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The new manager – possible approaches from the arts

FullSizeRender_RWhat is the importance of the manager in companies right now? Is the role of the manager the same as in the middle of 20Th century? So why is the prototype of the manager the same? Departing from “The Five Minds of a Manager” (2003) of Gosling and Mintzberg (the reflective mind-set; the analytical mind-set; the worldly mind-set; the collaborative mind-set and the action mind-set) we intend to construct an approach of where art dynamics can help shaping the new mind frame that managers need to act in the 21st century business context. Applying a workart (Barry and Meisiek: 2010) program can help enterprises, and the managing board, to shift from an Weberian (DiMaggio 2001) paradigm to the new economic model, focusing on the experience and promoting the creativity and innovation along the organization.

What does a workart program mean? It means a program that is a social, individual or community process that emerges from the friction between a set of previous knowledge and the acquisition of new knowledge through an art process, which, for its uniqueness and strangeness, has the ability to provoke conceptual breakthroughs, to form an art mind cognition, where managers can be as agile and creative as artists and as focused and practical as engineers.

How this can help managers to be more prepared to rule the 21st century company? After the mass production, the dot.coms and the web 3.0, we are in a world where selling products is not enough, it is needed to sell experiences, dreams and participation, the consumer has to feel the buying experience as a process where he is the centre and an active actor. This is what art has been doing since ever, bringing the experience close to the public and asking them to take part of the process, to let the passive attitude at the door.

Why are the five mind-sets important? Alongside the changes in the market, we had dramatic changes in the companies. The language of the arts has been taking over the business world, we never talked so much about labour agility, creativity, innovation, flexibility, symbolic capital and aesthetics design. These terms are spread in the organizations and impact every single person that interacts with the enterprises. The five mind-sets allow managers to take these changes into account, the complexity of the organization model, the consumer demands and the different markets specifications, and to act in a more proactive and informed way amplifying the success of the company to every stakeholder and allowing it to change and evolve.

A possible path is traced, not an easy or cloudless one, but an exciting and new one. At the same time, the developing of these intersections could have an impact in the ways business looks at arts and at the growth of the creative industries, with more resources being allocated to it while the benefits are more clear and spread around the other activities and, therefore, appropriated. More experiences are needed to see through the clouds and measure the real potential of this approach, since we are facing complex contexts and making bridges between fields that only recently have shown proximity and are willing to work together, but for uncertain times probably the best source of solution does not lie in typical management methods prescribed by consultants and applied by MBA graduates, but in the fields that enterprises emulate to conduct their organizations into a more dynamic and aesthetic way to operate.

Ricardo Moreira*.

*Ricardo Moreira is an economist, with an innovation masters (Porto University) and doing a business PhD (Barcelona University), specialization in organizations theory and human resources management, crossing arts and business that, for the last 10 years, have done management and consultant work for small to big cultural entities, private and public, and have designed and implemented a wide range of events and business creative programs. In the last 3 years he has co-ordinated 3 national studies for the Portuguese Government (Independent Arts and Cultural Heritage) and for the Portuguese contemporary dance network. Since 2007 he has been invited by the main Portuguese Universities to teach master classes on the subjects of arts management, cultural markets, intersections between arts and business, and creativity in the business context.

The entire article is in the process of journal publishing.

To know more about Ricardo Moreira, please click here. You can also contact him here.

Filed under: Analyses, Expériences, Gouvernances, Ingénieries, Ressources, , , , , ,

The success for global companies lies in the ability to take advantage of cultural diversity

The world has changed dramatically over the past 20 years due to globalisation, global de-regulation, new technologies and significant changes in the global political and economic environment.

Usually dramatic changes in the external environment lead to changes everywhere, but it doesn’t seem to have been the case with how we organise, motivate and reward people in global operating companies.

This article is about the challenges global operating companies are facing and what we must do in order to develop organisations and systems that match the current and future external environment. These are all thoughts that were developed over the past 10 years while working with companies around the world dealing with cultural diversity and fine-tuned during the preparation of my doctoral dissertation.

I have been working with cross-cultural management for many years and even before I started my own company, Gugin 10 years ago I knew that most of the challenges I was facing as manager in global operating companies in one way or the other was related to differences in cultures. Differences in cultures and the underlying personal value system often created so much operational friction that it sometimes became impossible to fulfil the goals and objectives.

Then one can ask. If differences in culture are such a huge obstacle for achieving success in global operating companies why don’t we put a lot of resources into finding a solution?

After having talked to a lot of clients and attendees on my courses about it I had to conclude that most people fall in one of two categories.

They either don’t believe in things that do not appear in a spreadsheet or they don’t have the internal organisational power in their company to change the focus to cross-cultural team effectiveness.

So before starting the project of writing a doctoral dissertation on the subject I was keen to find out whether or not the challenges of managing and leading global organisation were real or only existed in the heads of people working in the HR departments.

I therefore decided to conduct a survey among middle managers in global operating companies around the world. I decided to define a global company as a company who has its presence on at least 3 continents. I also decided only to ask middle managers because they feel the daily dilemma between the different cultures and the dilemma between the corporate culture and the various national and professional cultures.

From my 17900 contacts on LinkedIn I selected 6560 people who met the criteria. I also submitted the survey to the professional groups I administer on LinkedIn and Xing. Former colleagues and clients in IBM, CSC, Fortis, Microsoft, BNP, Novartis, Apple and Shell were very helpful in distributing the survey among their colleagues.

Consequently I don’t know exactly how many people have received an invitation to take the survey, but 1292 people have answered it, and I am going to dwell with a few of the results in this article.

I was interested in getting to know whether the cultural diversity was seen as an obstacle or an opportunity. The response surprised me a great deal. 93% of the respondents think it is essential or important that their company take advantage of the cultural diversity. This can of course be done in many different ways, but it is definitely a showdown with the old attitude that we have seen in “old” global operating companies that there is only one way to do things – usually the way dictated by the headquarter. Secondly I was interested in knowing how we should deal with the cultural dilemma with numerous national cultures on one side and one corporate culture on the other.

The results are shown in the chart below:

It is interesting to see how few middle managers opt for a strong dominant corporate culture. When I talk to senior executes it is my feeling that they to a much larger extend opt for a dominant corporate culture. I think there can be at least 2 reasons for that. The first one is that they think one culture gives them more power and control and the second is that they are never presented with the real issues of running a multicultural, global organisation. The middle managers on the contrary feel the dilemma between the corporate culture and the national- and profession-cultures every single day.

Sometimes I hear from senior executives that cultural issues are not important in their organisation. It is fortunately rare I hear it, but it tells me that there are still executives who haven’t realised the impact of the dramatic changes that have happened over the past 10 years. Some companies still believe that just because they are big and global, people will suppress all their other identities just to fit into a corporate culture.

It is as far from the truth as it can be. Globalisation doesn’t mean we all become alike and unified. It means that every one of us get more choices. 30 years ago you had to travel to Japan to get good Japanese food, to Chile to get good Chilean wine etc. Today we can get everything everywhere but it doesn’t mean that we all eat the same, just that we have more choices.

If companies manage to take advantage of the cultural diversity they can really achieve extraordinary results. But that is only possible if the manage to compete with local competitors, who are close to the local marketplace cultural wise and at the same time utilise economies of scale.

After having counselled hundreds of companies around the globe on this and researched it thoroughly when writing my doctoral dissertation I am convinced that global operating companies have to go through a paradigm shift both in terms of leadership and the way they organise themselves.

Global leadership requires a lot of cultural intelligence, which is the ability to see beyond your own norms and values and find the synergy in having people with different sets of norms and values working together towards a common goal. As an analogy I usually use the knife and the fork. They are two very distinct tools but with an intelligent facilitator they can work smoothly together with the common goal of getting the food from the plate into your mouth. If you believe that mono-cultural environments work best you would eat with a pair of chop-sticks. But that would limit the selection of food you could eat dramatically.

In my view it is no different with cultures.

When I do seminars and workshop I often sense scepticism in the beginning among the leaders and managers in the audience. It is only natural because no one us like to change. Change consultants like change management projects because they don’t have to change themselves. So the scepticism is healthy as long as it doesn’t turn into ignorance.

The scepticism usually turns into curiosity when I start develop the audience’s cultural intelligence, so that they understand how our basic assumptions in life are linked to our norms and values which again are linked to our behaviour and use of artifacts.

Here is an example. If you have a multicultural group of people working on a project, try to ask each of them what quality is. Then you will see that there are as many interpretations of the term quality as there are people.

I teach at several business schools and universities as well, usually with a culturally diverse group of students. I once had a group of students where half of them came from France and the other half from USA. I asked them to describe for me what a good, successful movie was.

For the majority of the Americans a good, successful movie was a movie that earned a lot of money while the majority of the French students found that a good movie was a movie that won a lot of prices at the film festivals.

So in order to take full advantage of the cultural diversity we should put the French and the Americans together to make a film that both could become a cash cow and win prices at all the important international film festivals.

This is of course a stereotyped example, but nevertheless quite illustrative when I want to stress my point on how companies have to rethink their operation in the future.

When it comes to organisation, nothing has really happened the last forty years.

In the beginning of the industrialisation around 1900 we organised people in hierarchies because it was the most suitable way to organise unskilled workers in factories. In the 70’ies we got the matrix organisation because it has become fashionable to have project-based organisations as a spin off of the IT revolution and the information age. And that’s it

We don’t have an organisational model that fits the new paradigm of the globalised world, where many different cultures work together, often remotely and where we outsource large parts of our operation. We furthermore have a huge demand for change readiness. The companies who first respond to changes in the environment win. Just look at how fast Apple iPhone took a fairly large market share of the mobile phone market because they saw a new demand before anyone else had a chance to move.

I have a suggestion for a new organisational model, but unfortunately I can’t reveal it here, because it will be published in a book in a few months time.

So we have to develop a different kind of leadership with a strong emphasis on cultural intelligence and we have to develop a new way of organising people so that we can take full advantage of the cultural diversity and respond more quickly to the changes in the external environment.

But how much can we actually gain by becoming good a taking advantage of the cultural diversity?

I researched that for my doctoral dissertation as well. The result from one of the questions are shown below:

Only 31% is in the lower 0 – 10%, meaning that nearly 70% of the respondents believe that their company’s profit could increase with more than 10% if they were motivated correctly. Nearly 30% feel that the profit could be improved with minimum 20% if they were motivated correctly.

Quite impressive isn’t it? But it still doesn’t tell us how well the companies are doing today. When we motivate and reward people it is most often done with financial incentives.

I dealt with that question specifically. 25% of the respondents didn’t feel motivated at all or just a little by the incentives their company was offering. Think about it – it means that 25% of the bonuses, salary increases; company cars etc. have absolutely no positive impact on the results that the company produce. Another 40% of the respondents only felt motivated to some extend by the incentives.

These are figures the CFO’s never see because they do not appear in the spreadsheets they usually see. But the numbers here tell the story about large corporations who have no clue about how to take full advantage of the new world.

In my coming book I will also propose a new paradigm concerning motivation and reward, that fully supports the increased individualism and multi-culturalism that is our reality today.

Depending on our culture we feel motivated by different things, so motivation- and reward systems are definitely key areas to adjust to local cultures if a company wants to motivate and reward its people in the best possible way at the lowest overall cost. De-motivation and motivation are closely linked. If we feel de-motivated by something it cannot be compensated with another motivation factor. If for instance we feel de-motivated by bad leadership or micro inequities then it can’t be compensated with a bonus, a company car or a pay raise.

That means that a company can easily be leading the salary game in an industry and still have very de-motivated employees and managers.

How long will we keep the old organisational structures despite their obvious ineffectiveness? For how long will we tolerate cultural ignorance in leadership teams?

The questions remain unanswered, but I can assure you changes will happen as soon as we begin to understand the hidden synergies in the cultural diversity. As Albert Einstein said: “If nothing moves nothing changes”.


Dr. Finn Majlergaard


Dr. Finn Majlergaard is the managing partner of  Gugin, a global operating consulting firm specialised in helping companies and leadership teams around the world taking strategic advantage of the cultural diversity. He is also a professor at International School of Management, Paris and Copenhagen Business School.
He holds a MBA from Henley Management College, UK and a doctorate from International School of Management in Paris, New York, Tokyo and Shanghai. He has lived and worked in 20+ countries and carried out more than 200 seminars and workshops for global leadership teams. He is extremely well-connected globally and draw on this network in his research and his work. He will publish his first book in the beginning on 2011 proposing a paradigm shift in the way we organise people in global operating companies.

Filed under: Analyses, Expériences, Gouvernances, Ingénieries, Outils, Ressources, , , , ,

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