No comments yet
20 September, 2013

Business TIGER seeks to strengthen integrity

by Jiawen Zhou

Margaret Heffernan (left) talks with participants
Margaret Heffernan (left) talks with participants

A high-profile panel of speakers discussed Trust and Integrity in the Global Economy (TIGE) at the second TIGERoadshow, held in Sheffield on 12 September.

TIGE focuses on the true heart of effective leadership and encourages ‘conscience-based’ decision-making leading to organizational changes in business and economic life. This comes at a time when integrity and trust are more than ever needed following the global banking and economic crises.

Rikki Griffiths of HSBC Bank, Liverpool
Rikki Griffiths of HSBC Bank, Liverpool
The TIGERoadshow workshops—organized by Initiatives of Change (IofC) UK’s business programme—bring light to overcoming this challenge. They draw together business experts, corporate delegates and social enterprises to build local and regional networks for sharing good practices and to disseminate awareness and support for new ethical enterprises.

Sheffield Business School (SBS), at Sheffield Hallam University, hosted a series of TIGE keynote speakers. They included the renowned business author Margaret Heffernan; Tony Bradley, Director of the SEED Centre (Social and Ethical Enterprise Development Centre) at Liverpool Hope University Business School; Professor John Carlisle, an advisor to the government on large-scale infrastructure projects; and Rikki Griffiths, Area Commercial Director at HSBC in Liverpool.

They were welcomed to the university by the Dean of Sheffield Business School, Adrian Hopgood, who opened the event. SBS is the third largest business school in the UK, with 7,600 students from over 100 countries. Professor Hopgood quoted from a Sheffield Hallam University report: ‘... in the past there had been a tendency to seek and expect heroic leadership, especially from the “top”, but many now felt that there had been a move away from this aspiration toward a more “collective leadership culture” in which a more dispersed or distributed view of leadership can flourish.’

Participants join in feedback discussion
Participants join in feedback discussion
Margaret Heffernan argued that the biggest threats and dangers we face are the ones we do not see; not because they are secret or invisible, but because we are ‘willfully blind’. She had seen business blind spots leading to a failed corporate culture that undermines cooperation in business.

‘The leader of any organization in the world must be watching the scandals that rock HSBC, Barclays, the BBC and New Corporation… Every organization has issues and concerns which are known about by many people who choose to remain silent,’ she said. ‘But we could never behave this way as we all like to think we are good and ethical. So what goes wrong?’

She said: ‘We idolize charismatic individuals, which leaves us feeling stupid and bereft. Consequently, many people recognized an overly-imperial style of leadership which no one questioned.

‘We cannot be multi-tasking as our brains have hard cognitive limits. The busier we are, the less capable we become of critical thinking: knowing right from wrong.

‘We are conflict averse as our education system encourages obedience and conformity. Most people want to be part of the crowd while whistle-blowers are often demonized.

‘We mistake talk for action. This means it feels like we have done something when really we have not. The iron rule of bystander behaviour is that the more people who witness wrongdoing the less likely it is that anyone will intervene.’

The focus was then on how to practically counteract all this, changing business from unreliable to trustworthy. She proposed, as an answer, that the quality of dissent within an organization shows how well it runs—no dissent, no good. ‘Every smart organization should design systems and processes that make it easy and safe for any employee to ask questions, raise concerns and blow the whistle. This happens only if everyone is watching and telling the truth,’ she said.

Revd Tony Bradley has found that the ethical consumption market—a highly segmented marketplace, with ‘ethical’ decision-making being based on a wide variety of factors, many of which are not especially ‘altruistic’—is growing significantly.

‘The Ethical Consumerism Report 2011 showed that monies in ethical savings and investments grew 9.3 percent from £19.3 billion to £21.1 billion year on year,’ he said.

He added: ‘The future evolution belongs to social enterprises and ethical businesses. They are tackling the disruptions caused by the five ‘S’s – size, scale, sources, sinks and responding to the challenge of greater solidarity in business and the economy.

‘According to Social Enterprise UK’s (SEUK) Fightback Britain Report 2012, 58 per cent of social enterprises reported growth in 2011.’

His profound remarks were followed by compelling case studies presented by social and ethical enterprises: Mind Apart, a Sheffield SEE run by Jodie Marshall; and Joe Swann, founder and CEO of My Social Innovation (MySI), a London-based organization helping young people to set up sustainable social enterprises.

Professor John Carlisle
Professor John Carlisle
After implementing a Systems Thinking exercise with applications for large corporates, Professor John Carlisle proposed a new business model which was demonstrably better and more profitable. ‘The best business model in the future is not to cut the cost but to improve the quality. The new order can be established up straight through working with your suppliers,’ he said.

Rikki Griffiths of HSBC added: ‘We have to change our culture to go back to traditional relationship banking which was spending more time understanding customers’ needs and not selling products to hit short-term targets.’

Alastair Johnson, a local furniture maker, thought the day-long event was far-reaching, wide-ranging, often amusing, compelling and profound. ‘I felt encouraged and affirmed in my ideas for a social enterprise and discovered more like-minded people,’ he said. Julia Harley agreed: ‘The content of this event are like seeds; the more we sow them and keep them watered by constantly reminding and challenging people, the more results we will see.’

Photos by Jiawen Zhou

Related Posts