Category Archives: Management

Do you need to build a cathedral to give meaning to your employees’ work?

Our era is in search of meaning; at least that is what we hear over and over again in companies and in society as a whole. The absence of meaning leads to disengagement, and the human resources departments of large companies are engaged in a great race to “recreate meaning” under the leadership of visionary leaders. The idea is that an ambitious vision, a noble purpose, a great narrative, will give meaning to wandering souls. This idea is illustrated by a famous tale, that of the stonemason who builds a cathedral, motivated by something greater than himself. However attractive it may be, this tale plays on questionable beliefs, and the fact that it has become a reference for motivational seminars is regrettable. In fact, it is not necessary to build a cathedral to give meaning to one’s work.

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In the face of uncertainty, what can you control?

Uncertainty is anxiety-provoking in many ways, and often with good reason. Defined as the absence of information about a given phenomenon, it often means that we don’t know what to expect, leaving the door open to unpleasant surprises – loss of job, illness, accident, war, etc. – and leaving us helpless. Because the main fear linked to uncertainty is that of loss of control, where we can no longer foresee or plan. But this fear is based on a belief that only prediction allows control. This is not necessarily the case, and the two notions can be dissociated, with important consequences for management.

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In the face of uncertainty, be vulnerable

Decision-making in uncertainty is a difficult art. One of the reasons is that the tools and concepts we use are, for the most part, design for risk, i.e. for clearly defined and repeated situations. Such tools assume that uncertainty is something to protect against. This mental model of protection, which seems so logical, is in fact counterproductive. What if, on the contrary, we should not protect ourselves (too much) from uncertainty?

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Entrepreneurship and human action: Why the award received by Darden’s Saras Sarasvathy is important

Saras Sarasvathy, the originator of the entrepreneurial theory of effectuation, has just received the prestigious Swedish Global Award for Entrepreneurship Research. Organized since 1996 by the Swedish Foundation for Small Business Research (FSF) and the Swedish Agency for Economic and Regional Growth, the award recognizes researchers who made major contributions to entrepreneurship research. She joins such great researchers as Sidney Winter, Shaker Zahra, Kathleen Eisenhardt, Scott Shane, Israel Kirzner, William Gartner, William Beaumol or Zoltan Acs and David Audretsch. The prize is the recognition of more than twenty years of efforts to promote a radically different approach to entrepreneurship. But its significance goes far beyond that, as effectuation is above all a vision of human action and freedom.

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The three (wrong) reasons why you want to motivate your employees in the face of uncertainty

We live in a world marked by uncertainty and punctuated by major surprises that call into question many of our beliefs. This questioning can be very anxiety-provoking as it seems that we can no longer rely on anything stable to move forward in life. This is particularly true in companies: the situation can go as far as a form of paralysis, caused by the feeling that whatever we undertake, an unforeseen event will call everything into question. This can lead to a loss of motivation. And yet, there is no reason why uncertainty should be demotivating.

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The market as a living institution: Why Adam Smith must be rehabilitated

[French version here]

Ask anyone with some knowledge of economics about Adam Smith, and they will probably tell you that the great economist is the symbol of unbridled and dehumanized capitalism, with his famous “invisible hand”, which seems to turn us into machines at the mercy of a mechanism that escapes us, and his promotion of selfishness. This is the idea that I myself had for a long time. Yet, this view does not reflect his writings, which instead promoted the market as a living institution governed by ethics. Given Smith’s importance in economic thought, and at a time when the societal role of business and the market is in question, it is important that the debate not be based on a caricature of his thinking.

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Why asking a innovation unit to be more disruptive is not a good idea

[Version française ici]

That innovation units created within large organizations have a difficult life is not new. Most of them disappear after three years on average, because after the euphoric start, they fail to become part of the life of the organization. But those that survive are not out of the woods yet, because they are caught between a top management that demands “more disruption” and an organization that, through its budgetary and control processes, removes any chance for a disruptive project to see the light of day. Getting out of this difficult situation requires being very clear about what “disruptive” means, and understanding the real nature of innovation.

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Covid-19: How Crises Disrupt our Mental Models and What That Means

[Version française ici]

The coronavirus constitutes a major event that completely disrupts world life, rendering all forecasts and plans based on them obsolete within a few weeks. The very nature of a surprise is to bring to light an element of our mental model (deep beliefs that guide our actions) and invalidate it. Our model told us that the world was going in direction A, but it turns out to be going in direction B and we are surprised. This surprise can have more or less serious consequences. Most of the time the reaction will be to dismiss it. When there is a difference between reality and our beliefs, we try at all costs to maintain the latter by inventing all sorts of reasons to minimize the meaning of surprise; it is a matter of integrity because our mental models are constitutive of our deep identity: how we see the world is also how we see ourselves, and how we are in the world. With the coronavirus, learning to manage our mental models has become critical.

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What the Covid-19 Tells us About the Management of Uncertainty

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Disruptive Innovation: What We Owe to Clayton Christensen

layton Christensen, who initiated seminal work on the notion of disruption, died from cancer at the age of 67. As a prominent theorist in management, along with giants such as Peter Drucker or Michael Porter, his work is more relevant than ever as big corporations continue to find it hard to address multiple disruptions in their environment. The following is a synthesis of his work as an attempt to demonstrate how it is still very much useful.
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