Saturday, December 11, 2010

Wikileaks and Anonymous: Rise of Non-Organizations

By Dr. Suhaib Riaz.

The havoc created by Wikileaks and Anonymous has forced the political world, and more recently the business world, to sit up and take notice of a new phenomenon: The non-organization organization. Consider Wikileaks in terms of our traditional understanding of strategy and organizations: It identified a space where the traditional media giants were not competing - providing a mechanism for anonymous sources to deliver sensitive material, and then to allow a link back to those materials through their own or other established media stories for audiences to check for themselves. Technologically, nothing too outstanding by today's standards. But strategically, quite a new space, some would even call it a type of "blue ocean" space - an uncontested market space - that was waiting to be exploited. There is even a well-chalked out vision and mission, often reiterated by the founder, Julian Assange, as "scientific journalism". Clearly, exploring a new media space such as this was bound to rub against some pretty sensitive political terrain.

What is interesting though, and has caught many by surprise, is the connection between this strategy and the organizational form of Wikileaks. While in some ways, it can be considered an organization, in other ways, it is a non-organization. The non-organization element is built deep into its structure, which allows it to get material from sources that no one knows about. To avoid denial of service, it has taken the form of a non-national organization (as opposed to a 'transnational' or 'multinational') i.e. no one could really say which nations it belongs in and operates from. As far as we know, there seems to be no clear organization structure - there is one visible founder - and the rest is murky.

The other non-organization in the news is even more murky: Anonymous. It prides itself on having no structure, no leaders, no clear membership, no locations and so on, and is simply described as an "internet gathering". Yet, it is clearly well organized enough to be able to launch denial of service cyber attacks on big businesses such as Mastercard, Visa and Paypal (thought these have largely been symbolic so far). There does seem to be some vision, mission and strategy, as the Financial Times reports:
"As an “internet gathering”, they are simply whoever decides to sign up to their cause on any given day – and they follow the lead of whoever comes up with the latest online attack or prank. The main thing that unites “Anons” is the willingness to lash out collectively at organisations they see as threatening the free flow of information and ideas online. Attacks on WikiLeaks, the whistle-blowing site, have acted as a rallying cry and recruiting sergeant for “Operation Payback”, an offshoot within Anonymous."
Clearly, such non-organizations with unconventional strategies had to come under attack from established players. There seems to be a rough division building up here between the organized world of political and business elites and the non-organization and its supporters - though it is even more complex than that. The legal, ethical and social acceptance of these non-organizations has a long way to go. The rhetoric we see on both sides of the divide is essentially the contestation of the social legitimacy of these non-organizations, going on live right now, and likely to continue for a while. As expected, some have had moments of confusion amidst this contestation - witness Amazon's fiasco at selling an e-Book of Wikileak's cables in the UK, while it disallowed service to the group in the US.

We should expect more such confusion and contestation rhetoric in the near future. Love them or hate them, it does seem these non-organizations are here to stay, and the organized world will have to find ways to adapt to this reality.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Global Debt Crisis

By Dr. Suhaib Riaz.

Strategists currently have a watchful eye on the massive macroeconomic changes unfolding, including the European debt crises (Ireland, with Portugal, Spain and more to come), currency instability and other related problems. Strategic decisions will reflect the impact of these macroeconomic changes in many ways – witness Nissan’s recent decision to restructure its production and support functions to dollar-linked economies such as US and China to avoid currency volatility.

The Global Financial Crisis is quickly becoming referred to as the Global “Debt” Crisis, which is long overdue. I first wrote about the importance of scrutinizing debt practices underlying the crisis here and here (.pdf), presented it here, and recently again brought it up here (with co-authors).

Economist Hyman Minsky first proposed the detailed link between debt and economic cycles. Debt increases during boom periods up to a tipping point where returns from inflated assets can no longer service debt. While this view is now enjoying some revival, what is missing is a recognition of the role of social legitimizing mechanisms through which a debt-induced boom period comes about. The practice of debt has acquired a halo, or what institutional theorists call “social legitimacy”, through the aggregate (yet time-bound) success of business organizations, consumers, and indeed sovereign governments that rely on debt practices. Till the crisis hit us, there was an increasing perception that debt practices are sound in a fundamental and time-invariant manner. Debt was fixed in the public imagination as a taken-for-granted practice associated with economic success. However, this logic is flawed – or at best is only temporarily acceptable during boom periods. Sooner or later, debt comes calling in substantive terms.

Three historically unique developments, all connected with debt practices, require particular investigation due to their dominant role in the current crisis. Though often considered separately, their combined impact deserves more attention. The first is the lax financial regulation on a new and large set of leverage tools, such as derivatives. The second is the historically large concentration of power in a few players in the financial industry, many of which are key nodes in networks of debt. The final aspect is the increasingly global nature of the networks of debt. Recent news on how the US Federal Reserve bailed out European Banks, including Barclays and UBS, shows how these aspects tie-in across the globe. Put together, these three factors act toward increasing the scale but decreasing the frequency of debt-based crises, as larger contagions of business, consumer and government constituents across the globe are created to save smaller contagions (witness Europe's bailout plans for Greece and Ireland; the United States’ government bailout of banks and industry, etc.). These contagions are but grandiose efforts to cloud the substantive problems of debt through continuing to legitimize and thereby preserve existing debt practices. However, no matter how large the contagion, it cannot avoid substantive problems forever and only serves to increase the severity of a crisis when it actually unfolds. 

These substantive problems are what will likely lead to further government bankruptcies in Europe, and perhaps even to the abandonment of the Euro, in the worst-case scenario. Though this sounds far-fetched today, one thing we have learned during this crisis is "if anything can go wrong, it will" - the worst-case has often been the one that unfolded.

The legitimacy and ideological support provided to debt practices across a wide network of industry, regulators, governments, professionals, business schools, and more, deserves investigation in these times. However, in an environment marked by political handwringing and lack of political will, such deeper exploration of economic practices and questioning their socially constructed legitimacy is not easy. Yet, that alone makes it incumbent upon thought leaders to do so.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Management Research: Flukes or Replicable Trends?

A recent academic study is in the news for finding precognition effects – the influence of future events on our present responses. Such a study is certainly innovative and shows dramatically new results – yet is it believable? It is interesting to see that in a field such as psychology, the entire discussion on the study has immediately shifted to replication: are the statistical results a fluke or do they represent a trend? 

I wonder why a similar conversation in the management world is so rare. The experience of many researchers suggests (and statisticians accept) that it is common knowledge that statistical relationships reported in journals can change based on even one change in a control variable. This should mean that for research in the quantitative tradition claiming some sort of generalizability, replication of statistical results is necessary before any judgments can be made. Yet, the top journals reject replication outright. How sensible is this for developing knowledge in a field? A few have raised such questions (amongst those I have seen: Don Hambrick in his later articles and conference talks). Yet, the institutionalized system conveniently ignores this obvious truth. One can't have any "evidence based management" without giving topmost priority to replications.

It is in part due to this, that the vast "top journal articles" in management, and particularly strategic management, without replication, are sitting up there without any clarity on whether these are one-off fluke results or replicable trends. Knowing whether they are either of these would help and add to knowledge. Flukes are useful. As are trends. But there is little use for results when this distinction about them is unclear.

Some would counter that meta-analyses do this job. Though helpful, these are not the same thing. Problems with these are well known due to the fact that after all, the original studies that are meta-analyzed were not meant to be meta-analyzed and were not intended as replications. You can't suddenly solve the problem of lack of replication using a large number of studies that were fundamentally not meant to be replications anyway.

It is futile to talk of improving or writing more in “management implication” sections (implying use for Practice), when the basic nature of the research is unclear on the above counts. Glossing over the problem by writing more in implication sections will do little to convince practicing managers.

What are the approaches in other fields? Certainly not all methodological approaches from other fields make sense in our field, but at least the basic idea of replication - in whatever form is appropriate for a field - seems to be a necessity for quantitative tradition research to progress in terms of actual impact.

In a different field (say biomedical engineering), imagine developing a polymer and reporting one test of its characteristics in one top journal article. Imagine now that all those scientists who try to replicate this in various contexts and counter or support the earlier results are not published, simply because they are: replications. Is there anyone out there who will have any faith in the characteristics of this polymer, let alone set up a firm to manufacture it. Yet, that is what we expect management practice to do. And when many of them seek out the "witch doctors" of management who promise wild results without enough evidence, we shake our heads at their credulity. Yet, our own research approaches do little to offer an alternative. With all our rigor and obsession with "top journals", we offer little else than what the "witch doctors" offer.

In writing a case on the innovative biotechnology industry, known for rigorous clinical trials, I was forced to do some lateral thinking. Why shouldn't management research be treated in the same way as a drug/medical innovation, and go through similar (perhaps voluntary but documented) "clinical" trials? Management ideas work on a larger plane, and wrong ideas could cause much damage in socio-economic terms.

Imagine asking these four basic questions of any management innovation that you read about in the journals or elsewhere, which aspires to have an impact on management practice. These are based on the stages of clinical trials in the drug industry:

# Is the innovation safe? (what are potential “side-effects” – what could this management innovation impact negatively in the organization)

# Does it work at all? (can it show any effectiveness in practice)

# Does it work better than standard treatment? (should we really throw out old practices or are they sufficient)

# Is the treatment safe over time? (will it cause longer-term harm – think about issues such as sustainability, environment, society, etc.)

None of these are given even token attention in the propagation of management ideas. Shouldn't there be such standards and clinical trials for management innovations?

Monday, November 8, 2010

Revisiting Basics: Cost Leadership

By Dr. Glenn Rowe

You have a great idea! It is a process innovation that could dramatically reduce the cost of a desired product/service on a per unit basis. But, you find there will probably be a price war when you enter the market. What strategy should you pursue?

You decide to pursue cost leadership because you can do it less expensively than your competitors. You have some differentiation but your focus will be on keeping the per-unit cost below that of your competitors. That low cost will allow you to be competitive on price.

There are several sources of cost leadership. Some are scale related such as volume per specialized machine or plant and equipment. It could be technological hardware such as robotics or policy choices as to what you will produce and sell. All of these are easy for competitors to overcome. A second group of sources of cost leadership may be learning curve economies – these are harder, but still possible, to imitate. A third group consists of access to low cost production factors such as labour, capital, land, and/or raw material while the fourth group consists of management processes, relationships between managers and employees, and/or culture. These last two groups are hardest for competitors to imitate.

How do you assess if you have the resources to support cost leadership?

To assess this you should conduct a thorough analysis of your firm’s value chain. Here are five key questions to start.

1) Can you efficiently control and inventory raw materials?

2) Do you have the operational elements to reduce production costs and to increase the efficiency of layout and work-flow design required to add value to the raw materials going into your product/service.

3) Will your outbound logistics ensure timely/efficient delivery of your service/product?

4) Do you have marketing and sales consistent with cost leadership?

5) Is your customer service appropriate for cost leadership and is it cost effective?

All of these areas need to be supported by an effective procurement system, a supportive HRM system, efficient and appropriate technology and a senior management team that can effectively integrate all activities across the value chain and effectively manage your firm’s cash flow.

The next step is examining the structure, control systems and reward systems needed to support cost leadership. Structurally, consider setting up a reporting structure with only a few layers, create simple reporting relationships, have a small headquarters staff and focus on a narrow range of business functions outsourcing other functions as efficiently as possible. Your control systems should include a cost leadership philosophy, tight cost controls, quantitative cost controls, and close supervision of the costs of labour, raw material, inventory, etc. Compensation needs to be structured to reward for cost reduction and there need to be incentives for all employees to be involved in cost reduction. Compensation may be the hardest thing to do when pursuing cost leadership. As with a differentiation strategy your leadership and preferences should always be top of mind.

For you, is it being a strategic leader, a managerial leader or a visionary leader that will support cost leadership? Ask yourself what type of culture you want to develop. A company like Westjet has created a culture focused on participation and pitching in that supports their cost leadership strategy. Are you the leader to do this? Another key question is: what are the preferences of your stakeholders and investors? How do you best sell your cost leadership strategy to them?

Answering these questions will ensure the effective pursuit of a cost leadership strategy.
*Dr. Glenn Rowe is the Director of the Executive MBA Program at the Richard Ivey School of Business, Canada. He is an Associate Professor of Strategic Management and holds the Paul MacPherson Chair in Strategic Leadership.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Mandelbrot’s Legacy: Strategy in Extremistan

By Dr. Suhaib Riaz.

Benoit Mandelbrot passed away at the age of 85 a few days ago (Oct 14, 2010). He epitomized the cross-disciplinary and relevance-focused scholar like few others. While Mandelbrot’s work has had applications across the sciences and social sciences, the implications of his ideas for the field of Strategic Management are rarely considered.

One exception is the work of his co-author and protégé, Nassem Nicholas Taleb, who gives due credit to Mandelbrot for shaping his own thinking. Taleb’s extension of Mandelbrot’s ideas has several implications for us. Central to these is the contention that the social science world is not Mediocristan, i.e. one that can be captured by Gaussian probability distribution, but rather Extremistan, where more Mandelbrotian ideas of fat-tails and fractals apply.

Taleb’s is perhaps the only recent work to take Mandelbrot’s ideas close to Strategy scholars, as close indeed as an article in a recent Harvard Business Review issue. To get a feel of the Extremistan we are talking about, where most of Strategy operates, look at Taleb’s examples in the HBR article, which are also reported in the “On Robustness and Fragility” section added to the new paperback edition of his book, The Black Swan. What exactly does Extremistan mean and what does it do:

“It causes winner-take-all effects that have severe consequences. Less than 0.25% of all the companies listed in the world represent around half the market capitalization, less than 0.2% of books account for approximately half their sales, less than 0.1% of drugs generate a little more than half the pharmaceutical industry’s sales – and less than 0.1% of risky events will cause at least half your losses.” 
Note the implications of this for (organizational) performance, which is core to the very definition of the Strategic Management field:
“Because of socioeconomic randomness, there’s no such thing as a “typical” failure or a “typical” success. There are typical heights and weights, but there’s no such thing as a typical victory or catastrophe.” 

This is something Strategy scholars should sit up and take notice of. The dominant methods in Strategy research are still based on the Gaussian assumptions relevant only to Mediocristan. The majority of strategy scholars rely on regressions, which originated in fields of study where all phenomena approximated (or were heavily assumed to follow) Gaussian distributions. Simply put, our tools are not up to the phenomena our field deals with.

I believe this means that Strategy has to be looked at afresh as a field, not confined to Mediocristan, but rather like several other social and economic phenomena, from Extremistan. The lack of recognition of these issues is not just a problem in the world of academia, but also in industry, where current practices and organizational structures typically don’t apply Extremistan ideas:
“Such disparagement of negative advice makes companies treat risk management as distinct from profit making and as an after thought. Instead, corporations should integrate risk-management activities into profit centers and treat them as profit generating activities, particularly if the companies are susceptible to Black Swan events.” 
Recent events related to the global financial crisis have given Mandelbrot’s ideas a new life, even as he himself passes away leaving us a rich legacy. His maverick nature, cross-disciplinary work, and focus on relevance also meant that his home base remained in practice and it was not till his last decade in life that he actually took on a full time professorial appointment!

This is perhaps an opportune time for fresh thinking on how his ideas might apply further to Strategic Management, both in academia and practice.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Revisiting Basics: Differentiation

By Dr. Glenn Rowe

You have a great idea! You’ve found a supportive supplier and you think there are customers who will buy your product/service. You’ve assessed there will be no substitutes for your product/service in the foreseeable future, that you can protect your product/service development and delivery systems and there will be no price wars in the next few years. So, what strategy should you pursue?

An appropriate strategy is differentiation – this means that you have a product/service that will be very different in many ways and you can charge a premium price that customers will pay. Supporting a differentiation strategy will increase expenses but that increase will be more than offset by your premium price.

There are many sources of differentiation and they are limited only by the creativity of those working with you. The first is product features which are easily copied. A second group consists of product mix, linkages with other firms, product customization, product complexity, and consumer marketing. These are less easily copied but can be copied over time. The third group, and hardest to imitate, are location, reputation, distribution channels, linkages among functions within your firm, timing of launch and service and support. Most of this last group involves relationships between people and takes time to develop.

The next question is: do you have the resources to support a differentiation strategy? Frankly, do you have the creative and innovative people to drive a strategy that develops a perception in the minds of customers that your product/service is more valuable? If your resources are mostly about “squeezing blood from a stone” you may have a mismatch between your resources and strategy.

A thorough analysis of your firm’s value chain can help assess this. You need to consider primary and secondary activities. The primary activities start with controlling and appropriately inventorying raw materials. Next, are the operational elements (e.g., effectiveness of production control systems to improve quality and reduce costs and efficiency of layout and work-flow design) required to add value to the raw materials going into the product/service. Then, effective outbound logistics are needed to ensure timely/effective delivery of your service/product. Further, you need effective marketing and sales to develop brand loyalty among targeted customers. Finally, you need to effectively service customers that will be more of a revenue benefit than a cost to you. All these activities need support from secondary activities such as an effective procurement system, a supportive Human Resource Management system, efficient and appropriate technology and a senior management team that can effectively integrate activities across the value chain.

The next step is to examine the structure, control systems and reward systems needed to support differentiation. Structurally, consider cross-functional linkages, a willingness to explore new structures to exploit new opportunities, and allowing isolated pockets of intense creative efforts. Controls should allow flexibility in controlling activities, tolerance for creative people and an ability to learn from innovative failures. Compensation needs to reward risk taking - not punish failure plus it needs to reward creative flair and allow subjective performance measurement.

leadership and preferences should always be top of mind. Are you a strategic, visionary or managerial leader? What type of culture do you want to develop? One that supports a differentiation strategy is assumed! Are you the leader to do this? Do you have what it takes to support creative people as well as account for the cash flow in and out of your firm? What are the preferences of your major stakeholders/investors? Are they supportive of the development of a differentiation strategy?

These are a few questions to get you going. In another instalment we will examine what it takes to pursue a cost leadership strategy.

*Dr. Glenn Rowe is the Director of the Executive MBA Program at the Richard Ivey School of Business, Canada. He is an Associate Professor of Strategic Management and holds the Paul MacPherson Chair in Strategic Leadership.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Imaginative Strategist

By Dr. Suhaib Riaz.

Here’s something you won’t find in the typical strategy textbook: Strategy is all about human imagination and creativity. Strategy is about being human. 

I have been pondering over the these aspects for a while, and now comes a paper taking another look at the dominant strategy theory out there, the resource-based view (RBV) [Kraaijenbrink, Spender & Groen: Journal of Management, 2010]:

"The key differences here from the current RBV are that in environments that are not highly predictable and mature, the primary locus of value creation may lie within the firm, within the imaginative and creative capabilities of the people involved in it, rather than in the market and the prices of the resources they obtain (Denrell, Fang, & Winter, 2003; Romer, 1990). By “the people involved” we imply both the employees and those many not conventionally considered to be members of the firm, such as “lead users” (von Hippel, 1986) and those who materially shape its infrastructure, such as government regulators. Hence, although we agree with Penrose (1959/1995), N. J. Foss et al. (2008), Kor and Mahoney (2004), and Mahoney (1995) that the entrepreneurial or managerial team plays a pivotal role in recognizing and creating value, our conception of the people involved is even more inclusive. Locating the source of value creation within the imagination of those networked provides room for radical, disruptive innovation and a dynamic view of value..."

There are of course shades of C.K. Prahalad's "co-creation of value" ideas in here. Which takes us forward on why this should mean studying Practice as a starting point for strategy research is key: 
"The role of the entrepreneurs cannot be limited to imagining value that others do not see. Rather, it must embrace bringing the resources together in such a way that the value they imagine is delivered. This imagining of value and the bringing together of resources can be considered a process of mutual interaction in which resources partially shape people’s mental models, and these enable them to find value in the resources (N. J. Foss et al., 2008; Mahoney, 1995). Thus, value must be discovered and created through practice that is anticipated and reflected on imaginatively and subjectively."

Some of their main suggestions, that I found interesting, are outlined in brief as follows: 
  • Bring human imagination into the center of the RBV: (a) Investigate the value assessment processes by which new ways to create and capture novel value are conceived. (b) Study whether and how human ideas ignite revolutionary modes of value creation.
  • Study the social influence mechanisms through which entrepreneurs create value by convincing others of the value of their products. 
  • Focus theorizing about “value” in the RBV on the socially recognized rights of action associated with resources rather than on some abstract objective value of the resources themselves. 
  • Develop a resource-based explanation of SCA (Sustained Competitive Advantage) that focuses on the differences in people’s capacities to identify or imagine and judge the potential risks and benefits associated with the ownership of resources.

Oh, wait. There’s a role for the wider institutional environment as well, which has so often been ignored in resource-based theorizing:

"The idiosyncratic nature of resource value is further shaped by the specific institutional context of a particular firm. The value of resources in the RBV may therefore also be better understood as it incorporates insights from legal, institutional, and property rights theorizing."

Perhaps the main thought one can have on the above points is: what took us so long to figure this out, much of which is fairly intuitively obvious to anyone in the practice of strategy.

There is no equilibrium in the neoclassical economics sense – non-equilibrium is the nature of the world we live in. Instead of trying to fight the reality with unrealistic assumptions, should we not accept it and develop theory and methods to study it and tell it as it is?

In sum, the resource-based view (and its extensions into capabilities etc.), which has been the dominant strategy theory for a while, necessarily needs to reconnect with industry practice to shape its future development. Such engagement will hopefully bring back people, with their creativity, imagination and subjectivity, centrestage in strategy – many in industry practice know about this intuitively and remain puzzled by the lack of such concepts in academic work in the field. I’ve been collecting my own thoughts on this topic for long – but this paper said most of it well.

Perhaps it is apt to end by mentioning that BusinessWeek, in a tribute to C.K. Prahalad, noted“Among Prahalad’s last works was a column in the April Harvard Business Review. It concluded with this thought: ‘Executives are constrained not by resources but by their imagination.’” 

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Increasing Cracks in the “US Product Safety” Egg: Why it is Difficult to Monitor Ourselves

By Dr. Hari Bapuji.

The latest recall of over 500 million eggs in the US tops a list of large recalls this year. A few other recalls that come to mind quickly are: McDonald’ recall of 12 million Shrek themed glasses, recall of 3 million bottles of Tylenol by Johnson and Johnson, Maytag’s recall of 1.7 million dishwashers, and numerous recalls of cars by Toyota, Ford and others. Besides these, there are a number of other smaller recalls in recent weeks. What is common to all these recalls is that these products cut across the spectrum of product safety and include food, drug, auto and consumer products. More importantly, these product were all made in the US. This obviously raises the question of why? It is difficult to tell without studying this issue in-depth, but let me hazard a few guesses.

As manufacturing of a number of products shifted out of the country, it is possible that companies on this side of the world (e.g. North America) are losing significant types of expertise related to product design, development and manufacturing. This might be resulting in more faulty products coming out of the companies.

Since 2007, a number of recalls involved products made in China. As a result, the attention of all stakeholders (industry, government, regulators, consumers, and media) was focused on “import product safety.” While this was no doubt required given the rise in imports to the US, a predominant focus on what is happening in China might have given rise to some kind of complacency in the US. It was probably felt that problems will not arise (at least not to the same degree as those made in China or elsewhere) with products made in the US. When we expect problems, we are more careful. But, if we do not expect problems, we are less careful and slippages might occur.

Maytag's recalls don’t surprise me anymore but are a case in point. When a defect involved external suppliers, Maytag was quicker to issue a recall (likely because they had more systems to monitor external suppliers). But, when products were made by Maytag itself, the recalls came slow and after a number of incidents and injuries occured. We all know that companies need to set up systems to monitor their contractors' opportunistic behaviour. But, it is equally important to set up internal control systems.

If there are no control and inspection systems, we get to see the kind of violations reported in some of the recent recalls. The violations in the egg farms were far too many and were termed as stomach churning. Johnson and Johnson was once known as the gold standard for recall management because it managed its Tylenol recall well in the 80s. The recent violations in its factories were numerous. On top of it, Johnson and Johnson was accused of engaging a third-party to buy back its products from store shelves instead of announcing a recall. Early last year, Peanut Corporation of America shook the US and Canada with its vast recalls. Several violations were found in their factories too.

If the above logic is true (one hopes that it is not and that these recalls are only isolated cases), then recalls of products made in the US will only rise in the coming months and years. To stop that, it is important that all stakeholders of product safety look as much within the US as they do outside. Also, companies need to look within their boundaries as much as they do outside.

In sum, it appears that we need a clean-up, both literally and figuratively.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Successful Entrepreneurs exercise Strategic Leadership

Entrepreneurs and employees make decisions every day as they interact with their firm’s stakeholders, customers, suppliers, the communities in which they operate, and each other. When these decisions are in accordance with the strategic direction of the organization, the company will thrive. The key is strategic leadership so this takes place consistently and automatically.

Strategic leadership means influencing your employees to voluntarily make decisions on a day-to-day basis that enhance the long-term viability of the organization while at the same time maintaining its short-term financial stability. Are the decisions that employees are making in accordance with the strategic direction of the organization? Will these decisions enhance the future of the organization and make sense in the short-term?

It makes sense that if you can count on employees to voluntarily make decisions that benefit the organization you won’t have to expend as much effort on monitoring and controlling your employees. Counting on your employees to do the right thing will also give you more time to examine what the organization needs to do, both in the short and long-term.

But how best to ensure that you can count on your employees to make those decisions? Communication is one key way. When employees understand and embrace the strategic direction of the company they will more likely make appropriate decisions. Conversely, if employees do not know the strategic direction of the organization they may inadvertently make decisions that damage it.

Influencing subordinates to voluntarily make decisions that enhance the organization is the most important part of strategic leadership. Noel Tichy professor of organizational behavior and human resource management at the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan says 

When you can’t control, dictate or monitor, the only thing you can do is trust. And that means leaders have to be sure that the people they are trusting have values that are going to elicit the decisions and actions they want.

If you clearly delineate the values of your organization, people will be more inclined to live up to those values. This means that your employees will voluntarily make decisions and take actions on a day-to-day basis that will eventually determine the strategy your organization is pursuing. Entrepreneurs who are strategic leaders understand and use this to ensure the current and future viability of their organizations.
Two additional views on Strategic Leadership are as follows: 

“There are three categories of people – the person who goes into the office, puts his feet up on his desk, and dreams for 12 hours; the person who arrives at 5 am  and works for 16 hours, never once stopping to dream; and the person who puts his feet up, dreams for one hour, then does something about those dreams.”
—Steven J. Ross, Former Chairman and co-CEO of Time-Warner

“Without effective strategic leadership, the probability that a firm can achieve superior or even satisfactory performance when confronting the challenges of the global economy will be greatly reduced.”
—R. Duane Ireland and Michael A. Hitt, authors of Strategic Management: Concepts & Cases Competitiveness and Globalization

*Dr. Glenn Rowe is the Director of the Executive MBA Program at the Richard Ivey School of Business, Canada. He is an Associate Professor of Strategic Management and holds the Paul MacPherson Chair in Strategic Leadership.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Why I "Dared to Care" about Philosophy and Research Methods at the Academy of Management, Montreal

By Dr. Suhaib Riaz.

My reflections during the largest annual conference of management scholars, held recently in Montreal, were focused on two words and their relationship to each other: philosophy and methods. Though very few others seemed to "dare to care" about it, I believe these words might well hold the key to why most mainstream management research has lost relevance in the real world. 

Philosophical assumptions behind our methods do not get as much coverage as they should. At a workshop on the "philosophical foundations of organizational research" that was ably chaired juggled by Raza Mir (given the eclectic nature of the talks), Teppo Felin remarked that mainstream journal reviewers in our field typically push authors to move any philosophical issues to “footnotes” (hence the title of his talk: What is Reality? Footnotes...). This problem has deep ramifications for what we study and how we study it. 

One aspect of this problem involves our notions of probability distributions underlying social phenomena. Pierpaolo Andriani, speaking at a workshop on "empirical exploration of complexity in human systems", shared how most of our statistics are based on Gaussian assumptions, while the real world is more Mandelbrotian / Fractal and closer to Paretian assumptions - a fact that Schumpeter was aware of. The talk was reminiscent of Nassim Nicholas Taleb's work, both in terms of its content and in how it was ignored by most mainstream researchers at the conference. 

This leads to broader questions of how statistical tools have been used by scholars in our fields. An investigation of such statistics using an ethnomethodology approach is much needed, and was the subject of a talk on Ethnostatistics by Robert Gephart. Gephart shared how his concern started years ago during his PhD years as a qualitative scholar attending quantitative methods courses. His exhortation was for us to encourage more critical studies of methodology practices and ultimately make statistics more meaningful. I left with a strong feeling that ethnostatistics has the potential to revolutionize our field by posing challenges to mainstream work, particularly if conduced with a focus on the loss of relevance in our work. 

In general, it is puzzling to see why, out of the 7000 or so academics gathered at the Academy of Management conference, more of us are not following the philosophy and methods of scholars that have led to impactful research. If we needed any confirmation on the link between methods and relevance, here is an extract from the recently published last interview of C. K. Prahalad on the importance of qualitative methods:

“Every one of my research projects started the same way: recognizing that the established theory did not explain a certain phenomenon. We had to stay constantly focused on weak signals. Each weak signal was a contradictory phenomenon that was not happening across the board. You could very easily say, “Dismiss it, this is an outlier, so we don’t have to worry about it.” But the outliers and weak signals were the places to find a different way to think about the problem.

If you look historically at the strategy literature…the most powerful ideas did not come out of multiple examples. They came out of single-industry studies and single case studies. Big impactful ideas are conceptual breakthroughs, not descriptions of common patterns. You can’t define the “next practice” with lots of examples. Because, by definition, it is not yet happening.”

A confirmation of this approach came from Yves Doz, Prahalad's long-time research collaborator at a session where he shared stories on how they conducted qualitative work: interviewing executives, avoiding simple explanations, and working through the qualitative data over extended discussion sessions. Not surprising that Doz often stayed over in CK’s basement, and they started breakfast by throwing out solutions from the previous night’s work. Little wonder that Mary Yoko Brannen introduced Doz as Prahalad's "brother"!

On another note, it was nice to get to thank Richard Scott for a paper that he encouraged two years ago at the same location, and also get some feedback thoughts on the appropriateness of a qualitative study underway on narratives during the current economic crisis. Scott and other participants provided some interesting insights during a session on how to interweave emotions and identity into institutional theory. For my work-in-progress on the global financial crisis, this also had interesting tie-ins with the amazing keynote address in the critical management studies division by Stephen Barley on the need to investigate how business organizations interact with and mold governments. But more on that another time...

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

On Regulatory Zeal

By Saleem Husain.

Regulatory Zeal, along with India’s economy, is the great growth story of our time. I am alternately reminded of two very different campaigns - the “Got Milk?” campaign, focused on the absence of an essential ingredient and The Crusades, aiming for zealous universal correctness.

Let me explain in the context of my current time in India after a long stint on Wall Street, NY. Regulatory bodies in India find any and every occasion to congratulate themselves in public and private. To me this is akin to transport authorities feeling happy about low accident rates - by outlawing motorcars! Because that is what the financial regulatory framework in India is - and where the West is headed.

As in the “Got Milk?” campaign, one should focus on the absence of flexibility in broker dealers in India and see where that leads. A simple example is the Total Return Swap (TRS). It is by far the cleanest way of renting balance sheets out - which is the bread and butter of Indian banks. It is basically an instrument where the client pays a spread over LIBOR and gets the return (gain or loss) of an asset (usually an index or a collection thereof). Simple? Yes. Easy to price or hedge? Absolutely! So, sir, can I trade it…? Are you out of your mind!! But you can have corporations window-dressing their earnings at quarter-end, conning simple investors who ultimately lose money. The situation is akin to using a motor car to cut butter and a butter knife to tune an engine.

My larger point is that regulators’ ruminating on possibilities - while ignoring the possibility that the person involved may have the intellect to make an informed decision - only leads to a society where horse carriages still ferry around people; with the incumbent problem of dung several stories high, as was prevalent in NY at the turn of the century.

A person in need to sell volatility will find a way to do it. Be it under the cover of “capital origination” or by altering the company’s holding structure to permit it to do so in a location that allows it. A case in point - most CDS (credit default swap) contracts on Indian names are traded in London. If I was to round the circle, these CDS contracts may be used to create synthetic bonds on corporate debt and these ‘bonds’ could provide a proxy secondary market of corporate bonds. Interesting, except that secondary trading on Indian corporate debt is thin and illiquid.

Where does that leave us? Clearly, all markets are not created equal. Any market is a function of trust - not just between the participants and their faith in the market’s fair play but also, conversely, of the market's trust in the maturity of the player. We will have to live with differences in market structures across national boundaries and societies. However, I believe a guiding principle for regulatory bodies across markets should be that: the strength of an entity is measured not by how ferocious an attack is by a "virus" – but rather by how resilient the response is.

Saleem Husain is Director, Citigroup, New York. He earlier worked with Booz Allen Hamilton and Ernst & Young, and holds an MBA from New York University (Stern). He is currently based in Mumbai, India, and travels across the globe carrying his Kindle loaded with an eclectic set of books.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

To Predict or Not to Predict?

By Dr. Israr Qureshi.

Should we stop predicting?...because of the fear that such attempts may not succeed.

Should we choose less uncertain (or to stretch it further, "certain") scenarios to predict what will happen in future? The fun (and utility) of predicting lies in the fact that the business environment is very uncertain.

Going back to the issue of prediction raised in an
earlier post at Strategy and You, let's take the example of the football (soccer) world cup. If we take a probability approach, then predicting each match would be quite difficult as there are infinitely different combinations of passing the ball towards the goal post - when we factor in the presence of so many players in the ground, and each player can take multiple attempts at the ball in each passing sequence.

If we take a capability approach, then also it is difficult to predict, as not all players are equally replaceable (substitutable). Moreover, they play in unique synergistically mutually reinforcing combinations. For example, Muller was made to sit-out in the crucial semi-final with Spain. Now, no one could predict, which player will be made unavailable (either due to injury, or red card (for the same match) or yellow card (for the next match)). Absence of Muller made Klose less effective and resulted in the loss of a crucial match for Germany.

However, does that mean we cannot and should not even try to predict... (and rely on coincidence of random picks, as shown by Paul the Octopus)... my answer is a big NO. Here is why...even though some of us may not have predicted precisely about the Winner, most of us would agree that weaker teams were out of the competition sooner than the stronger teams (e.g. exits in first round). Irrespective of Germany's loss in the semi-final, most of us would agree that they played well, so they have the capability, and they would perform well in coming years (though there will be some chance factors such as the yellow card to Muller). Spain has consistently preformed well past couple of years and they deserved the world cup victory and they will continue to do well in next couple of years.

Thus, what I am trying to point out is that we may not be good in predicting top winners (their exact relative positions) but we are good in predicting broad winners and pathetic losers based on analysis of their relative capabilities.

Does that mean we do not need refinement in our analytical tool-box? Sure, we do need to refine our analysis. We do need to take into account the context, such as disturbing effect of "vuvuzelas", cold weather in South Africa (during this time of the year), high elevation of some match locations, so on and so forth. At times we need to factor in some uncertainties, such as the yellow card to Muller and his subsequent unavailability in the next (crucial) match. However, these conditionalities should not desist us from our endeavor to use all our knowledge, analytics, and wisdom to see where are we heading and how best we should land there.

*Dr. Israr Qureshi is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Management and Marketing at Hong Kong Polytechnic University. His recent research has appeared in MIS Quarterly, European Journal of Information Systems and several other prominent outlets.

Friday, July 16, 2010

The “i” vs. the “Phone”: Why Apple Will Not Recall iPhone 4

By Dr. Hari Bapuji.

I am tempted to predict what will happen in the Apple news conference today, though as Nassim Nicholas Taleb (author of The Black Swan) says, it is indeed difficult to predict business phenomena.

First, Apple’s news conference at 1 pm ET will be covered widely by the media of all hues. Second, Apple will not “recall” its iPhone 4 but will offer some fix. In the same breath, let me also say that what Apple does today is going to reveal whether it will remain the company of the future or not.

It is clear now that Apple’s iPhone 4 has a problem of signal interference. In layperson terms, it does not work as a phone when it is held in a certain way. It has also been established by now that it is a design flaw, which is integral to the features of a product as opposed to a deviation from design specifications, which would have made it a manufacturing flaw. The solutions offered by others for this range from wearing gloves while using the phone to covering it with duct tape.

Apple’s reaction to the reports of this problem was far from generous – Steve Jobs asked consumers to “stop holding it that way”, while the company said the problem is perceived because the bars indicating signal strength are not accurately representing the actual signal strength. So, they offered a software fix. Obviously consumers were not convinced because they were not reporting fewer observed bars (a matter of perception), but lost reception (an actual problem faced). This strategy of dealing with consumers is what makes me wonder if Apple which overtook Microsoft only recently is on the way to losing it. The reason I think so is because of the kind of problem that occurred in iPhone 4 and the manner in which Apple is dealing with it.

When it was launched, iPhone 4 garnered record sales because it could do a number of cool things, including making it easier to take pictures of oneself. It wasn’t surprising at all that Apple would equip its newest gadget with fancy features because it prides itself on its design excellence. This is reflected in the facts that Apple is perhaps the only company which prints on its products “Designed in California; Made in China.” At some level, Apple seems to have taken design to be more about fancy features and looks. That is, they seem to have focused more on form than functionality. Or, simply put, Apple perhaps forgot that iPhone is first a phone and then all other things. Otherwise, it is unfathomable that a company would not conduct enough tests to make sure the primary function of its product is well in place.

That Apple perhaps gives more importance to form than function is also a reason why it was unable to accept the problem in the first place – the problem relates to iPhone’s metal antenna which distinguishes it from earlier versions (by looks) and is supposed to contribute to its looks. So, Apple could not have compromised on this feature by admitting a problem with it and thus making changes to it.

While the problem is one thing, the reaction of Apple is another even more important issue. It has not been open to admit the issue, let alone discuss it. This is very typical of Apple – secrecy is a necessary ingredient of their strategy. However, a surprise is good only when it is pleasant. Likewise, secrecy is fine only when everything goes well; but openness is needed when thing are not going well. This where Apple seems to be missing the point. If we were to go to our marketing fundamentals, Apple’s handling of its customers’ concerns would likely be called “product myopia” and our experience suggests that it does not work, at least forever.

No matter what Apple does, it is not going to be called a recall simply because the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) will not be involved in it. The CPSC gets involved only in cases where the flaws in a product pose danger to consumers, but not when the product doesn’t meet quality expectations. Therefore, Apple will not “recall” iPhone 4, but will offer some fix.

The nature of fix that Apple will likely announce is important because it will tell us whether Apple will respond to its consumers and make the “Phone” work better or if Steve Jobs would simply say that “it is a phone because I say so.” In other words, it will be interesting to see whether they will focus on the “i” or the “phone” in the iPhone. That focus will give us hints about whether Apple will maintain its leadership or not.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Of Black Swans and Octopuses: Brazil, Soccer and Why We Just Can’t Predict

By Dr. Suhaib Riaz.

I was in Rio de Janeiro for the Academy of International Business conference when Brazil played Chile in the soccer world cup and won 3-0. Everyone at Copacabana beach, where the FIFA Fan Fest Screen showed the game to over 10,000 people, had such confidence in the team that “goal” shouts erupted on each occasion before the actual goals happened. And yet Brazil is out. And so are other favorites, such as Argentina and Germany. Two teams that have never won the soccer world-cup before will battle in the final. Why can’t we predict outcomes from such a controlled environment, where the regulatory framework (rules) are well known, the resources and capabilities of teams are well known, and the only strategy dynamics are how to move a handful of players to push a ball into a goal post? And if we can’t predict even these simple outcomes, how about more complex real world business environments?

By sheer coincidence I’ve been reading and ruminating on Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s “The Black Swan” (the second edition is out with a new section on robustness and fragility). Taleb doesn’t mince words, calling it a ‘scandal of prediction’ in most disciplines, particularly in the social sciences: “We are suckers for those who help us navigate uncertainty, whether the fortune-teller or the “well-published” (dull) academics or civil servants using phony mathematics.”

Such suckers in fact, that our latest prediction-obsession (fueled by the media) is with an Octopus named Paul in Germany that seems to predict Germany’s soccer outcomes better than any human judgment. Octopus Paul apparently has picked 6 out of 6 correct outcomes for Germany in the world cup. Any explanations?

Could it be that it’s simply drawn to the red on the flags, which would easily account for 4 picks of German wins against non-red flags, and two picks of losses against flags with more red than the German flag? I have no idea at all if Octopuses can even see that much colour, but here’s what Taleb might say: the real comparison would be if we consider a large number of random octopuses and see how many of them get it right: perhaps one or two will, just due to randomness, and Paul happens to be that one: “The reference point argument is as follows: do not compute odds from the vantage point of the winning gambler, but from all those who started in the cohort.” He calls this “the problem of silent evidence”, and it is widespread in our disciplines as various forms of survival bias – we only look at the ones that got it right, or survived, not at the failures.

Taleb’s larger point is of course that “we just can’t predict”, particularly given the presence of outliers or Black Swans in all social science phenomena. Particularly vexing is his refusal to accept a clear demarcation between Risk and Uncertainty – to him, the idea that risk is the situation where we can calculate probabilities means nothing. He seems to suggest that in social sciences there are no real world situations where you can calculate probabilities – and thereby predict risks; there is just uncertainty.

Which brings me back to uncertainty in the business world. Can we predict how the Brazil economy will look in 10 years? Can we predict what the leading companies will look like? I doubt it. Even a short visit there reveals the complexity of predicting such phenomena. Brazil’s institutional framework is under transformation. There are innumerable socio-economic variables that could change (say, for example a different type of political leader; or a new generation from the Favelas that is now apparently sent to school 7am to 7pm to keep them away from the drug lords); firms and their capabilities that are typically embedded in such complex environments could see sudden changes; Brazilian firms’ interactions with firms from the rest of the world could thus change; in all, the role that Brazil and its companies would have in the global economy is largely unpredictable. Only with a lot of “ifs” and “buts” can we say something, and most likely we would have to later blame our wayward predictions on factors “exogenous” to our analysis that we obviously couldn’t have seen coming.

Taleb, or NNT as he refers to himself in the book, has many more gems, but more on that later – here’s just one on a favourite theme:
“Don’t ask the barber if you need a haircut- and don’t ask an academic if what he does is relevant.”

Incidentally, I was presenting a narrative on the debt crisis, mostly after the events of the financial crisis, as is the bane of social science academics. The paper drew a surprisingly positive response for what I thought was really a work in progress. Perhaps because even at this point in the 'post-crisis crisis', there were few works on even trying to explain the largely unpredictable events that happened.

The question for us is: What kinds of organizations and strategies can we conceive of, for a world where we just can’t predict? Any takers? Or should we get an Octopus as CEO?  

Monday, July 5, 2010

Energy and Bottom of the Pyramid in Canada: Book Club for Manitoba Hydro

Dr. Hari Bapuji

Recently, I facilitated a book club in which Manitoba Hydro executives discussed the book “Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid: Eradicating Poverty through Profits (FBoP).” This book, written by late CK Prahalad, makes a simple, but very powerful argument – this world is inhabited by over 4 billion people who earn less than $1,500 an year and strive for a better life. Collectively, their purchasing power is in trillions of dollars. So, companies can make profits by selling to them and by innovating new products/services in a process of co-creation with the poor. In doing so, companies not only can make profits, but also eradicate poverty.

Prima facie, the book FBoP is not relevant to a public sector organization operating in a developed world. But, the participants were very quick to realize that the ideas in the book can help transform organizations anywhere in the world. As one participant noted, although “the examples in the book are from the developing world, it is evident that energy is at the core of those examples. So, it is relevant to Manitoba Hydro.” In other words, if we think of the past and the present, FBoP is not appealing, but is highly useful if we think of the future that we can imagine and create.

The discussion was centered around five themes: (i) identifying new markets, (ii) protecting existing markets, (iii) increasing energy efficiency, (iv) creating new energy forms, and (v) improving organizational systems and processes. Each of these themes revealed several interesting insights.

I was very surprised to learn that there are communities in Northern Manitoba that are not connected through the grid and use diesel-generated power. The group on new markets shared ideas on how those markets can be served with alternative power sources because laying transmission lines is an expensive proposition. There was also a question on whether anyone living in this part of the world can be considered poor given that their income may be more than $1,500 an year. But, the group soon agreed that it was important to focus on the idea than go by strict definitions: “this is our bottom of the pyramid” said the group.

The discussion on protecting existing markets was very challenging given that Manitoba Hydro is in a monopoly situation. However, situations can change dramatically and drastically (contrast the current situation of MTS/Bell with that they faced a few years ago). Not surprisingly, the group talked about how their markets (particularly those outside of Canada) may be served by companies offering alternative and off-grid power.

The most interesting dilemma was raised by the group that discussed the issue of increasing energy efficiency. Prahalad argues that companies need to deliver products and services at a low-cost, yet at the highest quality (in doing so, he challenged the price-quality equation that we have grown accustomed to). But, Manitoba Hydro already sells power at the lowest rates. As a result, the users may not have any incentive to conserve energy. In other words, this group raised the possibility of an unintended consequence of low-price and high-quality: high consumption. So, companies need to find a way to make sure that consumption is reasonable. Otherwise, the products/services aimed at poor may make the planet unsustainable. Prahalad partially acknowledges this possibility and asks that the products/services aimed at the bottom of the pyramid be highly sustainable.

The group on creating new energy forms discussed about various alternative energies, such as wind, solar, battery, and bio. These energies could supplement the conventional energy sources, thus providing more and more cleaner energies.

To do more with less, organizations need to really rethink their systems and processes, argued the group that discussed organizational systems and processes. They raised some processes (even minor processes) that need not occur in an organization as frequently. Also, they argued that doing more with less would involve higher co-ordination and trust among the units. It was very evident from this discussion that companies in today’s era of global competition need to continuously re-design their systems and processes to eliminate waste and reduce inefficiency.

Overall, the discussion was very useful and generated many insights. I felt that if we had more time, the discussion could have further moved into areas like (i) markets outside of Manitoba, (ii) using non-profit partnerships to improve energy efficiency, and (iii) new products that could improve energy efficiency. That said, the purpose of discussion in a book club is not to go into particular areas or generate highly useful solutions, but to set off thinking in the directions that we do not normally think of. To that extent, it was an enriching experience for me.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Micro-foundations Conference at Helsinki

Dr. Hari Bapuji

During the last weekend (June 19-20), I took part in a small and unusual conference. The Micro-level Origins of Organizational Routines and Capabilities (MOORC) conference was held in Suomenlinna, a UNESCO World Heritage site. It was attended by a little over thirty participants, including keynote speakers. The unique nature of the conference was evident right from the place where we stayed in Helsinki to the fact that we all took a ferry to reach to Suomenlinna and return to Helsinki.

In all, a total of 10 papers were presented by speakers. What surprised me most was that nearly every paper presented was an empirical paper. The methods used ranged from case studies to surveys, through archival research, experiments, and simulations. I will not go into the details of these papers for two reasons: (i) I will not be able to do justice to that exercise given the format of this post, and more importantly, (ii) these papers are under review and I do not have permission to write about them. So, let me focus on the broad contours of the discussion at the conference and share my own thoughts.

For a few years now, Teppo Felin, Nicolai Foss and their colleagues have been arguing that management researchers need to study the micro-foundations of the phenomenon that they are interested in. Simply put, micro-foundations is about the elements of a phenomenon and the interaction between them that gives rise to the phenomenon. In other words, if someone is researching the effect of product innovation on organizational performance, the research should focus first on what is innovation, who innovates and how innovation occurs. Then, one needs to study how these different elements interact to give rise to superior performance. This might sound like how research should be done, but that is not how it has mostly been done. In general, researchers tend to examine the relationship between innovation and performance, without adequate consideration to how and why innovation occurs.

As I think back, the agenda of the conference was well-captured by the keynote speeches. Michael Cohen argued that the micro-origins of routines and capabilities lie in habits, that rely on memory and perception. In other words, the focus should be to understand what happens in the minds of individuals as they encounter and perceive things. Geoff Hodgson cautioned against an excessive focus on individuals and suggested that relations between individuals should also be given an equal consideration, if not more. Taking the level of analysis to the supra-individual level, Linda Argote suggested that research be directed at the transactive memory system that combines an individual’s specific knowledge with the meta knowledge of others in the organization. Doing empirical research on what happens in the mind or in the collectives of individuals is not an easy task and requires considerable effort, resources, and more importantly, creativity on the part of researchers to design new methods. Towards this direction, Maurizio Zollo shared the empirical challenges he faced in his research that spans neurological and cognitive factors as well as the social factors that affect action and performance. In short, the conference was about trying to understand what the micro-foundations of routines and capabilities are and how to empirically study them.

No matter which direction the research on micro-foundations might take, I believe that it will be a good thing because it will focus on how things evolve and effect organizations. For example, it is good to know that innovation leads to better performance, but it will be better to know how to create innovations and even better to know what type of innovations lead to better performance and why. Such inquiry will not only be exciting to the researchers, but will also be more useful to managers because the research can then really shed light not only on what to do, but how to do and why.

Here are a couple of photos from the conference: