Investment Gap — And How to Close It

Idea posted: October 2013
  • CSR & Governance
  • Finance

Private investment in renewable energy technologies is increasing but remains below the level required to meet greenhouse gas emission reduction targets. Solving the problem could depend on a new approach from policy makers. Recently published research on the European market sheds new light on the ‘drivers’ of investment decisions — and suggests that financial factors and government subsidies are not the only drivers.

Idea #243
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Don’t Just Follow the Crowdfunding Crowd

Idea posted: October 2013
  • Finance
  • Innovation & Entrepreneurship
Institutions: London Business School

Crowdfunding has been much talked about as an innovative way of funding entrepreneurial businesses, allowing them to source financial backing from a growing plethora of online platforms. But in reality crowdfunding may not be suitable for a particular business idea or sector – and some crowdfunding platforms may not be viable at all. As the research’s author, Gary Dushnitsky, puts it, “It’s great that crowdfunding is the solution, but to what question and, specifically, in what industry?”

Idea #236
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Money for Nothing: The Truth About Investment Consultants

Idea posted: October 2013
  • CSR & Governance
  • Finance
  • Learning & Behaviour

Widely used by retirement plan sponsors and pension fund trustees, investment consultants advise on institutional assets worth trillions of dollars. But their influence is not matched by their performance. New research finds no evidence that they add value to plan sponsors — or provide higher returns for pension scheme investors.

Idea #230
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U.S. Social Security Administration early accounting operations in Baltimore circa 1936 (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Computer Says ‘Yes’ – The Impact of IT Investment

Idea posted: September 2013
  • Strategy
  • Finance

The impact of information technology on an organization’s profitability can be significant but it needs to be strategically managed, from the top down. View your IT management as a corporate rather than a departmental issue.

The key message for today’s leaders is, choose the right kind of IT projects, spend your money wisely, and focus on growth over cost savings. 

Idea #219
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William Mark Felt, Sr. (1913-2008), A.K.A. ‘Deep Throat’. Felt, a former associated director of the FBI supplied Washington Post reporters Woodward and Bernstein with enough insider information to take down President Nixon after the Watergate scandal. (Source: CBS News)

Blowing the Whistle on Unethical Conduct: It Takes a Village

Idea posted: August 2013
  • CSR & Governance
  • Finance
  • Leadership & Change
  • Learning & Behaviour
  • Operations

Employees who want to report wrongdoing must overcome two fears: the fear of retaliation and the fear of futility (the fear of risking the enmity of boss and co-workers for nothing, because nothing is done). New research on whistleblowers confirms that the boss sets the initial ethical tone for the organization or unit, but also demonstrates that co-workers play an important role in either supporting or discouraging whistleblowing. The research shows that the interaction of the two factors — boss attitude and co-workers attitude — impacts an employee’s fear of retaliation. If either the

Idea #193
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Trust, Fraud and the Financial Markets

Idea posted: August 2013
  • CSR & Governance
  • Finance
  • Learning & Behaviour

Markets cannot function without relationships, and relationships cannot function without trust. But the mechanisms for building trust can be ‘faulty’. Bernard Madoff’s infamous Ponzi scheme, which ruined thousands of investors, depended on a series of ‘trust-producing’ factors that combined to conceal it from victims and the authorities. Understanding these mechanisms can help prevent similar frauds and abuses of trust.

Idea #195
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How Best Behaviour Boosts the Bottom Line

Idea posted: July 2013
  • CSR & Governance
  • Finance
  • Leadership & Change
Institutions: Henley Business School

Businesses can see beneficial financial effects if they implement policies based on corporate social responsibility. These effects are evident in both the equity and corporate bond markets where they lead to reduced market risk and default risk, lower cost of equity and debt and increased credit quality.

Idea #181
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Brad Pitt, the first male to front a Chanel No. 5 perfume campaign, 2012 (source: The Sun)

Celebrities in Advertising: Neuroscience Insights

Idea posted: July 2013
  • Finance
  • Learning & Behaviour
  • Marketing

Companies pay celebrities large sums of money to endorse their products and ‘star’ in their advertising campaigns. Until recently, however, little was known about the processes that underlie the persuasiveness of fame. Now, research in neuroeconomics (a field that crosses the disciplines of psychology, economics, marketing and neuroscience) is providing insights into the neural effects of celebrity endorsement — and suggesting ways advertisers can best use celebrities to influence consumers and their decisions.

Idea #183
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Officer cadets from Serbia's Military Academy, Belgrade, Serbia, 2010 (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Social Influences on Decision-Making: Neuroscience Insights

Idea posted: July 2013
  • CSR & Governance
  • Finance
  • Learning & Behaviour

Decision-making is often strongly influenced by social factors, and research in the nascent field of neuroeconomics (which crosses the disciplines of psychology, marketing, economics and neuroscience) is helping to explain why. ‘In-group conformity’ is mediated by signals in the brain associated with emotion and reward and can be stimulated by the so-called ‘love hormone’, oxytocin. Neurobiological insights like these raise important questions for strategy design — in both the private and public sectors. 

Idea #184
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Exercises in Tábor, 1924, photographed by Šechtl and Voseček (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Co-operative Behaviour: Neuroscience Insights

Idea posted: July 2013
  • CSR & Governance
  • Finance
  • Leadership & Change
  • Learning & Behaviour

Co-operation is essential for the functioning of human societies — and several current public policy initiatives, including health and lifestyle and environmental campaigns, depend upon it. Many attempts to persuade people to co-operate and collaborate, however, fail — or succeed for only a limited time. Understanding the neural mechanisms for co-operation can help in developing more effective ways of promoting collective behaviour and in designing policies to achieve societal aims.

Idea #185
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ENRON - Arthur Andersen witnesses testify at the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, Committee on Energy and Commerce House of Representatives (107th Congress) hearing on January 24, 2002 (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

How to Recognize Managements With Something to Hide

Idea posted: July 2013
  • CSR & Governance
  • Finance
  • Operations

Is there a pattern to be found in the actions of managers trying to cover up their firm’s wrongdoings? According to this Idea, yes there is: they all tend to engage in the same sort of behaviours, such as exercising stock options more frequently, rarely changing the firm’s auditors, and more. An understanding and awareness of these behaviours can assist shareholders, regulators and other stakeholders notice failures and wrongdoings early and help address problems before disaster hits.

Idea #178
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Belshazzar's Feast, Rembrandt van Rijn, c.1635-1638, National Gallery, London

CFOs Reborn as Agents of Organizational Change

Idea posted: June 2013
  • Strategy
  • CSR & Governance
  • Finance
  • Leadership & Change

After the financial crisis of 2009–10 and the subsequent global recession, CFOs have suddenly found themselves thrust under the spotlight like never before. They are no longer being seen merely as ‘chief number crunchers’ or even as senior accountants; organizations now want more out of their CFOs, and expect them to act as agents of ‘organizational change’. In this idea, some guidance is offered on how to effectively undertake such change management.

Idea #161
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CSR Tree

What Is the Real Value in CSR?

Idea posted: June 2013
  • CSR & Governance
  • Finance

Proponents of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) insist that companies will “do well by doing good.” Researchers from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, however, argue that the truth is more complicated. Their research confirms a positive association between current CSR expenditures and the future financial performance of the company. However, it is the signal that CSR spending sends to the market that explains this positive correlation — not the return on investment in CSR.

Idea #158
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The ladies' egg & spoon race, Picklescott Village Fete & Sports Day 1963 (Source: Picklescott.org.uk)

Motivation by Last Place Aversion

Idea posted: June 2013
  • Finance
  • Leadership & Change
  • Learning & Behaviour

Nobody wants to fail, and being in last place is the worst of failures. New research reveals, however, that the aversion to last place is a powerful driving factor in many decisions, which might offer unexpected opportunities for business.

Idea #155
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Twitter- 1000 Words / Shutterstock.com

How Twitter Levels the Information Dissemination Playing Field

Idea posted: May 2013
  • Strategy
  • Finance
  • Innovation & Entrepreneurship
  • Marketing

All businesses want to increase their visibility, but for small businesses this is even more of a concern. Could Twitter be the key to getting your firm noticed by investors? According to new research, small businesses that use Twitter to communicate with investors may experience an increase in the demand at market value of their stocks, helping to level the playing field between them and larger firms.

Idea #140
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BW of man with telephone

How Time of Day Impacts on Business Conversations

Idea posted: May 2013
  • Finance
  • Leadership & Change
  • Learning & Behaviour
  • Operations

When delivering bad news in a meeting or by phone, the time of day can make a difference in how the news is received. By studying quarterly corporate earnings calls to analysts, researchers showed that the tone of the conversations was more negative in the afternoon than in the morning. In addition, the market had a tendency to overreact to bad news when delivered in the morning. 

Idea #141
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Concept of euro money or cash flow, either positive or negative.

Community Banks Offer a Better Business Logic

Idea posted: April 2013
  • Strategy
  • Finance
  • Leadership & Change
  • Learning & Behaviour
Institutions: IESE Business School

What can large institutions learn from smaller enterprises such as community banks? According to this Idea, reconnecting with communities in vital and lasting ways is an essential lesson — offering a logic that is the opposite to the ‘financial’ logic that has driven many organizations into difficulties. By reviewing the logic that drives your firm, damaging consequences in the future could be avoided. 

Idea #126
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Australian Recruitment Poster, World War 2 (Source: Wikimedia)

Leveraging Cyclical Unemployment for a Stronger Workforce

Idea posted: April 2013
  • CSR & Governance
  • Finance
  • Learning & Behaviour

What can we learn from an analysis of the compositional changes in the pool of unemployed over the years? This Idea demonstrates that during recessions, the pool of unemployed shifts disproportionately towards workers with high wages. Unfortunately for the companies letting them go, these are usually also the most productive employees too, but for savvy HR executives that are able to hire them, it could mean great additions to their organization’s workforce.

Idea #094
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Alistair Sim as Scrooge, A Christmas Carol, 1951, United Artists

Don't Let CFOs and Accountants Slow Innovation

Idea posted: April 2013
  • Finance
  • Innovation & Entrepreneurship
  • Leadership & Change
Institutions: INSEAD

What can you do when penny pinchers get in the way of your disruptive ideas – ideas that may bring the critical changes your company needs? Firms with a greater degree of accounting conservatism are less innovative because of an obligatory accounting practice of immediately provisioning for future losses. How can you get the breathing space necessary away from the demands of shareholders and the market to innovate and bring about change?

Idea #117
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The Addams Family. TV series on ABC from 1964-1966, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment (Source: Wikimedia)

The Ties That Bind: How Family Businesses Create Value

Idea posted: March 2013
  • Finance
  • Innovation & Entrepreneurship
  • Operations

Family businesses contribute a significant proportion of GDP to economies worldwide, yet they are not always seen as attractive propositions to investors.

On the one hand, family-controlled businesses are admired and respected for ‘weathering the economic storms’, for adhering to their core values, and for taking a long-term approach. On the other hand, the very thing that knits them together, the family shareholders, can have different priorities to other shareholders, creating a conflict of interest which can be an obstacle to value creation.

How can these companies

Idea #109
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The Conjurer, Hieronymus Bosch, c.1475, Musée Municipal, St. Germain-en-Laye (Source: Wikimedia)

Custom-made: Customer Funding for Business Growth

Idea posted: March 2013
  • Strategy
  • Finance
  • Innovation & Entrepreneurship
Institutions: London Business School

Venture capital (VC) is the default route to gaining funding for a growing business. But there are other ways to unlock money, indeed, some of the largest and most successful companies never raise any venture capital. Change your approach to growth by focusing on your customers, not investors, as your means to the end.

Idea #110
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