Charles Green on CNBC and BusinessWeek.com This Week
It’s been an interesting week for trust.
First, Businessweek.com chose to print an article of mine titled Wall Street’s Run Amok: Harvard’s to Blame. In it, I argue that the usual explanations for business malfeasance–greed, poor regulation, badly designed incentives–miss a much more fundamental cause.
For several decades now, our business schools have been teaching competition rather than collaboration, and contracted-out processes rather than partnership-based relationships. With such beliefs at the heart of business, it’s not surprising that we find a dearth of things like trust, ethics, and generally getting along.
In fact, if you design a system based largely on self-aggrandizement (think sustainable competitive advantage, maximum shareholder value) as ends, it’s not just unsurprising–it’s downright predictable. There’s no such thing as ethics if there is only self-involvement.
These belief systems worked well in the 1980s. Today, in a world where six degrees of separation is a vast overstatement, we can no longer afford ideas that encourage competing with our suppliers, customers, employees and partners. We need a new belief system.
I’m not teeing off on Harvard Business School per se. It’s just that, well, it’s the Harvard of Business Schools. And it had more than its share of the designing of the competitive/contractual/process ideology. If it can be as successful at teaching the new beliefs as it was at the old, it will continue to fulfill the powerful and positive role it used to.
Watch Me on CNBC Today
The good folks at CNBC apparently read BusinessWeek.com. They were chatting about the article, and invited me in for today, Wednesday the 7th, on the Street Signs show (Erin and the boys). The plan is for a slot at about 2:20PM. Plans, of course, change, but plan to tune in. And, as they say on the Bravo Channel, watch what happens. [Later: here is the link to the video–have a look-see, it was fun!]
RainToday Article and Webinar
Also this week, RainToday publishes my article How Poor Cross Selling is Ruining Your Business in today’s issue. Another very practical example of how the ability to manage trust–in particular, your trustworthiness–is a key driver of effective performance.
Finally, I’m doing a webinar this week with the good folks at St. Meyer & Hubbard. You can sign up here, and though the session is aimed at building trust in retail and commercial banking, it’s got a lot to say about other industries as well.
Well done on CNBC!
I’m glad to hear they invited you back. It might take multiple visits for you to convince them *all* that "benefit to society", "altruism" and giving stuff away aren’t synonyms. 🙂
It’ll be interesting to observe if CNBC attempts to take action using any of your insights. Broadcasting/publishing certainly must be in the top 5 industries most in need of the kind of shift your message can inspire.
Computer Science is my field and Security (local, Homeland Security and National Security) has been my focus for a few years now. My model for "group success beyond collaboration" addresses how. Not surprisingly, my work is completely congruent with your message. Well done!
If you missed the CNBC clip (it’s about 4 minutes), click through to it here:
As a fellow business school grad, I say good work, and keep spreading the word.
And science is on your side, Charlie. I blogged yesterday about Frans De Waal’s important new book, The Age of Empathy. De Waal, a primatologists, shows that all of us primates start out as empathic, collaborative beings, and we learn to compete over time.
Thanks for reminding us to unlearn competition and rely on our collaborative instincts.
I recall years ago when immersed in the study of French literature reading an author (whose name escapes me) saying: competition began when the first human being put up a boundary around some piece of property and declared "It’s mine."
So fast forward. Metaphorically, when we ask that person to reduce his boundary by a cubit, or a centimeter, or a half acre, or even share and contribute a piece for the common good (notwithstanding those who need to argue we’re asking him/her to give up all their property to assuage their deeper fears, hate, rage or envy, i.e., their ego need to "survive"), that’s unhealthy, threatening socialism. And when they expand their boundaries to the exclusion of more and more others, that’s "healthy" free-market capitalism and competition. We’ll see, I guess.
To Jake’s point. Until "soul" is part of the conversation, not much will change. Until science and spirituality come together in the dialogue, not much will change. And science and spirituality have been at loggerheads for some time – ego-based behavior, of course.
For me, the problem with science is the same as the problem with "mind" – it’s ego/intellect driven. Without coming from the heart and soul, IMHO, no amount of "science" is going to persuade or convince others to "play well together." It’s going to get much more uncomfortable before it gets better, and it won’t matter then how much property one has or how expansive are one’s borders or how competitive one is.
However, that’s the evolutionary process on a grander scale, and in the larger meta-morphological scheme of things this is how it has to work – observing and watching the planet from 100 miles out and just witnessing it all unfold.
I taught undergraduate management at the University of California at Davis for 38 years until I retired this July 1. I have been railing against the lack of ethical behavior increasingly apparent at Harvard, pointing out that a school that purports to teach an ethics class while simultaneously accepting no responsibility for the external effects of their teaching is a national symbol of duplicity. Not that Harvard was alone, but it was the highest profile example as Warren Buffett has frequently pointed out.
At last, thanks to you, the emperor has no clothes.
I forwarded your article to about 100 of my former students and fellow professionals and they in turn have forwarded it to their classes, co-workers and friends. You have definitely hit a topic that was waiting to burst forth.
Thank you, thank you, thank you. There is light in the world!
I really enjoyed watching you go toe-to-toe with that reporter. You held your own and then some. I also enjoyed reading your article about the lost era of "Joe" and the HBS case method and the vision of a more benign capitalism that you obviously feel it represented.
Certainly, your own vision comes through loud and clear: business education should focuses on the production of actual goods and services with an emphasis on the importance of trustworthy and rewarding relationships in the commercial world.
You suggest that HBS has fallen away from that vision and that its subsequent emphasis on competition and winning at all costs somehow played a role in the
recent debacle on Wall Street and the financial industry.
Perhaps it did, though from my vantage point, I’m not sure which was the dog and which was the tail. Regardless of what individuals are taught in business schools, when the guy in the next cubicle at Lehman Brothers or Bear Stearns is making twice your bonus because he’s willing to market those mortgage backed securities more aggressively than you, I suspect that much of that education goes out the window.
That is not a new feature of capitalism but one that has been endemic to it from the beginning and responsible for countless disastrous bubbles going back to the Dutch tulip craze and undoubtedly beyond. The opportunity to make big money quickly will always be powerfully tempting and corrupting. For every business person with scrupples and a sense of ethics, there will always be many more waiting in line, ready to push him/her aside, if he/she gets weak in the knees and grows a conscience.
That is why we need regulation and watch dogs and why undoing Glass-Steagall had a predictably disastrous result. The notion that markets will magically solve all problems and correct all excesses is supported by neither logic nor history. If you leave a bunch of children in a room with plates of cookies and brownies and then tell them not to eat any until the party begins in two hours and then leave them unsupervised, some goodies are bound to disappear. It’s /human nature/ — a squishy concept to be sure but something I’ve come to believe in strongly over time.
That’s also why I no longer consider myself a socialist. Socialism assumes an unrealistic view of human nature as more altruistic and selfless than it is likely to be. But the more you level the playing field, the more individuals will vie for advantage and control. The meek may inherit the earth — but only after the bullies and
narcissists get through with exploiting it thoroughly to their own ends.
We need to get beyond our dualistic framework of capitalism and socialism as the two alternatives. Unfettered capitalism is unstable and destructive. Socialism has been tried and found wanting. We need a regulated capitalism with a government capable of resisting the pressures of corporate greed and influence that can provide for the general welfare and anticipate and address the challenges posed by changing technology, demographics, and climate.
Okay, I’ll get off my little soapbox. Thanks for stimulating my thinking Charlie!