Ethics

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UBS Reports Writedowns of 18.5 Billion GBP

Is Your Company Addicted to Value Extraction?

Is your company focused on creating value — or on siphoning it off from others? Capturing value from other stakeholders by manipulating the competitive market process to the company’s advantage exposes a company to reputational or legal risks. It also can undermine corporate values. Value extraction is typically easier than developing a competitive advantage through ongoing value creation. Companies can get hooked on the practice, to the detriment of real value creation.

Photo by Bengt Wanselius

Combining Purpose With Profits

It’s an old idea: If you want to build a company that truly motivates its employees, it has to have a sense of purpose. A sense of purpose that transcends making money can motivate employees. But to sustain both a sense of purpose and a solid level of profitability over time, companies need to pay attention to several fundamental organizing principles, including the need for support systems that reinforce goals.

Image courtesy of Flickr user abplanalp_photography.
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When Should You Fire Customers?

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Many customers are simply not profitable. Letting them go is one option, but so is trying to train them out of expensive behavior. Options suggested by Jiwoong Shin and K. Sudhir, both of Yale School of Management, include reducing services to unprofitable customers and educating them to use less costly service channels. “We recognize the mix of concerns, both ethical and practical, that swirl around firing customers,” write Shin and Sudhir. “We advocate firing customers only as a last resort.”

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Why Making Money Is Not Enough

The authors, who include Ratan Tata, the former chairman of the Tata Group, argue that that “it is possible to build and lead companies that retain a deeper purpose.” Tata calls for companies to launch “corporate lifeboats” — such as new business experiments in next-generation clean technologies and serious business initiatives in the underserved space at the “base of the pyramid” — to transform their operations for sustainability.

Image courtesy of Flickr user H4NUM4N.

The Benefits of Combining Data With Empathy

Everyone has experienced the frustration of having to repeat voice commands multiple times before finally asking to speak to a service representative. Many large companies have become so focused on optimizing their business processes and systems that they have become all too willing to forget about cultivating emotional connections with customers. But in order to detect and respond to shifting customer needs, companies need to show more, not less, empathy with their customers.

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“Let Me Come Right Out and Say It: You Cheat”

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”As long as we cheat by only a little bit, we can benefit from cheating and still view ourselves as marvelous human beings,” writes behavioral economist Dan Ariely in his new book “The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty: How We Lie To Everyone — Especially Ourselves.”

Robert Eccles, professor of management practice at Harvard Business School

Get Ready: Mandated Integrated Reporting Is The Future of Corporate Reporting

Trying to create reporting standards that integrate environmental, social and governance performance along with financial information is “fraught with conflict” and an “almost political adjudication process,” says Harvard Business School’s Robert Eccles. That’s why he loves it.

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The High Cost of Political Influence

“Political influence may come at the cost of lower productivity,” explains Anders Olofsgård, a senior fellow at the Stockholm Institute of Transition Economics at the Stockholm School of Economics. “Politicians are expecting something in return from you. One way to pay back politicians is through jobs. So you may be locked into keeping higher employment than you otherwise might be.” Olofsgård and co-author Raj M. Desai, a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution, argue that bloated staffs are no bargain for any company.

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