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July 16th, 2014
Ferien-Lesetipp: „Irrweg Bioökonomie. Kritik an einem totalitären Ansatz“


Bieten Bioökonomie und Biotechnologie eine Antwort auf zentrale Zukunftsfragen wie Welternährung, Wasserschonung und Klimaschutz? Oder beschleunigen sie die Ausbeutung und Zerstörung der Natur? Die Antwort von Franz-Theo Gottwald und Anita Krätzer in ihrem 2014 erschienen Buch „Irrweg Bioökonomie. Kritik an einem totalitären Ansatz“ fällt eindeutig aus – wie bereits der Titel verrät.

June 26th, 2014
Disrupting management ideas



Over the last days we have seen a captivating debateunfolding. Jill Lepore’s article in The New Yorker on the concept of ‘disruptive innovation’ has garnered quite some attention. Not at least from its progenitor, Lepore’s Harvard colleague Clayton Christenen, who appears to be anything but amused.


Disruptive innovations - put simply - are new products or services that create new markets, while at the same time turning existing solutions to customer demands obsolete, and thus destroying existing markets and the companies that serve them. In his many books, Christensen initially developed the idea from a corporate context (such as his floppy disk, steel, or construction equipment examples) but it quickly branched out into other sectors.


The article is a fascinating read not just because it takes on an idea largely uncontested in academia and beyond. Moreover, the concept of ‘disruptive innovation’ had quite a substantial impact on the real world. Lepore writes as a historian and delineates the superficial and ideological nature of the idea. The piece is also worthwhile reading as it exposes Christensen’s ‘case study’ approach (after all, a hallmark of its intellectual birthplace) to thorough historical analysis. The latter perspective debunks and exposes the data at the heart of Christensen’s ‘disruption’ theory as utterly wanting.


Now it is always fun to question conventional wisdom and powerful ideas, especially when they come from a Harvard Business School professor recently honored as the No 1 in the Top50 Thinkers ranking. As some of our readers might remember, we also enjoyed doing a similar job on his colleague Michael Porter’s ‘big idea’ on Creating Shared Value earlier this year. But there is the danger that those skirmishes just remain internal quibbles inside the ivory tower of which another former Harvard colleague, Henry Kissinger, once said that they ‘are so vicious because there is so little at stake’…


Lepore’s article clearly goes beyond that. Two things seem worth highlighting. First, she contextualizes a management theory in a wider intellectual historical context, and second, she shows that as such management ideas are deeply ideological constructs:
"Beginning in the eighteenth century, as the intellectual historian Dorothy Ross once pointed out, theories of history became secular; then they started something new—historicism, the idea “that all events in historical time can be explained by prior events in historical time.” Things began looking up. First, there was that, then there was this, and this is better than that. The eighteenth century embraced the idea of progress; the nineteenth century had evolution; the twentieth century had growth and then innovation. Our era has disruption, which, despite its futurism, is atavistic. It’s a theory of history founded on a profound anxiety about financial collapse, an apocalyptic fear of global devastation, and shaky evidence. […] 
The idea of progress—the notion that human history is the history of human betterment—dominated the world view of the West between the Enlightenment and the First World War. It had critics from the start, and, in the last century, even people who cherish the idea of progress, and point to improvements like the eradication of contagious diseases and the education of girls, have been hard-pressed to hold on to it while reckoning with two World Wars, the Holocaust and Hiroshima, genocide and global warming. Replacing “progress” with “innovation” skirts the question of whether a novelty is an improvement: the world may not be getting better and better but our devices are getting newer and newer. […] 
The idea of innovation is the idea of progress stripped of the aspirations of the Enlightenment, scrubbed clean of the horrors of the twentieth century, and relieved of its critics. Disruptive innovation goes further, holding out the hope of salvation against the very damnation it describes: disrupt, and you will be saved."
Disruptive innovation in its reception in business, academia, public administration and politics had some rather devastating (side-)effects – as Lepore eloquently points out. The crucial lesson of her essay though lies in its unmasking of what sounds like a rather technocratic ‘theory’ as something that is deeply informed by a particular view of the world, by a particular normative take on how humans historically have evolved.

As the article points out, such functionalist and technocratic ‘theories’ totally ignore other dimensions of human life. ‘Disrupting’ – sold as a good thing and the natural way of how organizations evolve - ignores other important dimensions of human development, especially if the concept gets branched out and expedited beyond business to schools, hospitals, prisons, museums etc. The ethical implications of such a theory are totally ignored in Christensen’ framework – argues Lepore.

One central lesson of this article for everyone concerned with the role of business in contemporary society – be it academics, executives or politicians – points to the pivotal role of understanding the intellectual heritage and presuppositions of those core theories and ideas that have shaped contemporary social (incl. business) reality. In that sense, Lepore’s piece is a truly ‘critical’ contribution to management – and the set of historical ‘criteria’ by which she does the job should encourage particular management academics to move beyond the confines of their discipline. To understand the power of ideas we have to look at the broader picture of their origin, their contemporary drivers, but also their wider implications for society.


Photos (top by Andy Kaufman; middle by Nicolas Nova) reproduced under the Creative Commons license.


June 26th, 2014
Disrupting management ideas



Over the last days we have seen a captivating debateunfolding. Jill Lepore’s article in The New Yorker on the concept of ‘disruptive innovation’ has garnered quite some attention. Not at least from its progenitor, Lepore’s Harvard colleague Clayton Christenen, who appears to be anything but amused.


Disruptive innovations - put simply - are new products or services that create new markets, while at the same time turning existing solutions to customer demands obsolete, and thus destroying existing markets and the companies that serve them. In his many books, Christensen initially developed the idea from a corporate context (such as his floppy disk, steel, or construction equipment examples) but it quickly branched out into other sectors.


The article is a fascinating read not just because it takes on an idea largely uncontested in academia and beyond. Moreover, the concept of ‘disruptive innovation’ had quite a substantial impact on the real world. Lepore writes as a historian and delineates the superficial and ideological nature of the idea. The piece is also worthwhile reading as it exposes Christensen’s ‘case study’ approach (after all, a hallmark of its intellectual birthplace) to thorough historical analysis. The latter perspective debunks and exposes the data at the heart of Christensen’s ‘disruption’ theory as utterly wanting.


Now it is always fun to question conventional wisdom and powerful ideas, especially when they come from a Harvard Business School professor recently honored as the No 1 in the Top50 Thinkers ranking. As some of our readers might remember, we also enjoyed doing a similar job on his colleague Michael Porter’s ‘big idea’ on Creating Shared Value earlier this year. But there is the danger that those skirmishes just remain internal quibbles inside the ivory tower of which another former Harvard colleague, Henry Kissinger, once said that they ‘are so vicious because there is so little at stake’…


Lepore’s article clearly goes beyond that. Two things seem worth highlighting. First, she contextualizes a management theory in a wider intellectual historical context, and second, she shows that as such management ideas are deeply ideological constructs:
"Beginning in the eighteenth century, as the intellectual historian Dorothy Ross once pointed out, theories of history became secular; then they started something new—historicism, the idea “that all events in historical time can be explained by prior events in historical time.” Things began looking up. First, there was that, then there was this, and this is better than that. The eighteenth century embraced the idea of progress; the nineteenth century had evolution; the twentieth century had growth and then innovation. Our era has disruption, which, despite its futurism, is atavistic. It’s a theory of history founded on a profound anxiety about financial collapse, an apocalyptic fear of global devastation, and shaky evidence. […] 
The idea of progress—the notion that human history is the history of human betterment—dominated the world view of the West between the Enlightenment and the First World War. It had critics from the start, and, in the last century, even people who cherish the idea of progress, and point to improvements like the eradication of contagious diseases and the education of girls, have been hard-pressed to hold on to it while reckoning with two World Wars, the Holocaust and Hiroshima, genocide and global warming. Replacing “progress” with “innovation” skirts the question of whether a novelty is an improvement: the world may not be getting better and better but our devices are getting newer and newer. […] 
The idea of innovation is the idea of progress stripped of the aspirations of the Enlightenment, scrubbed clean of the horrors of the twentieth century, and relieved of its critics. Disruptive innovation goes further, holding out the hope of salvation against the very damnation it describes: disrupt, and you will be saved."
Disruptive innovation in its reception in business, academia, public administration and politics had some rather devastating (side-)effects – as Lepore eloquently points out. The crucial lesson of her essay though lies in its unmasking of what sounds like a rather technocratic ‘theory’ as something that is deeply informed by a particular view of the world, by a particular normative take on how humans historically have evolved.

As the article points out, such functionalist and technocratic ‘theories’ totally ignore other dimensions of human life. ‘Disrupting’ – sold as a good thing and the natural way of how organizations evolve - ignores other important dimensions of human development, especially if the concept gets branched out and expedited beyond business to schools, hospitals, prisons, museums etc. The ethical implications of such a theory are totally ignored in Christensen’ framework – argues Lepore.

One central lesson of this article for everyone concerned with the role of business in contemporary society – be it academics, executives or politicians – points to the pivotal role of understanding the intellectual heritage and presuppositions of those core theories and ideas that have shaped contemporary social (incl. business) reality. In that sense, Lepore’s piece is a truly ‘critical’ contribution to management – and the set of historical ‘criteria’ by which she does the job should encourage particular management academics to move beyond the confines of their discipline. To understand the power of ideas we have to look at the broader picture of their origin, their contemporary drivers, but also their wider implications for society.


Photos (top by Andy Kaufman; middle by Nicolas Nova) reproduced under the Creative Commons license.


June 24th, 2014
Verbraucher-Ampel kann falsche Sicherheit vortäuschen


München (csr-news) >  Die Kennzeichnung von Produkteigenschaften durch ein Ampel-System beeinflusst Verbraucher in ihrer Kaufentscheidung. Eine Studie Münchner und französischer Wissenschaftler zeigt nun erstmals, dass dies nicht nur für Lebensmittel, sondern auch für Finanzprodukte gilt – allerdings nicht immer in der Weise, die



May 13th, 2014
The Ethics of Danger Pay


How much is a human life worth? Or, to put a finer point on it, how much is your life worth, to you? How much would you have to be paid in order to risk your life as part of your job? It is sometimes said that you can’t put a price on a human […]

May 13th, 2014
Viele Umweltinvestments locken mit einseitig positiven Werbebotschaften


Bremen (csr-news) > Bei vielen Finanzprodukten, mit denen sich der Umwelt- und Klimaschutz unterstützen lässt, werben Anbieter mit einseitig positiven Botschaften, um Anleger zu gewinnen. Zu diesem Ergebnis kommt das Projekt "Klimafreundliche Geldanlage" der Verbraucherzentrale Bremen, das Werbeaussagen von insgesamt 36 Finanzprodukten mit



March 23rd, 2014
Dow Jones Sustainability Index


Beim Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI) handelt sich um eine Familie von Aktienindices, die die nachhaltigsten Unternehmen einer Region oder Industrie enthalten. Die Familie besteht aus dem globalen Index 'DJSI World' sowie Indices für verschiedene geografische Regionen (u.a. Europa, Nordamerika, Asien-Pazifik) und



February 12th, 2014
Special Olympics Düsseldorf 2014 sucht Corporate Volunteers


Die Veranstalter der nationalen Sportwettkämpfe für Menschen mit geistiger Behinderung im Mai in Düsseldorf suchen weitere ehrenamtliche Mitarbeiter. „Unternehmen in der Region Düsseldorf, überlegt Euch, ob Ihr Euch einer solchen Maßnahme, in der es nicht nur um Auszubildende gehen muss, anschließen wollt“, sagte Düsseldorfs Sozialdezernent Burkhard Hintzsche heute bei einer Pressekonferenz in seiner Stadt. Düsseldorf bietet seinen 450 Auszubildenden eine Freistellung für die Teilnahme an. Corporate Volunteers sind seit Jahren ein wichtiger Bestandteil des Organisationsteams.

February 11th, 2014
Call for Papers: EBEN Annual Conference 2014


The German Network for Business Ethics (DNWE) is organising the annual conference for its European umbrella organisation (The European Business Ethics Network – EBEN). The conference will take place in Berlin from 12-14 June 2014; at the same time the DNWE will hold its annual meeting. Cooperation partner and venue of the event is ESMT European School of Management and Technology, located in the former headquarters of State Council of the GDR.

February 4th, 2014
Total verzichtet auf Erdölförderung in Welterbe-Gebieten


Paris (afp) - Der französische Energiekonzern Total hat sich verpflichtet, kein Erdöl mehr in schützenswerten Welterbe-Gebieten zu fördern. Das kündigte die Weltkulturorganisation UNESCO am Montagabend in Paris an und begrüßte dies als "historische Entscheidung". Der britisch-niederländische Energieriese Royal Dutch Shell sowie die Vereinigung



January 24th, 2014
CSRtoday am Freitag


… mit den Themen: Ausgezeichnete Forschung für die Umwelt, Fischrückverfolgbarkeit bei ALDI SÜD, Handy-Recycling, Grüne Gentechnik und der Greenpeace-Einkaufsratgeber für Speisefisch.   Ausgezeichnete Forschung für die Umwelt Mitglieder des Ecornet, des Netzwerks der führenden außeruniversitären, gemeinnützigen Umwelt- und Nachhaltigkeitsforschungsinstitute in Deutschland, konnten ihre sehr guten Vorjahresplatzierungen



January 8th, 2014
Energieeffizienz-Index: Industrie investiert noch zu wenig


Zu wenig Investitionen, zu hohe Anforderungen an Amortisationszeiten, zu kleine Budgets, so lassen sich die Ergebnisse der Umfragen zum ersten Energieeffizienz-Index für die deutsche Industrie zusammenfassen. Das Potenzial von Effizienzmaßnahmen ist in den Unternehmen zwar bekannt, dennoch wird zu wenig investiert. In den Betrieben erwartet man allerdings eine weiter steigende Bedeutung.

January 7th, 2014
CEO Salaries and Justice


A recent study about CEO pay in Canada has been getting a fair bit of attention lately. This is unsurprising, both because executive compensation has become one of the hot topics of the day (or rather, of the post-Occupy era) and because the study highlights the fact that if you look at the top 100 […]

January 1st, 2014
Asmussen fordert “Kulturwandel” in der Arbeitswelt


Hamburg (afp) - Der neue Arbeits-Staatssekretär Jörg Asmussen betrachtet die bessere Vereinbarkeit von Familie und Beruf als grundsätzliche Herausforderung der Gesellschaft. "Das hat viel mit Kulturwandel im Kopf zu tun", sagte der frühere Direktor der Europäischen Zentralbank (EZB) der neuen Ausgabe des Magazins



December 11th, 2013
Lean & Green Efficiency Award: Ressourceneffizienz braucht mehr als technische Lösungen


Den schonenden Umgang mit Ressourcen wie Energie, Wasser, Mitarbeitern oder Materialien in Unternehmen zeichnet der Lean & Green Efficiency Award aus. „Ressourceneffizienz ist fast immer betriebswirtschaftlich sinnvoll, da die Roh-, Hilfs- und Betriebsstoffe teuer eingekauft werden müssen“, sagt Roland Schreiner, Geschäftsführender Gesellschafter der Schreiner Group, dessen Unternehmen in diesem Jahr mit dem Award ausgezeichnet wurde.

December 9th, 2013
KPMG Survey of CR-Reporting 2013: Mainstream im globalen Business


Über Nachhaltigkeit zu berichten ist längst zum Mainstream geworden, so das Fazit der aktuellen KPMG-Studie zur weltweiten CR-Berichterstattung. Von den 4.100 untersuchten Unternehmen berichten mehr als 70 Prozent über ihre Nachhaltigkeitsaktivitäten. Betrachtet man nur die 250 größten Unternehmen, so liegt die Quote sogar bei 93 Prozent. Doch die Qualität der Berichte ist sehr unterschiedlich.

December 3rd, 2013
KiKA-Zukunftsmacher überreichen Deklaration an Günther Bachmann


Berlin (csr-news) > 50 Kinder haben am 22. November 2013 beim 6. Deutschen Nachhaltigkeitstag in Düsseldorf Ideen und Forderungen für eine bessere Zukunft erarbeitet. Der „3. KiKA Kinder-Nachhaltigkeitstag“ fand im Rahmen des Kongressprogramms statt, das der feierlichen Vergabe des Deutschen Nachhaltigkeitspreises vorangeht. Die



November 21st, 2013
Inrate veröffentlicht den Sustainability Guide 2013


Zürich/Freiburg (csr-news) > Der Inrate Sustainability Guide 2013 zeigt die Nachhaltigkeitsleistung von Sektoren und Unternehmen im Stoxx Europe 50. Die Ergebnisse basieren auf dem „Inrate Sustainability Assessment“, der neuen Nachhaltigkeitsbewertung von Inrate. Diese setzt den Schwerpunkt auf die ökologischen und sozialen Auswirkungen von



November 9th, 2013
Rob Ford should stay




Toronto, that once sleepy capital of Canadian business, ‘New York run by the swiss’, a city widely seen as boring and ugly (esp. compared to its once-competitor Montréal) – has made global news: A crack smoking mayor! Match that, London, New York or Berlin! All the mainstream media here (and globally) are pretty unanimous in their call for Rob Ford’s resignation, or at least for him taking a break.

That in itself is a reason for suspicion. In my business ethics course this week I had a vivid exchange with my students. We were discussing discrimination and how it is unethical to apply criteria such as race, gender, sexual orientation, recreational habits etc. to job qualifications and hiring. On that note, calls for Ford’s resignation are not very convincing. After all, on many accounts, he has done a good job as Toronto’s major. The city’s finances are healthy; public services are running smoothly, key infrastructure projects, such as the construction of new subway lines have finally taken off; and the major successfully tamed the beast of an otherwise dysfunctional federal/provincial/municipal layered bureaucracy to get even more public infrastructure projects off the ground. This alone, in a city whose infrastructure is stuck somewhere in the 1970s, is reasonable ground to consider him a success on his job.


Of course, there were other things in the past, where arguably Ford violated the terms of his job. Toronto Star investigative reporter Daniel Dale – a former student of us - digged out a number of occasions where the mayor took advantage of his role for personal issues. But nothing really stuck.


As much as some have made an ethical case here against the mayor, I do not think these arguments really touch the heart of the controversy.


Two things spring to mind to any reflective observer. First, much of the vitriol directed at Ford in my view is just based on the persistent WASPy (as in White Anglo Saxon Protestant) subculture of North America. Ford likes to use recreational drugs, has all the wrong, politically incorrect friends and, yes, is probably an alcoholic. Mind you, at least it was not about sex. But in some ways his fate resembles the one of Bill Clinton or Elliot Spitzer: Ford does not live up to the public morality and style, which is deemed politically correct in Canada. It is worth noting that consuming crack is not illegal in Canada. And the fact that he admits to it in public and simply continues with his job just infuriates all those who either have succumbed to this pubic consensus of stuffy morality or otherwise suppress it and live it out in private. After all, Canada’s alcohol consumption is twice the global average and him talking about his ‘drunken stupors’ as a regular occurrence probably just represents an average recreational practice in this country.


Little surprise of course, that much of the hunt on Ford – representing the right wing Progressive Conservative Party – is coming from the ‘liberal’ press here. It not only shows how small ‘c’ conservative even Canada’s liberal elites are but also reveals that all those who hated Ford as a mayor to begin with now take whatever moral resource as their disposal to finally finish him off.


This points to a second observation. Rob Ford epitomizes the aches and tensions of a country which has been the most relaxed and forward looking in terms of immigration. His constituency are the ‘905ers’ based on the area code of Toronto’s suburbia. That is also where he is from. These are mostly people with a first generation immigrant background coming from south and east asia. The other lot,  who hate him and are currently fanning the flames of ousting Rob Ford are the ‘416ers’, those who live in the core downtown of Toronto. None of them voted for Ford and they never felt represented by a fat, white, uneducated, loud bloke from the suburbs.


Ford’s approval ratings have soared in the aftermath of him admitting his drug use. This is no surprise. He represents people who struggle to make ends meet; who are sick and tired of commuting to work in a city with the longest commuting time by far; who get little kick out of taxes being spent on things that do not relate to their everyday struggles; and who know from their own experience that fighting your way out of, say, Bangladesh to Brampton (a 905 suburb) – yes – takes determination, hard work and not too much concern for what their then constituency back home thought of them. Rob Ford, the small time entrepreneur, in his stubbornness just represents them.


So what does this amount to? On day one of his election I thought Rob Ford was a disaster. Mostly because I believe in Toronto’s potential as a great global city that deserves a mayor of a different stature and outlook. But at the same time I also believe that a mayor has to represent the city that voted him in. And boy, Rob Ford fits that bill. So rather than trying to get this ugly representation of what Toronto actually looks like out of sight, the real smart reaction to this scandal would be to say that Rob Ford – with all his preposterous faults – is the one that the people of Toronto chose to represent them. So lets allow him to continue to represent us. And if we don’t like what we see - until we can vote him out - maybe we find the courage to address the underlying issues. Rather than killing the poor guy who currently just displays them.
DM
Photo by Eric Parker, reproduced under the Creative Commons license.


October 25th, 2013
Women, Bank Notes, and Patterns of Inequity


Canada’s government is under fire with regards to gender equity, and business leaders should take notice. Attention has recently been drawn to a petition calling for women on bank notes. Currently, Canada’s bank notes feature only dead (white) male politicians. Queen Elizabeth is the only woman featured, and she’s not Canadian. The result is that […]
















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