Using symbolic objects can be a powerful way to motivate staff and communicate a message. What, for example, do a long piece of string, a hammer and a bell have in common? The answer is that they can be found in three of the world’s most successful companies and have had an impact on positive change of the corporate culture.
Category Archives: Publications
Fixing positive change: creating an efficient corporate culture with a piece of string, a hammer and a bell
“As with any organization wishing to internationalize its products or services, higher education institutions (HEIs) are faced with a multitude of cultural, financial and administrative challenges. Given that HEIs are quite labor-intensive, generally have low operating margins and find it relatively difficult to achieve economies of scale,
this problem is exacerbated. It often becomes difficult to justify the high cost of international travel to recruit only a few students from one country. The obvious solution is to market within a few countries that can send large numbers of students. However, this diminishes the variety of nationalities in the classroom and the overall learning experience for all those involved. Such lack of diversity has been a source of complaint from many professors faced with ‘international classes’ that contain only one or two nationalities.”
How business schools are influencing innovation
“In his book “What are universities for?” Stefan Collini (2012) claims that one of the prime objectives of higher education is to be a center for innovation and creative thinking. Despite this, many critics are quick highlight that some of the most famous entrepreneurs and innovators were dropouts from the university system. Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and Richard Branson are the frequently used examples. However, this gives an incomplete vision of the story. As this article will show, innovation is at the heart of the strategy of most business schools today and the work done can not only have a direct shor term impact on the business world, but also create a innovative mindset for young graduates which will stay with them throughout their career.”
“Mark Twain once proclaimed that ‘If you have nothing to say, then say nothing.” Two highly mediatised events over the past year should remind managers that such literary advice from the 19th Century is just as relevant in the 21st Century business world.”
“Abercrombie and Fitch: “No fat, ugly people”
The most well known case is the infamous Abercrombie and Fitch (A&F) “fat, ugly, people” debacle. Faced with criticism that the store did not have clothes for larger sized women (though it does for men), CEO Mike Jeffries came clean about the corporate strategy. He only wanted the “cool” and “beautiful” to be seen wearing their clothes and did not want his products on “fat, ugly people.” Full marks for blatant honesty perhaps but as a communication approach it was a disaster. The following day the stock price of A&F fell by 17%. Mr Jefferies also seemed to have forgotten exactly who were his major customers. Many of them were young people with a developed notion of social responsibility. They might want to look good and feel “cool” but they don’t want to be associated with such elitist opinions.”
“Sales plummeted over the next quarter at Abercrombie & Fitch dragging its share price from a high of $56 to just $31 (a level it has barely improved in the last 18 months.)”
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I recently published an article on the negative and positive side of bonus payments. This has been a big topic since the beginning of the financial crisis. Much of the discussion on this subject has been focused on the finance and banking industries. However, bonuses are also increasingly used within higher education. Indeed, Collini (2012) has even ironised that “vice-chancellors now keep as nervous an eye on league tables as do football managers.” Part of the reason for this is that many have their bonus payments linked the ranking of the university.
Here is a short extract from the article.
Key words: bonuses, executive compensation, higher education, Goodhart’s law, leadership, performance