Be careful. Very careful. “Bad management theories are destroying good management practices”. That is what Sumantra Ghoshal, one of the most respected voices in the world on what management ought to be like, argued in a path breaking paper by the same name. It was published shortly after he died in 2004 and continues to hold resonance even today. You can download and read this essay from corporation2050.org.
It was written when a wave of devastating corporate scandals had swamped the United States and was threatening to engulf the world. Business schools were falling all over each other to respond to the crisis. New courses in business ethics were being created. And old, laudatory case studies on Enron and Tyco were being hurriedly rewritten. Across business school campuses, deans were asking the same question: What can we do to prevent Enron-like corporations in the future? They later realised, very little actually.
Instead, they watched helplessly from the sidelines as Lehman Brothers came crashing down in September 2008. It took billions of dollars of taxpayers’ money to save Wall Street—and the real economy—from ruin.
Those cataclysmic events are why across the world, the more pragmatic CEOs are starting to ask fundamental questions about what constitutes sustainable business performance—and how business can be a force of good in society. At Forbes India, we genuinely believe that answering this fundamental question and putting it into practice will be the biggest challenge of our times.
Ghoshal had thought deeply on the theme and drafted a simple prescription to prevent more Enrons in the future. We’ve got to replace some of the ideas and theories—like the primacy of shareholder value creation and the ‘agency’ model of corporate governance—that formed the bedrock of our thinking and practices over the last 30 years. The time to do that is now, he said. If business is to regain societal trust, legitimacy and become a powerful engine of economic growth, we’ve got to pay attention to a new set of ideas and practices that could form the foundation of a better, more responsible business world.
Over the past few months, my talented colleague and our Deputy Editor Shishir Prasad, who led this special project, reached out to an array of the most influential thought leaders and businessmen around the world to put together this ambitious edition. In his introduction, Shishir clearly sets out the context. Each of the essays that follow have been carefully curated to create, what I believe, is a rich tapestry of wisdom, practical insights and perspective.
So whether you’re an entrepreneur or a senior corporate executive, this edition will hopefully nudge you into starting more meaningful and deeper conversations with people around you on how to frame a more inspiring and compelling charter for your business.
This isn’t an edition that ought to be read in a hurry. My sincere advice: Pace yourself as you go over these essays. Make your notes. Mull over the ideas. Discuss it with friends, colleagues and peers. We’d like to hear what you have to say on forbesindia.com. If this collector’s edition eventually finds a permanent place on your book-shelf, we’d feel truly vindicated.
Finally, having just turned three, we’d like to thank you, dear readers, for all the support and encouragement we’ve been receiving from the time we launched. There isn’t a better occasion to reiterate our commitment to practising good journalism, that’s bold, engaging and sharp. And whether you’re following us in print, online, on our social media platforms, attending our live events or watching the Forbes India Show on CNBC-TV18, the brand and quality of journalism you’ve come to expect from us will unquestionably remain the same.
As drama critics of Indian business, we’ll push hard to search for timeless and engaging feature stories that define the times in which we live. And so, as a special gift to our readers, please accept a complimentary copy with this edition that encapsulates the Best of Forbes India. These are the stories you’ve loved just as much as we’ve enjoyed bringing them to you.
Once you’ve had time to read both the editions, please remember to share your feedback with us.
Editor, Forbes India
Twitter id: @indrajitgupta
(This story appears in the 25 May, 2012 issue of Forbes India. You can buy our tablet version from Magzter.com. To visit our Archives, click here.)