No sooner had we returned to the US than we traveled to San Antonio for more IMD action – but this time closer to “home” turf! The Academy Of Management‘s annual meeting was being held there in several venues along the River Walk. The AOM is the preeminent academic organization for scholars in the fields of business and management. As such, many IMD professors, including IMD’s president, were in attendance – along with 10,000 other management profs! I had been asked to participate in the session of one of my former IMD professors and jumped at the chance.
Katie and I arrived Saturday and spent the afternoon strolling along the River Walk. Although my brother attended university in San Antonio and I visited quite often, we never really spent much time in this part of town. Katie and I were enchanted by the canopy of trees, the fun restaurants along the river, and – above all – the lower temperature down in the shade! What a fantastic environment they have created!
Sunday morning was my presentation in the San Antonio Convention Center. Our session, led by Maury Peiperl and Suzanne de Janasz, focused on social value creation. Specifically, is it possible for organizations to to embed it in their philosophies/cultures? Or will it always be bare-minimum-box-checking?
We began with research by IMD professor Francisco Szekely, who had been my leadership coach during my MBA year, on Corporate Social Responsibility efforts by large corporations. The conclusion was that generally these have been ineffectual and are not being approached correctly at all.
I then followed up with my case study of Smart Office Energy Solutions, which we have designed from the ground up to have social value creation inextricably embedded in its DNA. It would be absolutely impossible for us to achieve economic success without also doing some good – and the more of one we achieve, the more of the other we achieve. Furthermore we create that same alignment of economic and social value for our clients, suppliers, employees, and investors such that this “good capitalism” spreads virally. My conclusion therefore was quite optimistic: that capitalism can align with social good but we need business leaders to search out business models that feature that alignment.
Our final “practitioner” (as we non-academics are called) was Lynellyn Long, who concluded with a much less optimistic “reality check” based on her experience in human rights activism, working with non-profits, NGOs, and governments. Her conclusion was that yes, perhaps it can be done but that Smart Office Energy Solutions is by far the exception to the rule and that the current landscape for corporate social value creation is actually quite bleak.
Finally we launched a session-wide discussion about not only these topics but also, more pointed for the business school professor crowd: how can social value (or attempts to align it with economic value) be taught to future generations of business leaders? The discussion was quite lively as we had a packed venue and I was encouraged by how much interest there was in the topic. Regarding social value pedagogy, I get the feeling that it may be like entrepreneurship, for which the consensus is that it can’t be “taught” theoretically; instead it has to be developed experientially. That corresponds with my own experience; I certainly didn’t develop a passion for using business to “do good” in the classroom!
I was really honored to be included in this session and it felt good to dip a toe back into the pool of academia. Who knows, maybe some day in the future I will expand my academic pursuits – in the meantime, though, I’m focused on getting things done! In addition to the session, it was a good chance to catch up with other IMD professors, including the few minutes I spent psychoanalyzing Jack Wood over coffee – I thought I was turning the tables on him but he was probably actually just gaming me the entire time! And on top of it all, it was a lovely 30 hours or so in San Antonio with my beautiful bride – tough to beat that!