Michael Yaziji

Professor of Strategy and Leadership

Michael Yaziji is Professor of Strategy and Leadership. He is an award-winning author whose work spans leadership and strategy. He is recognized as a world-leading expert on non-market strategy and NGO-corporate relations, and has a particular interest in ethical questions facing business leaders. His latest research includes the world’s largest survey on psychological drivers, psychological safety, and organizational performance and explores how human biases and self-deception can impact decision making as well as how these factors can be mitigated.

His earlier survey on NGO campaigns against corporations is the world’s largest and most comprehensive on the topic and was the backbone for his seminal book NGOs and Corporations: Conflict and Collaboration. He is focusing increasingly on sustainability as companies come under growing pressure from NGOs to take more action in this area.

The dance of the ‘non-market’ of politics, NGOs, and the media – where business intersects society – is fundamentally different from the market, where business leaders are more familiar with the steps. Strategy, ethics, political science, and psychology intersect in a complex push and pull of ideologies and interests, conflict, and collaboration. Tomorrow’s leaders need to be better choreographers.

Holding separate doctorates in ethics and strategy gives him a unique perspective which enables him to integrate different academic and practical approaches in his work. His PhD in strategy and management from INSEAD centered on non-market strategy and provides the foundations for his ongoing work on NGO-corporate relations, while his PhD in analytic philosophy from the University of California focused on ethics, ontology, and epistemology and underpins his current interest in ethical questions around the roles and responsibilities of leaders and corporations. He also specializes in race-to-the-top strategies, new capitalism based on governance changes, cross-sectoral ecosystem business models, and personal leadership.

Yaziji helps board members, senior leaders, and organizations sharpen their thinking and develop solutions for working with non-market stakeholders such as media, NGOs, politicians, and regulators. He is a board member, trustee, adviser, and executive teacher for several Fortune 500 companies (e.g., Microsoft, Shell, PepsiCo, Ericsson, PwC, Lufthansa, Sumitomo, Bosch, Vestas, NTT, Munich Re, Hydro, Grundfos, Maersk, Bunge Alimentos, Holcim) and for organizations such as the Red Cross, the University of California, and the World Economic Forum. He is currently working on a research agenda on sustainability with Capgemini.

He teaches on IMD’s Leading Sustainable Business Transformation program and was previously Director of the IMD Corporate Sustainability Management Center and the architect of a partnership between the school and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).

He has been published in academic and managerial journals such as Harvard Business Review, and was one of the earlier management school professors to give a TED Talk. In his 2012 talk Rethinking the structure of corporations, he argued that existing corporate structures were no longer optimally suited to the needs of society – or of the corporations themselves.

Yaziji’s book NGOs and Corporations: Conflict and Collaboration won praise from NestlĂ© Chairman Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, former Unilever Chairman and CEO Antony Burgmans, Anglo-American Chairman Mark Moody-Stuart, and PepsiCo Vice-Chairman Michael D White.

He joined IMD in 2004 from INSEAD where, as well as completing his second PhD, he was the founding director of the school’s Business and Society Forum and lectured on the MBA program. An American and Swiss national, he has spent most of his life as an expat global citizen, having lived in Italy, France, Saudi Arabia, Switzerland, and the United States.

Selected publications
Article
Looking for opportunity in the midst of crisis
Most crises create longer-term opportunities as well as threats because they produce rapid, sustained shifts in organizations’ external and internal environments.
Published 22 May 2020
Developing unique business models: Going beyond services/solutions
Article
Developing unique business models: Going beyond services/solutions
“If I hear the call to ‘innovate’ one more time...” “Innovate! Innovate! Innovate!” It’s become a numbing mantra. Your company strives to innovate and differentiate, but do you have a sneaking susp...
Published 28 May 2013
Article
The role of ideological radicalism and resource homogeneity in social movement organization campaigns against corporations
There is growing interest in the interactions among different sectors of civil society and the distinct organizational forms—both formal and informal—that occupy and transcend them. At the same tim...
Published 1 June 2013
Article
Corporate-NGO collaboration: Co-creating new business models for developing markets
Multinational enterprises (MNEs) face a range of challenges when entering developing countries, including the need to adapt their business models to local markets' cultural, economic, institutional...
Published 31 May 2010
Book
NGOs and corporations: Conflict and collaboration
We live in a period marked by the ascendency of corporations. At the same time, the number of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) - such as Amnesty International, CARE, Greenpeace, Oxfam, Save th...
Published 26 March 2009
Article
Time to rethink capitalism?
The article refers to the logic of capitalism that supports shareholder value maximization and focuses on the laborist governance structure where labor becomes the stakeholder and is the risk-taker...
Published 1 November 2008
Article
Turning Gadflies into allies
Multinational companies are the driving force behind globalization, but they are also the source of many of its most painful consequences, including currency crises, cross-border pollution, and ove...
Published 1 February 2004
Article
Toward a theory of social risk: Antecedents of normative delegitimation
This paper introduces the concept of normative delegitimation - the process by which an organization's normative legitimacy is diminished through challenges by outside organizations. I frame the ph...
Published 1 February 2005
Academic publications
Article
The role of ideological radicalism and resource homogeneity in social movement organization campaigns against corporations
There is growing interest in the interactions among different sectors of civil society and the distinct organizational forms—both formal and informal—that occupy and transcend them. At the same tim...
Published 1 June 2013
Article
Toward a theory of social risk: Antecedents of normative delegitimation
This paper introduces the concept of normative delegitimation - the process by which an organization's normative legitimacy is diminished through challenges by outside organizations. I frame the ph...
Published 1 February 2005
Insight for Executives
Everyone loves a win-win story but it’s time to get real 
Article
Everyone loves a win-win story but it’s time to get real 
Welcome to the Iconoclast, the first in a series of columns intended to challenge the status quo. Not always giving answers, not always right, but smartly challenging our own assumptions, actions, ...
Published 12 May 2022
Report
Introducing an Air Ticket Tax in Switzerland: Estimated effects on demand
New assessments of the real climate impact of Swiss aviation by the Swiss Academy of Natural Sciences show that it is 50% higher than in earlier estimates. As a consequence, air travel is now recog...
Published 3 June 2021
Article
Looking for opportunity in the midst of crisis
Most crises create longer-term opportunities as well as threats because they produce rapid, sustained shifts in organizations’ external and internal environments.
Published 22 May 2020
Article
How economies can survive a period of ‘suspended animation’ to deal with coronavirus
As coronavirus spreads across the world, politicians are confusing the current economic situation with a recession. The current decline in production and employment is not due to declining demand o...
Published 6 April 2020
Developing unique business models: Going beyond services/solutions
Article
Developing unique business models: Going beyond services/solutions
“If I hear the call to ‘innovate’ one more time...” “Innovate! Innovate! Innovate!” It’s become a numbing mantra. Your company strives to innovate and differentiate, but do you have a sneaking susp...
Published 21 May 2013
Article
How to deal with collateral damage of capitalism
Two truths underpin the dilemma of capitalism: while it remains the greatest source of wealth creation ever developed, its collateral damage is increasingly alarming and unsustainable.Š No other ec...
Published 7 March 2013
Going forward with tomorrow’s sustainability approach
Article
Going forward with tomorrow’s sustainability approach
The notion of sustainability-as-less –fewer people, resources and production together with less consumption and pollution – is actually not enough.©On one hand, we absolutely need to do all of thes...
Published 10 June 2011
Article
Training your executives in sociology, diplomacy or political science?
Take a quick mental tally of the training of the C-office executives in your organisation, or at the country-head level. How many of them have technical or business training? Now how many of them h...
Published 23 February 2011
Article
Os ares da alteração climåtica
Amudança climĂĄtica Ă©, possivelmente a maior ameaça que a humanidade teve de enfrentar. As consequĂȘncias jĂĄ estĂŁo sendo sentidas nos negĂłcios, e, por conseguinte, aumentarĂĄ o seu impacto social, pol...
Published 17 January 2010
Article
Climat: Sortir vainqueur contre vents et marées
Le changement climatique est sans doute la pire menace laquelle l'humanité ait jamais confronte. Ses conséquencesŠse font déjà ressentir sur l'économie, et ses impacts sociaux, politiques et éonomi...
Published 25 November 2009
Article
Kapital ist austauschbar, Menschen nicht
Wirtschaftsordnung: wenn Kapitalismus bedeuted, dass die Kapitaleigner den grössten Teil der Wertschöpfung abzweigen, ist seine Zeit unwiderruflich abgelaufen. Wissen und Arbeit sorgen heute fĂŒr me...
Published 1 December 2008
Article
Shaping the regulatory environment: Why those who don't do politics get done
Knowing what regulatory changes are coming is often crucial in making strategic decisions. How does one know what the regulatory future holds?ŠWhile the chance of anticipating each and every detail...
Published 12 November 2008
Article
Time to rethink capitalism?
The article refers to the logic of capitalism that supports shareholder value maximization and focuses on the laborist governance structure where labor becomes the stakeholder and is the risk-taker...
Published 1 November 2008
Article
Glaxo: Ce qu'il en coûte de mépriser les ONG
Lorsqu'une multinationale devient la cible des ONG, il est souvent trop tard pour réagir. GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) en a fait l'amÚre expérience dans l'affaire du sida en Afrique du Sud.
Published 1 August 2006
Article
Profiting from building global standards
Conflicting technical standards are ubiquitous: CDs and DVDs, telephony systems, computer operating systems, electronic file formats. As the rate of technological innovation continues to accelerate...
Published 25 October 2005
Article
Profiting from building global standards
Conflicting technical standards are ubiquitous: CDs and DVDs, telephony systems, computer operating systems, electronic file formats. As the rate of technological innovation continues to accelerate...
Published 7 October 2005
Article
Setting standards is a precarious business
Conflicting technical standards are ubiquitous: CDs and DVDs, telephony systems, computer operating systems, electronic file formats. As the rate of technological innovation continues to accelerate...
Published 24 June 2005
Article
Turning Gadflies into allies
Multinational companies are the driving force behind globalization, but they are also the source of many of its most painful consequences, including currency crises, cross-border pollution, and ove...
Published 1 February 2004