China's conspicuous consumption trend has unique local traits
Is Chinese brand attitude different to Western brand attitude? I think it depends on the category. Online brands like Baidu Inc and Facebook are prized for their functionality and innovativeness rather than the social status they confer.
But clothing and accessory brands are more sensitive to our social identity. Value brands appeal to price-sensitive consumers in China, as they do in Britain. And luxury brands have status appeal - or do they?.....Read More
Leading with Wisdom, by Mike Thompson
The financial crisis of 2008 resulted in deep and prolonged criticism of business schools for ‘mismanaging’ the leadership education of their MBA students.
There has been an ongoing and persistent questioning concerning the lack of practical ethical training and the responsibilities and accountabilities of the business leader. In civil society, the role of political leaders has been in sharp focus as media poses questions about the wisdom of the political decision-making process at the EU and national governmental levels. At an international level, at the World Economic Forum in 2010 and in 2011, many leaders have publicly identified themselves with the need for business reformation and renewal: rethinking values, redesigning systems and rebuilding institutions.
The leadership models that have focussed on effectiveness have not been as strong on questions to do with the practice of wisdom and values as leaders. In this context there has been an increasing emphasis by organisations and business schools to cultivate and to seek out responsible leaders. Wisdom is the hallmark of a responsible leader and as Umair Haque, director of the Havas Media Lab declares: "the scarcest, rarest and most valuable resource in the world today is wisdom".
In this context I have been delighted to co-edit a series of papers about wisdom and leadership that has enlarged both my mind and my spirit by the narratives and descriptions of wisdom taken by a range of very different authors. The book is called "Leading with Wisdom" and took shape at the European SPES Forum annual conference in 2010 in Groenendael, the Netherlands. Papers were presented and discussed on the qualities needed to lead with wisdom.
- How may we develop the capacity for wisdom in our decision-making and distinguish this unique human spiritual quality from the development and acquisition of knowledge alone?
- Is leading with wisdom another leadership model or a philosophy of life?
- Is there a spiritual dimension to wisdom?
The authors find wisdom to be closely connected to virtue, character, integrity, morality, spirituality, meaning and the knowledge to live well.
The notion of wisdom has been under-reported in the business world largely because it does not feature in an explicit way in leadership studies, organisational behavioural studies or management education and practice generally. Perhaps the subject area is regarded as too ethereal to be applicable or actionable or perhaps the deep concern regarding bias in managerial decision-making (McKinsey, 2010) is likely to be reflected in suspicion about the perceived subjective nature of wisdom in the business context. In a world of “evidence-based thinking” and “fact-based decision-making”, wisdom doesn’t seem to fit in mainstream business except, perhaps informally and “off the record”.
One example of this usage in managerial decision-making is made when a decision that may have been controversial at the time is later recognised as being wise because events showed it to be so. Entrepreneur, Alan Sugar, writes of his refusal to accept the recommendations of his board colleagues and a management consultancy to acquire a Swedish inkjet manufacturer in 1993. "At the end of their deliberations, Rogers recommended to me that we spend £10m acquiring this asset and put Jacob in charge. I told him if he was asking me to make the decision, the answer was no". It was a wise decision. Eventually, the Swedish company went into liquidation and no one bought the technology, which turned out to be total garbage compared to that being developed by Hewlett-Packard and other Japanese companies." (What you see is What You Get, Alan Sugar, 2010, p.366).
Earlier in the professional evaluation of the target company, Sugar had been excluded for fear of biasing the rational process of due diligence. At the outset, Sugar assessed the Swedish business and believed its operation and products had no long term viability. The reference to “wise” here stands in contradiction to the rational decision that was being recommended to him but his decision was not removed from the facts of the acquisition, rather it was his broader experience and judgment that was brought to bear on the facts that led to a different conclusion.
‘Wise’ is more readily ‘translated’ in common business parlance as ‘smart’ and this ‘translation’ is associated with the readiness to report on a person’s perceived intelligence, educational background and professional standing. As an expert in wisdom from a psychological studies perspective, Professor Robert Sternberg wrote an article in 2004 on "the preoccupation with being smart in contrast to the definition of wisdom". The title of his article summed up the mistake of associating smartness with wisdom: "Why Smart People Can Be So Foolish" (Sternberg, 2004). In wider society, a person might be considered wise as a kind of lifetime achievement award and given to renowned gurus, political leaders or philosophers (and occasionally business leaders) after their death. Gandhi, Churchill and Iris Murdoch are, perhaps, examples of this whilst Mandela and the Dalai Lama stand out as an exception by being widely regarded as wise despite still being alive.
In recent years, wisdom has attracted growing scholarly attention. The Arete Initiative at The University of Chicago, for example, has launched a $2 million research programme entitled: Defining Wisdom Project remarking that “wisdom is currently overlooked as a topic for serious scholarly and scientific investigation in many fields.”[ 1] The Academy of Business in Society (EABIS), is co-organising conferences with universities and business schools between 2009 and 2013 to discuss “practical wisdom and business from the perspectives” from Christianity, the Chinese classical tradition, Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, and Islam, culminating with a global conference at Yale University in 2013".
Outside academia I notice that HR professionals are booking personal development programmes for their executives aimed at cultivating their personal self awareness, wisdom and even spirituality! Wisdom in management is, I think, a topic to watch.
 Source: http://wisdomresearch.org, accessed 26 March 2011.
 Sternberg, R. J., 2004, “Why Smart People Can Be So Foolish”, European Psychologist, Vol. 9, No.3, pp. 145-150.