HBR July/Aug 2019: White-collar crime

Harvard Business Review

July/August 2019
Annotated Table of Contents

1. Adi Ignatius, The thing about integrity

Adi Ignatius, the editor in chief of HBR, highlights the main conclusions in the spotlight section on white collar crime.

2. HBR Team, The wrong ways to strengthen culture

New research from Gartner has identified three major, common mistakes, and their remedies, when approaching cultural change. One mistake is the use of simple adjectives to describe culture; in contrast, acknowledging the tensions that need to be managed works better. Second, to get a realistic sense of the living, effective culture qualitative comments and frank expression of views are more useful than surveys and other quantitative data. Finally, values and processes need to be aligned to demonstrate that official statements are not empty words. An interview with Oscar Rivera, who helped with the integration of six businesses within a Guatemalan family-owned conglomerate, illustrates some of these issues.

3. Nicole Torres, Instant feed-back hurts our performance

App-based measurement of performance is now fairly common in areas such as diet and fitness. In regards to driving, researchers have tracked how participants reacted when they became aware of how well they did against the task of scoring 70% or more to keep or improve their insurance premiums. Drivers who checked their current score were found to perform less well in the first one or two trips afterwards, especially when the feed-back was positive. Long-term performance was not affected, however. These findings add nuance to our understanding of the variable impact of feed-back; more research is needed to establish how different types of feed-back, for instance social or self-comparison, change behaviour, if at all.

4. Mandy Ginsberg, Match Group’s CEO, on innovating in a fast-changing industry

Mandy Ginsberg has worked at the Match Group for 12 years, leading several brands and taking over as CEO in 2017. A leader in the expanding online dating industry, the Group comprises a number of brands, including Tinder, and has evolved in response to changing consumer preferences and technological innovations. The emergence and then domination of mobile enabled new patterns of connecting and brought into the market a much younger cohort. The Group also acquired or developed brands that cater to particular groups of consumers, by age, ethnicity or country. It sees itself as part of the modern answer to the ‘epidemic of loneliness in the world’, enabling people to make valuable connections.

Spotlight: White-collar crime

5. Paul Healy and George Serafeim, How to scandal-proof your company

In this article Healy and Serafeim draw on extensive research to offer a set of arguments and suggestions for creating a climate that discourages ethical lapses, going beyond formal compliance procedures and processes. Leaders should be vocal about the fact that crime does not pay. They should point out that companies that favour growth at any cost may obtain it, but profitability is often very low. Moreover the broader penalties in lost confidence, reputation and employee morale are far higher than mere fines and legal implications of wrongdoing. A transparent and fair regime for punishing the culprits, however high they may be on the corporate ladder, also reinforces the message that ethical concerns are taken seriously. Asking employees to make tough decisions in groups lowers the risk of rogue, reckless risk taking. Working proactively with industry peers to create standards for public accountability can commit corporate decision makers to fostering an ethical culture.

6. Eugene Soltes, Where is your organisation most prone to lapses in integrity?

Unethical conduct occurs in all organisations to some extent, even though much if not most of it goes unreported, despite the existence of official channels for bringing it to the attention of senior management or the compliance department. To help surface information about such breaches, Soltes proposes that companies carry out regular, anonymous surveys to determine specific areas and the scale of the problems. He provides a template of three questions and suggestions on how to interpret the data.

7. HBR Staff, Interview with Erik Osmundsen, CEO of Norse Gjenvinning, “We were coming up against everything from organized crime to angry employees”

Erik Osmundsen, the CEO of Norse Gjenvinning, the leading waste management company in Norway was appointed to his post with the mandate to root out corruption. In this interview he describes the major challenges and actions taken in this multi-year, successful project.

8. Mary Jo White, What I learned about white-collar crime

White, a former chair of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, distils her insights into the motivations behind while collar crime and effective counter measures.


9. Tim Fountaine, Brian McCarthy, and Tamim Saleh, Building the AI-powered organization

Despite the recognition that AI may bring great benefits to businesses, in most cases adoption has been slow and limited. Based on surveys and client work with hundreds of businesses, these McKinsey authors identify the main barriers to AI adoption and propose several remedies. Mind set shifts to collaborative work across departments and to data-driven, agile decision making are necessary preconditions. To scale AI, an important issue to be decided is how responsibility for it should be dispersed across an organisation, between a central hub, spokes, such as business units and functions, and in-between grey areas. In any case, any such effort can only be successful when adequate time and resources are given to adoption, training, persuading and enabling managers and employees to use AI effectively.

10. Deborah Ancona, Elaine Backman, and Kate Isaacs, Nimble leadership

This article draws on two detailed case studies, at PARC, Xerox’s R&D company in Silicon Valley and W.L. Gore & Associates, a private materials science company, to show how focus on research and innovation can be sustained by different kinds of leadership at different levels in an organisation. Entrepreneurial, enabling and architecting leaders manifest their initiative and their contributions in specific ways: by directly generating and developing new ideas; by nurturing and connecting people and resources across an organisation; and by integrating lower-level work into the larger concerns of organizational culture, structure and strategy. These are companies that owe their success to models of distributed leadership, empowering all employees through processes that balance freedom and control.

11. Ranjay Gulati, The soul of a start-up

Gulati notes that start-ups seem to have a definite sense of purpose, a driving energy, a soul and sets out to describe some the elements that contribute to it. These include a strong, original, self-confident intent about how the business is making a difference, a sense of deeper connection with customers and a specific employee experience. Maintaining this driving force requires dedicated effort and attention and Gulati elucidates both the dangers and the actions required to preserve the soul, as shown by a wide range of examples of successful (and failing) start-ups.

12. Nathan Furr and Andrew Shipilov, Digital doesn’t have to be disruptive

Furr and Shipilov attempt to refocus the discussion on the role of digital technologies in companies by dispelling five common misconceptions, or myths. They argue that instead of aiming for radical disruption, companies should recognise the opportunity to use digital tools to serve better an existing, proven need. Digital is more about the customer than the technology as such. Legacy systems can often be bridged, incrementally without the need for an overhaul. Moreover, rather than expect the disappearance of the physical aspects of business, it is more likely that the physical and the digital will continue to co-exist. The role of start-ups as main drivers of digitalisation is well appreciated, but protecting them is may be more important than outright acquisition.

13. Roger L. Martin and Jennifer Riel, The one thing you need to know about managing functions

This article investigates the relationship between line businesses and corporate functions. It argues that as a rule the strategic priorities of functional departments remain implicit, vacillating between a servile and an imperial attitude, doing everything the business units ask, or dictating to them. To create effective functional strategies, Martin and Riel suggest that functional leaders ask themselves what their current strategy really is and further reformulate it in light of two priorities: where to play and how to win. A detailed case study, talent strategy at Four Seasons, and numerous other examples drive the argument home.

14. Gianpiero Petriglieri and Sally Maitlis, When a colleague is grieving

Providing the right kind of support for a grieving colleague can be a sensitive, delicate matter. What kind of support is necessary (and works) often depends on understanding that grieving usually ebbs and flows even as we traverse some fairly well-defined stages. These include an overwhelming sense of loss and void, a prolonged period of confusion, exhaustion and pain, when focus, consistency, and drive may be destabilised, and a period of tentative renewal and articulation of a new beginning. Presence, patience, and openness will be necessary to find the right economical, supportive gestures, as illustrated in a variety of typical scenarios by Petriglieri and Maitlis.

15. Katherine White, David J. Hardisty, and Rishad Habib, The elusive green consumer

Closing the gap between good intentions and actual behaviour in the case of green consumption seems to be within reach, according to this article. Certainly, there are several approaches available to try to nudge consumers in this direction. They leverage known mechanisms such as social influence, the power of good habits, the domino effect, the inclination to listen to either reason or sentiment and the shift towards valuing experiences over ownership. The authors present numerous examples of marketing campaigns as well as research to support and illustrate these approaches.

16. Spencer Harrison, Arne Carlsen, and Miha Škerlavaj, Marvel’s blockbuster machine

Franchise films can rarely sustain success over the long term. This article enquires into the particular blend of choices that have allowed Marvel Studios to achieve the seemingly impossible in this regard, combining outstanding commercial and critical results. It is based on analysis of a variety of types of data: hundreds of interviews with producers, directors, writers and critics; scripts and visual styles; and thousands of networks of actors and workers behind the cameras. Thus, the article identifies four principles that have guided Marvel and explains how they have worked: selecting experienced directors with a track record in other types of (non-franchise) movies; leveraging a stable core of crew members from one movie to the next; allowing directors genuine creative freedom to change emotional tones, visual styles; and engaging customers early.


17. Daisy Wademan Dowling, A working parent’s survival guide

Dowling provides crisp definitions of the main challenges working parents face in terms of transitions, practicalities, communication, loss and identity. The repertoire of remedies includes solutions that are broadly matched for each challenge, when they are not good practice overall: rehearsing, auditing and planning, framing, including a form of future thinking, and revisiting and recasting. Stylised case studies help to illustrate how the advice might work.

18. Richard G. Hamermesh, When one division makes all the money but the other gets all the attention

How to prioritise the allocation of resources between rewarding proven success and preparing for the future is a constant concern in business. This case study highlights the implications of this dilemma for the CEO of an electronics company. Experts and members of the HBR community weigh in.

19. Walter Frick, Fixing the internet

Putting the internet to good use has eluded us, it seems. Five recent books about the Silicon Valley, coding and the platform economy tell the story of how we have arrived at this point, diagnose the problem and highlight the urgent need to find solutions.

20. Alison Beard, Life’s work interview with Vera Wang

Vera Wang, the owner of an eponymous brand and a global fashion, beauty, jewellery and homewares business shares her approach to work, both in her earlier life as an employee, and now as a creative designer and CEO. With every decision she considers ‘whether it’s about my ego or the business reality’, recognising that solving business problems is also a form of creativity.