Global business leaders show the way

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“MAP Insights” Column in BUSINESSWORLD - 21 October 2008
In Search of Innovative Solutions:
Global Business Leaders Show the Way
(Part Two)
by Niceto S. Poblador
[This is the second of a two-part series. The first referred to the proceedings of the recently-concluded
MAP International CEO Conference which was held in Makati on October 2 and3, 2007. The book, Strong
Vision, Bold Decisions: Responding to Emergent Global Challenges, is expected to come off the press very
soon.]
Responding to Global Challenges: Common Strands, Divergent Paths
In scanning through the entire collection of essays contained in this volume, one can’t help being amazed
at how thirteen different business executives from different industries, and with such varied experiences,
perspectives and philosophies, can arrive at common strategies in dealing with the entire range of issues facing
managers today.
Easily the most frequently mentioned response to the overwhelming challenges facing businesses today is
commitment to Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). This commitment takes many forms and reflects varying
degrees of sincerity in the expressed concern for the interests of workers, customers, and society as against the
financial interest of shareholders. Many regard CSR as involving “a delicate balancing act,” suggesting perhaps
that they perceive some kind of trade-off between the interests of stakeholders and the corporate bottom line. It is
therefore refreshing to note that some of the contributors treated CSR with surprising candor, admitting that they
are engaged in CSR with corporate interests in mind. In the words of Jose Camacho, serving the interest of society
“… is not just being socially responsible; it is also good business practice.”For example, he sees tremendous
opportunities for Credit Suisse and other major players in the financial services sector to generate new income
streams by launching special funds to invest in companies that promote socially acceptable and environment
friendly technologies, and by introducing innovative financial instruments to monetize carbon credits.
Christina Gold was forthright in admitting that Western Union endeavors to serve the interest of migrant
workers and to stimulate local economies through its numerous social projects “with a strategic eye on the
future,” where she sees opportunities to serve Western Union’s consumers and entrepreneurs by capitalizing on
the person-to-person knowledge gained from its remittance business.
At the beginning of his essay, well before he describes Shell’s wide-ranging and well-known initiatives in
the development of innovative energy technologies, Eli Santiago intones, “At the end of the day, we take
sustainable energy seriously because it is good business.”
It is truly gratifying to note from these presentations that the corporate world is slowly but surely stripping
the hackneyed concept of Corporate Social Responsibility of its cloak of hypocrisy and treating it not as just being
good for image building or simply as a means of doing good but, as Manny Pangilinan convincingly explains in
his foreword, because CSR is good strategy .
The success of many of the organizations described in these essays may be attributed to their deft
management of their value networks. For example, the spectacular achievement of Narayana Hrudyalay in making
low-cost medical services available to India’s countless poor is largely the result of its success in availing of the
required complementary resources through its extensive partnering arrangements with many other organizations,
both in the public and private sectors. In so doing, NH was able to achieve the needed scale and scope of
operations to meet its goals.
Both Lenovo and Integrated Microelectronics, Inc, create value and manage costs through their extensive
networks that bring together complementary resources located in various parts of the globe. In developing new
energy technologies, Shell works closely and actively collaborates with automobile manufacturers and industrial
energy consumers. Credit Suisse works in tandem with multi-lateral institutions, governments and other financial
services providers in searching for policy directions and institutional arrangements that are conducive to privatesector initiatives in addressing environmental and social issues.
In his essay, Fuji Xerox’s Toshio Arima describes an enabling technology that facilitates meaningful
interaction and productive joint endeavors in a networked environment.
These and the many other similar programs described in this volume all suggest that collaborative effort is
essential for meeting today’s global challenges. They are the embodiment of networking strategies in their most
meaningful sense, making information and ideas free to move in any direction, in the process crisscrossing
national and organizational boundaries and showing little regard for intellectual property rights or ownership.
Many of the essays in this volume describe organizational initiatives that are innovative variants of more
traditional approaches. For example, niche marketing strategies have long been with us, but Western Union’s
approach to service delivery truly sets it apart from the ordinary, not only in its scope and magnitude, but also in
its potential impact on the lives and livelihoods of the world’s teeming poor. Bangkok Bank’s decision to focus on
the financial needs of
consumers and SMEs, leaving large corporate customers to other players that are much bigger and more global in
the scope of their operations, has been a major factor for its continued dominance not only in Thailand but in the
entire region. IMI has a vision of making itself a major global player in the electronics business by capturing
unserved markets for outsourced services that are required by original equipment manufacturers and are still being
produced in-house.
Many companies adapted to shifting economic landscapes and changing market structures by transforming
themselves into more flexible and dynamic organizations, and by developing their human resource capital. In
meeting its competition head on, Nabi Saleh, Gloria Jeans’visionary founder, whipped up his work force to
develop passion in pursuing a common dream. For its part, Lenovo strove to develop a dynamic and productive
multi-cultural organization, partly by locating its major functions in various counties. Airline upstart AirAsia,
aware of the odds that its faced from its very first day of operation, relentlessly pursued a strategy of developing
its people to be highly capable “multi-taskers,” promoting job mobility, establishing meritocracy as the basis for
professional advancement within the organization, and creating a work environment characterized by informal
and easy going conviviality.
(The article reflects the personal opinion of the author and does not reflect the official stand of the Management
Association of the Philippines. The author is an active academic, a knowledge management consultant and the
Coordinator for the 7th MAP International CEO Conference. For information on the Conference, please visit
<mapceoconference.com>. Feedback at [email protected] For previous articles, please visit <map.org.ph>.)
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