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Global Network for Advanced Management

The Global Network for Advanced Management (GNAM) includes 31 leading business schools from diverse regions, countries, cultures, and economies in different phases of development. Contributors from across this network offer perspectives on solutions to problems that are typically complex and global below.

Impact Inclusion in Latin America: Generating a Positive Impact on Societies Through Market Mechanisms

26 May 2022 • by EGADE Business School, Tecnológico de Monterrey

in countries where governments are weak and not capable of providing social services, the use of markets to build inclusive societies is becoming a common practice that can present an alternative for building a sustainable future in the region

Inclusion can be seen as a right or as the outcome of initiatives that have a positive impact on excluded populations. In Latin America and around the world, nonprofit organizations (NPOs) have mostly adopted a political role to claim the right of excluded groups to access certain rights, such as social justice, living in a clean environment, among others, to directly increase their life quality. However, this article argues that the latter perspective, which we call impact inclusion, has gained traction in practice because it offers a more contextualized approach by centrally considering market mechanisms to address the challenges of inclusion.

To explore this issue in relation to the challenges in Latin America, we published the chapter “Latin American Context: The Challenge of Managing Advocacy and Impact Inclusion”, included in the Routledge Companion to Nonprofit Management, co-authored with Urs Jäger, from INCAE Business School in Costa Rica and executive director of VIVA Idea, and Roberto Gutiérrez, professor at Universidad de los Andes in Colombia.

In line with development institutions, we believe that inclusion is a key challenge for the functioning of societies. However, inclusion has not been widely addressed since conventional research has focused on countries in the developed world, where the emergence of states and markets over the centuries gave rise to functioning democratic institutions that embrace marginalized groups.

A Historical Latin American Perspective

The emergence of organized civil society in European countries differs from Latin American history, where democracies are weak or non-functioning and exclude large parts of the population from societal benefits granted by the state, such as decent pensions, health insurance, unemployment insurance, health services, etc. The development of markets and democratic institutions was far from ideal because, in most of the region, the Creole families that led the independence processes imposed European institutional structures, reproducing the colonial order that hindered the emergence of the public spaces and democratic cultures that could bring about the inclusion of diverse groups of society. Consequently, the constitutional laws of Latin American countries were not promulgated in relation to contextual social needs, but simply copied European and North American standards and laws. This created systems with  weak formal institutional support that failed to consider the diversity of existing groups, thereby excluding a large part of the actors from the development and modernization process. At present, numerous individuals and groups are still excluded from formal institutional mechanisms—for example, people living in poverty and informality in urban contexts and indigenous communities living in rural areas.

NPOs emerged at the beginning of the 16th century to counteract the process of the Spanish elites accumulating wealth and power. Their initial activities were based on charity, mainly through missionaries from the Catholic Church. The independence movements in the 19th century produced a shift in the provision of social services, in part, from the church to governments. At that point, the NPOs sought to empower the poor through education and financial aid. But the arrival of the Mexican Revolution (1910 to 1920) was the first turning point in the politicization of NPOs, reclaiming inclusion as a political right that should be delivered by the state. Various social movements proposed structures to increase the political participation of the excluded actors.

During the 1960s, NPOs in many Latin American countries contributed to an alternative political discourse to the elite model. Cooperatives subsequently underwent a boom, as governments and the Catholic Church set up programs to foster development and incorporate the poor who were outside the formal system into the workforce. However, in many cases, governments and the economic elites sought to thwart the emergence of NPOs that advocated for political inclusion in urban and rural areas.

In the 1970s, during the military dictatorships in Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, and Uruguay, cooperatives were suppressed, eliminated, or controlled by popular movements. They then began to organize social protests, obtaining the support of foreign organizations to defend human rights, citizen participation, and the creation of opposition movements. Despite the heterogeneous nature of NPOs, their common goal of fighting for democracy brought many of them together.

The Evolution Toward Impact Inclusion to Include Excluded Actors Through Market Mechanisms

By the 1990s, when the majority of the authoritarian regimes in the region had come to an end, the Latin American political context reflected a huge diversity of trends. At the World Summit for Social Development, held in Copenhagen in 1995, participants proposed that NPOs should assume state responsibilities to cover basic needs. Many Latin American NPOs toned down their revolutionary nature to adapt to an approach similar to that of the private sector, receiving support from all sides of the political spectrum. As public spending decreased, outsourcing to NPOs for the implementation of social programs increased. This reliance has diminished the critical positions of NPOs. In fact, over the past three decades, NPOs have been working on gender, educational, cultural, health, productive, economic, and environmental inclusion.

However, the inefficiency of Latin American governments in offering social services, such as decent pensions or unemployment insurance, reinforces the challenge of assuming an impact inclusion role and moving on from the characteristic activist perspective of previous decades. As a result of the inefficiencies of formal government institutions, social welfare provision became a combination of a security structure that grants benefits to people linked to productive activities, and a welfare structure divided between government organizations and NPOs. The actions of several governments in the region have, in many cases, generated a patron-client relationship between the state and NPOs with social economy orientations regarding their social demands.

Therefore, the term social entrepreneurship brought to the discussion of inclusion a more contextualized vision of a government that is incapable of solving inclusion challenges in the region. We call this “impact inclusion,” which is related to the participation of the private sector in discussions and actions regarding well-being, public goods, and social impact. The transformation of corporations into impact enterprises is taking place without a legal framework. Enterprises that promote inclusion usually arise from expanding into a new market by including in their value chain excluded actors, such as entrepreneurs living in poverty or indigenous communities, or from offering a new product to low-income markets. This is in line with one of the region’s enormous challenges: achieving the inclusion of informal actors, such as small businesses, self-employed workers, and unregistered micro-enterprises. Roughly 130 million Latin Americans have an informal non-agricultural job (the number would be much higher if agricultural jobs were considered).

Impact inclusion could leave informality in the past as an unresolved challenge in the region, by integrating it into the current structures. For instance, in mining, many actors are not included in the strategic decisions and benefits of this industry. Market collaborations could help to shift from conflict to collaboration between multinational corporations and the communities in which they operate. Something similar occurs in the food industry. For example, many multinational companies buy organic fruit and vegetables from indigenous communities given their high quality, which stems from ancestral practices that respect nature. This means that the market could enable a horizontal relationship between the parties, and the informal and excluded actor engages with the formal structures of societies.

What Do We Need to Learn to Follow the Impact Inclusion Paradigm?

In a context like Latin America, where governments have been incapable of providing sufficient social benefits to eliminate poverty and guarantee rights, the activist perspective of inclusion loses ground. There is no point in asking for rights if the state is not empowered nor efficient to deliver them. Latin American constitutions and legislations are full of rights in the formality of the written word, but that are not fulfilled in practice. Many people contend that we need state modernization processes. The problem is that they take decades, even when successful.

A perspective that invites us to act is that of impact inclusion through market mechanisms, which this article defends. For this we need both NPOs and companies that are capable of carrying out social and environmental impact initiatives through market mechanisms. So far, markets have failed to do this, leading many people to believe that they are to blame for the current situation of climate change and social injustice.

A relevant question, in this sense, would be: How can we devise markets so that they value social justice and nature? How can we manage to devise sustainable development from markets, which are ultimately the most efficient valuation mechanism that human beings have invented? Many companies and startups focus on answering this question through action. For example, in Mexico, Iluméxico is a company that provides solar energy to excluded rural communities, while Altitude is a firm that integrates women living in poverty into the textile industry’s value chain.

In countries where government organizations are weak but have the political will to provide social services, public-private partnerships appear to be an effective option. But in countries where governments are not even capable of doing that, the use of markets to build inclusive societies is becoming a common practice that can present an alternative for building a sustainable future in the region

‘20 years on, It’s Clear that the Euro Has Been a Force for Good’

8 April 2022 • by IMD

The common currency was a bold experiment, but there can be no doubt that its success has brought prosperity and stability to all who signed up.

I still remember as vividly and if it were yesterday a lunch conversation with my colleagues at the Yale School of Management in late 2001. It was just  a few months before the euro was introduced as the common currency of 12 European countries. The changeover rate between the new currency and the legacy currencies of these countries had already been fixed, on 1 January, 1999, and by then the EUR-USD exchange rate was about 0.85, meaning you would receive 0.85 USD per euro. Laughter rocked the table when someone entertained the hypothesis that one day there would be parity between the two currencies.

But by July 2002, the euro was already more expensive than the dollar. The relative price of both currencies is by no means an indication of which one dominates. Still, it remains interesting to recall the original skepticism with which the new currency was welcomed, especially outside of the euro area.

We are, today, living through the most difficult times in Europe since 1945. How different might history have panned out if Ukraine had been a member of the EU and had it adopted the euro? Perhaps it is also useful to reflect on the reasons why the country’s accession to the EU and the euro is only being considered now that Ukraine has been invaded by Russia. We must learn from the experience of other euro members as we imagine the best possible scenario for a future Ukraine.

I have written before about how the euro is one of the greatest experiments in our financial history. Let me add now, in 2022 – the 20th anniversary of its introduction – that there are clear positive results of this experiment.

Most notably, without the euro, the economic conditions of all euro members would today be much worse, in general terms.

Remember that in 1999, the monetary conditions of Europe were characterized by a set of strong currencies – particularly the German mark – in heavily exporting countries, and weak currencies in peripheral, importing ones. The Italian lira had been devalued 13 times against the German mark between 1979 and 1992 within the European Monetary System (EMS) introduced in 1979.

In both cases, realignment was necessary because expensive currencies damage exporting economies, and weak currencies damage importing ones. In that sense, the European Union was a natural candidate for a common currency. It allowed Germany to gain a profitable market for its cars, while making it easy for Spaniards and Greeks to offer their services to other European countries and to buy their products.

If we look back and measure the impact that two decades of the common currency has had on European citizens and companies, we can identify five major trends:

1. Price increases

I illustrated the early inflationary impact of the changeover in my working paper “Separated by A Common Currency: Evidence from the Euro Changeover.” This impact was a novel and interesting psychological effect of introducing a new currency with a difficult conversion for some legacy currencies, such as the peseta and the lira. My research, which I carried out with the late Augusto Rupérez Micola, provided evidence of the significant price increases that happened as a result of rounding (typically up) to the closest cent. For instance, before 1999 the normal price for a newspaper in Spain was 100 pesetas (the equivalent to 0.602 euros after changeover). Prices rapidly increased to one euro in less than five years.

2. Lower costs of capital

This early impact of the euro overshadowed the important effects of the single currency at a corporate level: by reducing currency risk and increasing the availability of funds, the euro significantly reduced firms’ costs of capital. A lower cost of capital has direct and indirect effects.

Directly, when capital is cheaper, companies are worth more. That is why euro-area stock markets displayed such a strong performance in the years following 2002. By 2007, both the Italian and Spanish stock markets had outperformed their German and US counterparts. With the emergence and dominance of digital platforms since then, this is no longer the case. Yet the original push to valuations caused by the euro was an important driver of capital attraction for some countries, especially those that had weaker currencies before the euro.

As for indirect effects of the reduction in firms’ cost of capital, my research has also shown that ­­­a very important consequence of the euro, especially prior to the 2008 crisis, was a significant increase in corporate investment. As a result, European companies have caught up with those from the US and China.

3. Integrated stock markets

What about the “strong-currency” countries? Even without taking into account the reduction in currency risk that using the euro implies for these countries (which is, in any case, small), its very introduction has integrated European capital markets in such a way that a German company, say, could tap investors in France or in Italy.

That is to say, the euro facilitated the integration of stock exchanges. Euronext, for example, was founded in 2000 by the merger of the Amsterdam, Paris and Brussels exchanges. To date, markets in Lisbon, Dublin, Milan and Oslo have also been integrated within it.

4. Reduced reliance on bank loans

For all countries in the Euroland, the period after 2000 has been characterized by an increase in debt financing, both at the corporate and country levels. This is good news because European institutions were previously more reliant than their US counterparts on bank loans as opposed to corporate debt – the cheaper option. The development of European debt markets is a legacy of the euro.

5. More capital, more country competitiveness

The cost-of-capital effect for companies can also be extended to countries. Not surprisingly, the 2009 European debt crisis was caused by excessive borrowing on the part of some countries. Nevertheless, the increase in capital availability it engendered facilitated domestic investments in education, infrastructure and health, thus driving the competitiveness of euro-area country members. Today, we could not explain the impressive quality of transport infrastructure in Southern and Eastern European countries without referring to the role of the European Central Bank and the euro, in terms of financing.

The EU is an imperfect union, it regularly confronts crises ranging from populism and refugee movement to debt and unemployment. But had it not been for the euro, these would have been far worse. Imagine how Russia might entertain treating Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia if they were not members of the EU and of the euro? Would Russia have invaded a member of the eurozone?

Now, more than ever, those countries on the eurozone’s periphery – which are still in the early process of euro adoption – must accelerate their integration. The potential benefits of the currency are today even greater than what they were for early members. It has become paramount that Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic and other European countries accelerate their convergence process because a euro that spreads wider will make Europe safer and more stable economically.

This article originally appeared on I by IMD.

The Great Resignation Wave is Equally Frustrating for Employers, If Not More

17 March 2022 • by National University of Singapore Business School

In the wake of the pandemic, organizations need to discover new ways of thinking and working. NUS Senior Lecturer Dr. Wu Pei Chuan explains.


Two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, employees are getting more frustrated at work, fueling the great resignation wave. So are employers. Besides managing costs and profits, some employers have tried to care more for their employees during this difficult period, but still, see a flurry of resignations. The employers’ frustration could be due to a mismatch of changing expectations.

Employers in Action  

Some companies have managed better. In Oracle’s recent study, 77% of the Singaporean respondents said their employers were more concerned about their mental health now as compared to the pre-pandemic period.

One example is medical technology firm Medtronic Asia Pacific, which initiated virtual family reunion programs to support foreign employees. Besides up-skilling workers, they also introduced financial incentives to recognize employees’ efforts.

AstraZeneca Singapore launched initiatives such as “Fuel up” days, recovery time, and AxerciseZ to free employees from meetings and encourage physical exercise. They also set up platforms to identify signs of mental health issues and created an employee assistance program to help employees take better care of their mental well-being.

At speciality chemicals company Infineum, a global network of 30 volunteer Wellbeing Champions was set up in April 2020 to raise awareness about mental health and well-being at work. Besides accessing an online Global Wellbeing Hub that offers digital tools for well-being, employees are also encouraged to exercise in small groups (following the government’s COVID-19 protocols) and take stretches while working at home.

Naomi Chua (TREX [Talent, Rewards, Employee Experience] partner) at Infineum Singapore, said, “Leaders are empowered to discuss with their team members about hybrid work arrangement and decide what works best for their team.”

At the top level, some leaders have shared their well-being struggles. When leaders walk the talk, it signals to employees that “it’s OK to not be OK.” This creates trust between leaders and employees.

When Nomura Singapore’s CEO Kelvin Ho openly shared his stress and anxiety regarding work-from-home during the lock-down period in Singapore, his team opened up with their personal frustrations.

When a leader like 3M’s Kevin McGuigan removed four hours (5 p.m. to 9 p.m.) from his daily working schedule (originally 8 a.m. to midnight), the company’s employees felt safe to look after their work-life balance and wellness. Showing vulnerability can make leaders appear more authentic and relatable, which helps them connect better with frontline employees.

However, a recent study showed that leaders find it challenging and exhausting to do regular well-being check-ins as demanded by their employees. Some simply do not have the skills to do so.

Over the past 12 months, nearly half of company leaders worldwide found it difficult to manage people in general (46%) and support team members’ issues related to career development (48%). They also found it challenging to manage onboarding new team members (55%), and did not find it easy to notify about employees’ problems in mental well-being (53%) and burnout (51%).

Clearly, leaders are not equipped with the skills to handle incidents related to work-life balance. As a result, only 50% of the workforce gave their leaders a “meet expectation” performance rating.

It is thus not surprising that the Qualtrics 2022 Employee Experience Trends found a rise in leaders’ resignations, too. How to support exhausted leaders with the right tools to handle well-being issues is among the top concerns for companies to ponder.

Great Resignation Leads to Great Hiring and Caring

A recent study shows that the trend of high employee turnover will continue in 2022, citing the top three reasons as reprioritizing career aspirations (30%), lack of career advancement (24%), and pay and benefits (23%).

The great resignation wave induces a further reshuffling of the workforce. Workforce burnout leads to resignation and reprioritizing. It also propels employers to be more caring through holistic and customized benefits. To attract and retain talent, employers have planned to adjust salaries for employees in 2022. Three out of four Singapore firms reportedly leveraged mid-year pay adjustments (base pay adjustment, retention bonuses, etc.) in 2021 to retain targeted employees.

However, employees’ expectations have changed. Oracle’s global study showed 92% of the respondents said they had redefined success since the start of the pandemic, prioritizing work-life balance, flexibility, and mental health. In the meantime, 90% of employees are ready to make a career move and many consider professional development as their top consideration.

Adjusting pay is merely meeting the baseline of talent attraction and retention. What’s more pertinent would be career-related issues, as employees from the frontline to senior leaders are moving across organizations.

Employers’ Challenge in Up-skilling Workers

The great resignation wave also revealed the pertinent need to up-skill workers.

Due to border controls, the local labor market has tightened, despite its gradual recovery. Labor shortages and skill mismatches hamper mature workers’ employment prospects. Professionals are also threatened by the outsourcing of remote work and need to brush up their skillsets. DBS reckoned the biggest challenge for the bank is to re-skill and up-skill their entire workforce to be future-ready.

Employees want to change but have no direction. Oracle’s global study showed 90% of Singaporean respondents wish to leverage robotic technology to support their career development needs and identify needed skillsets.

One of the employers’ bigger challenges is to show employees the links between skills mapping, learning pathways, and career growth.

They could prioritize the internal mobility of employees who are keen to learn new skills and stay on longer at the company. With data, they could also personalize the career growth journey for employees as well as build a learning community.

In the wake of the pandemic, organizations need to discover new ways of thinking and working. It’s like rowing a boat against the currents—if you don’t move ahead, you will be forced to retreat.

The article is an abridged version of the one first published in CNA and BIZBeat.

How Big Data Gives Insight Into Investor Uncertainty

24 January 2022 • by HEC Paris

Investor uncertainty plays a key role in economics, affecting asset prices and investment decisions. Getting a useful measure can be important to financial professionals and also government actors, to establish monetary policy. An HEC Paris researcher and two economists of the U.S. Federal Reserve’s Board of Governors found a new way to gauge uncertainty: using data on internet clicks related to specific news.

In the wake of the 2008 recession, the U.S. Federal Reserve began slashing interest rates to almost zero to stimulate the economy, and didn’t reverse its course for seven years. At the end of 2015, there was a great deal of speculation in financial markets about what the Fed would do. The economy had been growing, so many investors believed that the central bank would end its stimulus program. Indeed, the November 2015 jobs report confirmed a strengthening in the U.S. labor market and Fed Chair Janet Yellen announced a rate hike in December. But that was not before months of investor unrest and uncertainty.

Given how investor uncertainty can affect markets, and how an understanding of it can help fix asset prices and guide policy, we sought to establish a reliable measure of investor uncertainty and how this measure might relate to asset prices.

The U.S. Labor Report and Treasury Bonds

An understanding of investor uncertainty is important for several reasons. When there is greater uncertainty before a financial announcement, investors have a stronger reaction once the announcement is made. This can have a destabilizing effect on markets, therefore policymakers may want to avoid making aggressive moves in such an environment. In addition, there is evidence that firms cut their investments in uncertain times. And uncertainty also has a relation to the value of financial assets.

We took a unique approach to measuring uncertainty, by examining internet click data, using investor interest in specific information: Every month the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics announces the nonfarm payroll data for the previous month (a report on employment in goods, construction and manufacturing companies). Financial professionals use this as a gauge of the labor market, and consequently as a predictor of the Fed’s actions. If there is greater unemployment than expected, the Fed might be expected to cut interest rates, and vice versa. 

Nonfarm payroll announcements take place at 8:30 a.m. on the first Friday of every month. Among all macroeconomic announcements, they have the biggest impact on U.S. Treasury bond yields. For this reason, we looked at news searches for nonfarm payroll data information, and how that might relate to Treasury prices.

Bitly Clicks as a Measure of Uncertainty

Bitly is a company that provides short URL links (SURLs) and a readership tracking system. SURLs are abridged versions of internet addresses (URLs). They are often created by journalists or news agencies to disseminate their articles, and then used by journalists and investors to share these articles. Using our data set of 70 million Bitly links created between 2012 and 2018, we measured investors' demand for information by counting clicks by individuals on news articles about nonfarm payroll.

We found that ultimately investor uncertainty and their interest in nonfarm payroll news (and other important macroeconomic announcements) are positively correlated, including, for example, before the 2015 Fed rate hike. In that instance, we saw a strong spike in demand for information before the announcement. One implication is that investors' demand for information ahead of a news announcement is predictive of a stronger reaction of asset prices to news. Bearing this out, in our tests, the volatility of U.S. Treasury yields more than doubled when information demand for nonfarm payroll news was high before news releases. 

Importantly, we found that information demand is one of the few ways of predicting the sensitivity of U.S. Treasury yields to news, making Bitly data a potentially useful tool for financial professionals. Google Trends, for example, is a less reliable indicator of investor uncertainty about future interest rates than our measure of information demand.

Based on an interview with Thierry Foucault and his article “ Demand for Information, Uncertainty and the Response of U.S. Treasury Securities to News.pdf (958.3 KB) ", co-written with Hedi Benamar (senior economist at the Global Capital Markets section of the Division of International Finance and member of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, formerly Ph.D. student at HEC Paris) and Clara Vega (chief of the Risk Analysis Section, Research, and Statistics Division of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (FED)), published in the Review of Financial Studies in 2021.

This article originally appeared on Knowledge@HEC.

Coming Home to the Humanities

27 September 2021 • by IE Business School

María-Eugenia Marín considers how the humanities, which have been at the heart of education for millennia, are needed more than ever to help us understand the world around us with critical thinking and a human touch.

“It is in Apple’s DNA that technology alone is not enough—it’s technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the results that make our heart sing.”

― Steve Jobs ―

The humanities play a pivotal role in the evolution of society. History, philosophy, language, art, literature, and religion have molded cultures across time—continuously reshaping and transforming the way we live and experience the world—and will continue to do so far into the future. It is when we delve deeply into the humanities that we learn how to think critically and creatively, to ask questions and search for meaning, to express and reflect on feelings and emotions. They reveal to us where we have come from and shed light on where we are going. And in this way, the humanities serve as an ever-expanding intellectual foundation that can create an opening for engaged citizens who have a global and ethical mindset.

Unlike the sciences, which are fact-driven and discipline-specific, the humanities are speculative and unpredictable. They include an intricate web of disciplines that come together to help us understand the multiple dimensions of the human experience. The humanities lend context and meaning to the sciences. This is true not only for the formal natural and life sciences, but also for the social and management sciences. The medical field must train healthcare professionals in the latest scientific knowledge and also provide them with a deep understanding of the human condition. Likewise, business leaders must master the technical tools of doing business while at the same time appreciate the socio-political, economic, and cultural context of where and with whom they operate. If we think about the sciences as a black and white photograph in desperate need of color, the humanities are the reds, the blues, the greens, and the yellows that bring that photograph to life.

The humanities have been at the heart of education ever since the ancient Greeks first applied them to educate their citizens. Socrates, the father of Western philosophy, believed that self-examination using critical thought, asking questions, and nurturing curiosity and a sense of wonder were at the root of acquiring wisdom. In early modern universities dating back to 14th- and 15th-century Europe, humanism studies – studia humanitatis – transformed the curriculum and scholarship of the Middle Ages. Disciplines such as medicine, law, theology, mathematics, physics, and astronomy began to incorporate humanities by emphasizing critical thinking through translation, interpretation, and a broader reflection of classical texts that gave birth to new ideas. Teaching the art of speaking and writing with eloquence, the study of poetry and ethics, and the principles of self-knowledge and self-examination also formed part of this newly incorporated humanities curriculum. The critical mindset imparted by humanism served as a catalyst for changes in universities that led to a more creative university climate in 15th century Europe. This process set the foundation for what we today call the Humanities. Important historical figures such as Andreas Vesalius, Galileo Galilei, and Martin Luther were all products of a humanist education.

If the humanities have formed a key and integral part of teaching and learning for more than seven centuries, why are they so undervalued in higher education today? The number of humanities majors in U.S. universities has been in continuous decline for the last 40 years, being replaced in the last decade by a growing number of STEM students. The COVID-19 pandemic has compounded this situation by putting many small colleges, the majority of them liberal arts colleges, in a state of financial upheaval. Sadly, some liberal arts institutions have even had to shut their doors.

Some say that the financial crisis of 2008 turned students away from the humanities in fear of not finding a solid job; others say that the growing cost of education in the US is steering students into fields that offer a higher return on their investment upon graduation. Moreover, the rapid pace of globalization anchored on innovation and technology has shifted education to be STEM-focused. Subjects emphasizing science, technology, engineering, and mathematics have come to overshadow the humanities.

There are sparks of hope, however. Just like what occurred in 15th-century European universities when humanism studies began to be integrated into a wide variety of classical fields, we are slowly beginning to see a greater integration of the humanities in several non-humanities fields. For example, the discipline of “medical humanities” is growing rapidly and argues that that the arts and humanities, through the study of culture, history, ethics, and behavior, “humanize” healthcare as well as provide tools by which to deconstruct, critique, and influence medical practices and priorities.

Over the last eight years, all graduating medical students in Scotland have been given a copy of Tools of the Trade, a pocket-sized book of poems written to inspire young doctors to not forget that behind the diseases there are real people with real human needs like compassion and empathy. In the book’s foreword, Gavin Francis writes “there’s a great deal of science in medicine – science allied with a healthy dose of human kindness.”

We are also seeing the integration of the humanities in the management sciences and even in the field of engineering. Business today is more than just understanding marketing, finance, operations, and other core areas; it is about human behavior, ethics, cultural differences, the global socio-political climate, as well as the need for reflective and empathic leadership, to list only a few. Similarly, engineering and the humanities have traditionally not been close friends, but there is also growing awareness that engineers need humanities training in subjects like ethics, philosophy, culture, history of technology, and design and critical thinking skills. According to American civil engineer Nathan W. Dougherty, “the ideal engineer is a composite… He is not a scientist, he is not a mathematician, he is not a sociologist or a writer; he may use the knowledge and techniques of any or all of these disciplines in solving engineering problems.” Of course, since Dougherty’s lifetime, many more women have entered the field.

Thanks to our constantly changing technology-focused world, the humanities are needed in our classrooms now more than ever, to help us make sense of this world with balance, perspective, and most importantly, humaneness. The humanities need to be an essential part of a well-rounded education, one that starts in primary school and continues throughout a person’s life. Education is a personal journey and the humanities light our way. We are now confronting major global challenges that, yes, require global solutions. The current health crisis has clearly shown this. We must draw from the humanities to find inspiration and purpose and train a future generation of global reflective leaders that understand the complexities and inter-connectedness of the world we live in. Knowledge without critical reflection is nothing but an empty word.

Weak Links in the Supply Chain

10 September 2021 • by IE Business School

When the Covid-19 pandemic struck the vast majority of companies and institutions were simply not ready for it, despite the multiple warning signs that began months prior.

What started as a disruption to supply chains in medical products and equipment at the beginning of 2020 has progressively expanded into all industries to a level that now the chip scarcity has forced the automobile industry worldwide to stall or temporarily idle production.

The severity of the disruption is such that in anticipation of what might come later, on February 24th 2021, the US President signed an Executive Order to review supply chain risks of high-priority industries to avoid future shortages of products affecting strategic areas of defense, communications, technology, food, and public health. In the light of the severity of the crises, the Biden administration is even considering subsidizing semiconductor manufacturing facilities. Europe has not been any luckier. The EU is studying the possibility of creating semiconductors to reduce dependence on Asia, aiming at 20% of the world’s production by 2030.

However, the disruption goes far beyond the car manufacturers, beyond affecting personal computers, electronics, home appliances, and again threatening medical equipment suppliers. Learning from the supply chain difficulties that companies faced during the hardest time of the pandemic and the still visible consequences, is key in preparing for the numerous vulnerabilities of complex global supply chains. There are five areas to pay attention to adjust quickly to the volatile market conditions.

The Importance of a Flexible Supply Chain

During the pandemic, many companies earned the hard way the importance of a flexibly designed supply chain. By deploying responsive capabilities, production can be adapted to a sudden demand fluctuation, customization needs, or changes in product design. For example, a modular production approach at the design, organizational, and manufacturing level can avoid the failure of one part affecting the entire system. By standardizing components and the interfaces between components, product design can embed coordination and avoid coupling while reducing cost and improving response time. This is a much-needed strategy for companies that rely on single sourcing for key components or with main suppliers that are concentrated in a particular geographical area.

There are multiple examples of successful flexibility practices that were in response to Covid-19. With the aid of digital tools, Ford Motors was able to quickly repurpose one of their UK engine production facility to produce medical ventilators. This required the company to both expand its already existing supply chain and to go through the re-certification process for the new product design. The luxury conglomerate LVMH reconfigured its perfume production lines in France and started to manufacture hand gel in just 72 hours, while Nike rerouted products that were aimed at brick-and-mortar stores to e-commerce channels.

However, companies also found there is a limit to flexibility. Managing a large variety of options comes with its own set of difficulties, for example adjusting to demand of different product options when that demand becomes unbalanced, it is not always possible or it would simply consume too much time. In this situation, companies should consider the trade-offs between product variety and flexibility and limit. This may reduce the company’s offerings but it will help streamline their production facilities, reduce downtime in the logistics chain, and maintain a satisfied customer base. In fact, companies like Procter & Gamble, Mondelez, and Coca-Cola are reevaluating their product complexity by focusing on the most important SKUs and investing in making their supply chain simpler in response to the disruptions suffered by the pandemic.

The Importance of a Revenue Assurance Supply Chain

Rethinking the way supply chains evaluate their suppliers and inventory policies is required discussion that can help in the trade-off between efficiency and resilience. By considering additional variables of sourcing strategies, such as cost of quality, lead times, technological value, and logistics costs, companies can prepare themselves to respond in times when their competitors may struggle. However, companies may need to review inventory policies or sourcing strategies because, although these measures increase the resilience of supply chains, they may do so at the expense of efficiency. Supply chain managers may find compromise in holding an intermediate inventory, especially when there is no alternate supplier, or by securing strategic stocks through pre-arrangements with their main and alternate suppliers.

Kellogg’s, for example, gained market share during the crisis by responding faster than their competitors. The company’s nimble reaction was possible thanks to its inventory holdings of grains  and quick shift to a previously identified local provider of cardboard. While this preparation might have seemed redundant or unnecessary in  quiet times, it  paid out during the pandemic disruption by buying them time to quickly reorganize their supply chain. Some companies are shifting manufacturing steps to more local suppliers. This not only makes supply chains shorter but allows a much faster ramp up in production and delivery times.

The Importance of a Visible Supply Chain

Having a visible supply chain starts by identifying all players involved and determining critical components as well as origin of supply. Traditionally, most companies have limited supply chain mapping to tier-one suppliers, underestimating the impact of a disruption on a tier-2 or tier-3 supplier. During the Covid-19 pandemic, Dun & Bradsteed identified that at least five million companies, including almost all Fortune 1000, had one or more tier-2 and tier-3 suppliers in the affected region of Wuhan. Mapping should not stop with the identification of sub-tier suppliers.

To maximize supply chain performance and decision making, suppliers’ inventory status should be visible in real-time, as should production schedules, shipment information, and any disruptions. Visibility is not only about a deep knowledge of one’s own supply chain, but an understanding of industry competitors and adjacent industries.  Why? Because the long-term success of supply chain depends on a collaborative business ecosystem. For example, during the months of lockdown, gasoline demand decreased and this not only resulted in a sharp fall on gasoline production but on the availability of one of its byproducts: ethanol. Ethanol is a key component in the production of CO2, which is required for the carbonation of soft-drinks and beers. As a result, CO2 suppliers increased their prices by about 25% and some breweries had to go on allocation.

The Importance of Logistics

Having goods manufactured by suppliers is worthless if the product cannot reach consumers.  That’s why it’s essential to also work with the logistics and transportation partners within the supply chain. Covid-19 is an example of a global disruption that impacted the transportation of both components and end-products, with supply chains being impacted by events such as port congestion, border delays, decrease in the recurrent transportation mode capacity, driver shortage, and unprecedented delivery surge. Agreements with strategic logistic partners to secure both capacity and priority can help protect a dexterous strategy during periods of disruption.

Technological and automotive industries are among those that have suffered the most as they rely heavily on air-cargo shipments – a transportation mode that has massively dropped its cargo capacity due to travel bans and unprecedented passenger flights cancellation that have translated in fare increments of up to 220%. Similarly, the drop in demand resulted in less ocean cargo routes and with higher unpredictability. Companies that had the flexibility to change to multimodal alternatives have been able to outperform their competitors. For example, now that the medical emergency has subsided, PPE and other related medical equipment is being transported by train between China and Europe. Lockdown products, such as laptops, fitness equipment, printers, and other electronic goods, have experienced a huge surge in rail transportation because they were not suitable for air transport but were in high and urgent demand. Real-time visibility of what is happening in the transit period, such as tracking time, airport congestion and border closures, can allow companies to dynamically manage the supply chain in order to quickly react and anticipate disruptions like a change in transport modes or a rerouting.

The Importance of Supply Chain Risk Management (SCRM)

Companies with a mature risk management approach are better prepared to respond to disruptions regardless of the depth of the crisis. However, even though many organizations have implemented some sort of SCRM or Business Continuity Plan (BCP) process, few actually understand where the risks truly lie and thus their SCRM is limited to a few reactive measures. A proactive approach to risk management would involve all functions of the supply chain with a dedicated multidisciplinary risk management team. Some of the proactive strategies could include real-time event monitoring and supply chain visibility, multi-sourcing and buffer strategies, investment in manufacturing capacity of critical elements, evaluation of partners based on their SCRM plans, development of solid communication channels, and creation of awareness and transparency of the entire supply chain vulnerabilities. While the existence of a SCRM plan cannot completely avoid the impact of a global crisis like Covid-19, the past reveals that only those companies with mature SCRM plans that combine proactive and reactive measures can overcome the consequences of disruptions in a fast and favorable way.

Beatriz Acero is a postdoctoral researcher at IE Business School.  Elena Revilla is a professor of operations and technology management at IE Business School where she is currently analyzing the integration of knowledge into collaborative supply chains.

This article was originally published on IE Insights, the thought leadership publication of IE University, in June 2021.

Will There Ever be a ’United States of Europe?’ A New Paper from UBC Sauder Weighs in

10 September 2021 • by UBC Sauder School of Business

It was 1849 when author-turned-politician Victor Hugo famously prophesied a “United States of Europe” — a tightly integrated group of nations founded on peace, open trade and shared ideas. In the century that followed, Germany and France went to war three times; in 1946, Winston Churchill repeated the call to “build a kind of United States of Europe."

In 1957, six European countries formed the European Economic Community, and in 1993 the European Union came into force, creating a new level of integration among its member nations.

UBC Sauder School of Business’ Keith Head, the HSBC Professor in Asian Commerce and Professor in the Strategy and Business Economics Division, began tracking European integration in 1998, and his latest paper, titled The United States of Europe: A Gravity Model Evaluation of the Four Freedoms, explores how successful the endeavour has been.

For the study, he and co-author Professor Thierry Mayer, from Sciences Po in Paris, measured the movement of goods, people, services and capital — and looked at how everything from cars to pasta can get in the way.

We recently sat down with Professor Head to learn more about this concept, why it is important and what we can learn from it.

What inspired you to look at the idea of a United States of Europe?

There were papers that talked about the European Union as a failure because it didn’t have a federal government like the United States — but there are other ways to think about whether the European Union has been successful. An obvious one is that it was created to prevent wars, and it has been spectacularly successful at that. If you look at how many times the French, the Germans and the English went to war before the European Union was created, it's a pretty sorry affair. Millions of people died because of that.

The idea of unification was also motivated by a long-running desire to create a gigantic market where people would be able to freely buy goods, and workers and capital could move to wherever they were most employable. So we were really interested in whether that part had been achieved.

How did you go about it?

In 1957, six countries — Belgium, France, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and West Germany — signed the Treaty of Rome, and they expressed their objectives in terms of what they called “the four freedoms”: the movement of people, goods, services and capital. Most of the work in economics has been about movement of goods, because it's where we have the best data, but we felt like it would be a real omission if we didn't also look at what’s happening with people, services and capital, even though they’re more challenging to measure.

We used the latest techniques to measure that rate of progress and present it graphically. In the U.S. they track trucking and trains using something called the Commodity Flow Survey, and it looks at how goods move from state to state. So the idea was to look at the states as if they were countries, and compare them with the European Union to see which is more integrated; then we realized we could apply that to the other freedoms as well. I don't think anybody had ever done that.

What did you find?

We found goods had made a lot of progress, and that the progress has been fairly steady during the entire life of the European Union. There was a big burst of progress when they got rid of their tariffs, but then things slowed because it took a lot of work to integrate trade.

They had to do things like agree on what is the meaning of beer, because in Germany, beer is something that has four ingredients — malt water, barley, and hops. If it has something like rice in it, which Budweiser does, it isn’t beer from their point of view. The Italians have similar views of what pasta is. They said if it's not made with durum semolina, it's not pasta. So you had to sort of get people to agree on basic ideas like that, and that was hard. These are very distinct cultures with distinct heritages.

What got us really excited is when we compared it to the data for the U.S., we found there isn't really any major difference left. In recent data, the importance of borders in Europe isn’t notably larger than the importance of borders in the U.S.

What about prices of those goods?

The European Commission had been upset about the big differences in the prices of cars, and they started keeping track of car price data and publishing it. In the U.S., there's the Consumer Expenditure Survey that tracks what people pay for their cars, and we were able to break that down by state. We show the dispersion in car prices across states wasn't very different from dispersion in car prices across the European Union after Europe integrated. So that was a key piece of evidence that pointed to the success of creating freedom of movement and goods.

You also look at the movement of people, what did you find?

That area didn't show as much progress. In principle, people can go anywhere they want within Europe, but the vast majority stay in the country where they were born. We framed it as a tax, and measured how much loss to your well-being you experience when you cross a border, and in Europe it’s much, much higher. In the early phase of integration, you saw migration from places like Spain and Portugal over to the richer countries, and you still see migration from Eastern Europe into the rest of Europe — that was one of the issues that was important in Brexit. But the old idea that Europeans don't move is basically true in the data.  

How did you measure the movement of capital?

The data isn’t as good on the movement of capital, so we measured it by looking at mergers and acquisitions. From what we could find, national borders in Europe don’t matter any more than state borders in the U.S., so in that category, it looks like mission accomplished: there’s open and free movement.

What are some other reasons why Europe might unite?

When leaders first started the European Union, the fundamental thing was this desire to make war not only unthinkable, but materially impossible. So the industries they focused on were iron and steel, because iron and steel were the backbone of fighting: tanks, rifles, etc. They brought iron and steel under common control, where no country could be self-sufficient in those things. From there, it really wasn't clear what they wanted. In some countries, there was very much a desire to move towards more political unification; in other areas, like the UK, they basically just wanted the economic benefits, not political unification.

So there's always been this tension between people who just want the economic benefits and want their nation to continue more or less independently, and people who believe in the idea of a European army, for example, and a European foreign policy. But agreeing on what the European foreign policy would be has proven notoriously difficult, so they haven't gotten very far.

What are some reasons why they haven’t united?

Initially, the great pitfall that was cited during the Brexit campaign was that you weren't able to control your own borders, and in the U.S., it happens with respect to Mexico. But for Mexico, there's legal and illegal migration; it's certainly not free. Within the European Union, you can go wherever you like. After the Brexit referendum, that issue went off the front burner, and they ended up focusing on a vague idea of sovereignty.

For example, in my mother's village in England, a woman told her "The European regulations tell us that we can't have curved cucumbers." That rule about the curvature of cucumbers is seen as an example of the overreach of these faceless bureaucrats down in Brussels — and [British Prime Minister] Boris Johnson talked about being required to put freezing packages on kippers. But freezing fish before you put it in the mail probably makes sense, and cucumbers can't be excessively curved because of a business regulation designed to fit more cucumbers in a crate. Still, that kind of example was seized upon by people who felt sovereignty was being lost. That’s not hugely prevalent in the rest of Europe, though; it seems to be mainly a phenomenon of the English.

The most interesting recent case was with Covid, when it seemed like the Brits moved very quickly and nimbly to get large amounts of vaccine, and the European Union moved in a slow and bureaucratic way. So many people thought, “Here's an example of how too much political unification can be a bad thing, because it makes it hard for countries to show individual initiative to get things done.” I don't know how it will all shake out, but last winter it seemed like a pretty good argument for why too much integration could have a downside.

How much of a role does language play in keeping countries apart?

When we looked at people's migration, language has a very big role. Language has a role in trade too. But even considering the language issue, there's still a big role for national borders. People in Austria don't just get up and go to Germany.

Why is that?

We could speculate that it has to do with networks of family and friends that people don't want to leave behind, and that networks have a strong national character. If you went around Vancouver and asked “How many people do you know in Ontario?” and then asked, “How many people do you know in Washington State?” generally you'll find that even though Washington State is less than 100 kilometers away, they're going to have much thicker network of friends and family in Ontario, thousands of kilometers away.

The other thing is there are professional rules. So for example, to become a hairdresser in France, you've got to go through a whole rigmarole. It'd be very hard for somebody who didn't go through that whole process to set up shop and become a hairdresser in Paris. Same with lawyers, doctors and other professions. So those professional accreditation systems are a big deal.

Brexit represented the opposite of integration. Is it a sign of things to come?

It doesn't seem like any other exit movements are particularly strong right now. I spent last year in Spain, and the issue there is whether the country itself will hold together — but there's zero interest in Spain leaving the European Union. And in the UK now, the question is whether Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will still be part of the UK in the future. So the sub-national exits almost seem more important than the idea of whole countries leaving the European Union. The financial crisis really put that to the test, when the problems with Greece began spilling over to the other countries with big debt problems — Portugal, Italy, and Spain. Many economists even predicted they would give up the Euro, but they all ended up staying on it, which showed the idea of being in Europe, as symbolized by the Euro, was pretty important to people.

Will we ever see a United States of Europe?

To some extent, we already have it. There is the European Parliament. The European Commission makes regulations; my favorite was when they got rid of roaming charges on cell phones. We don't even have that in the United States. But could the European Union look like Canada, where the provinces have a fair bit of power over things, like health and vaccines? It’s all a continuum of what makes a country, and if you think about the independence the provinces have here – it's pretty high. But that's a long way from having only one representative at the UN, like Canada does. I don't think we're ever going to see that.

What should we learn from all of this?

I think that the bottom line is that some people perceive the European Union as a failure, but we think if you judge it through the right lens, it's been very successful — and we think that lens is benchmarking the degree of economic openness.

The second thing is that even in this day and age, when it comes to people moving around Europe, there's still a lot of friction — so even though people complain about people from other places, the actual mobility of people remains quite low, even in a region where people have the legal right to go where they want.

Why is this important to Canadians?

How united we are with the U.S. and how united we are with other provinces is something that's always bothering Canadians. There are a lot of Canadians who would like to be closer to the U.S., and a lot of other Canadians who think that's the last thing we should do – so it's very polarizing.

Our relationships to other provinces are also a little strange. There are still interprovincial barriers to business that economists complain about, and in many respects, we are not an especially integrated country. So I think these issues of how much integration we want should resonate for Canadians, and seeing how Europe has developed a different approach to these problems is fascinating.  

Interview languages: English, Spanish, Portuguese

This article was originally published on UBC Sauder's website on August 31, 2021.

How Ghana is Proposing to Take Control of its Upstream Oil and Gas Resources

7 September 2021 • by University of Ghana Business School

Professor Robert E. Hinson argues that there are tremendous development and learning opportunities the Ghana National Petroleum Corportation can take advantage of to become a truly significant oil and gas player in Africa.

Ghana as an Oil and Gas Destination

Egbert Faibille, CEO of the Petroleum Commission of Ghana, in an August 2021 article notes that under the auspices of the minister of energy, and built against a backdrop of reformed market-driven policies, the commission has positioned Ghana as a highly competitive destination for upstream investment, leading to the rapid increase in oil and gas exploration and development. He notes further that by ensuring an investor-friendly business climate, Ghana now boasts the participation of some of the world’s most significant oil majors like Aker Energy and Camal Energy. He notes finally that Ghana represents one of Africa’s most successful new markets with world-class projects establishing the country as a regional oil, gas, and power hub.

Ghana and COVID-19 Recovery – The Role of the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC)

For Ghana, a small West African country still reeling from the economic effects of COVID-19 like everyone else, US $18 billion could be key to economic redemption. That figure is what the Boston Consulting Group estimates Ghana could make if its national oil company, the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC), goes ahead with a plan to acquire significant stakes in two offshore blocks, by buying shares in Aker/AGM. More than just laying the path to economic redemption, the proposed stake increase will finally secure Ghana a seat at the table and ultimately create a viable path to put Ghanaians in full control of their oil resources.

I conceptualize this proposed plan to acquire significant stakes in two offshore blocks, by buying shares in Aker/AGM within a social learning theory lens and argue that GNPC can acquire new behaviors by observing and imitating their partners. Social learning theory hypothesizes that new behaviors can be acquired by observing and imitating others (Bandura 1971) and that learning is a cognitive process that takes place in a social context and can occur purely through observation or direct instruction, even in the absence of motor reproduction or direct reinforcement (Bandura 1963). I argue in this article, therefore, that the decision by the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation in Ghana to acquire significant stakes in two offshore blocks by buying a stake in Aker Energy will significantly improve its capabilities for upstream oil exploration.

The Aker Energy AS Brand

Aker Energy AS was founded in February 2018 and is established as the newest member of the Aker Group. The company aims to become the offshore oil and gas operator of choice in Ghana. Aker Energy’s LinkedIn profile describes the organization as one that is characterized by the entrepreneurial and flexible organization that is synonymous with member companies of the Aker Group. Aker Energy is operational with offices in Oslo and Accra, the capital of Ghana, and holds a 50 per cent participating interest in the Deepwater Tano Cape Three Points block in Ghana, including the Pecan development project. Other partners are Lukoil (38%), Fueltrade (2%), and Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (10%). The Tano Basin offshore Ghana is a prolific petroleum region and the DWT/CTP block is centrally located within this basin. Seven successful exploration wells and eight appraisal wells on the block have proved a significant resource base as well as a high upside.

Ghana at an Energy Crossroads

Today, Ghana is at a crossroads. The energy transition has accelerated the withdrawal from non-core areas for the super-majors and IOCs, and, unfortunately, very few areas in Africa are on the priority list for these companies. Capital is being shifted from investments in fossil fuel into renewables. Long cycle, capital intensive projects offshore are the least popular for the moment. BP is not entering into new countries. TOTAL withdrew from its acquisition of Oxy’s stake in Jubilee and TEN. Ghana is left with three comparatively smaller companies in country: ENI, Tullow, and Aker, and a production that is steadily declining. By some industry sources, the current three producing fields in Ghana would have reduced their production by 80% by 2035. All of the undiscovered oil in Ghana is at stake.

There is a very desperate need for Ghana to comprehensively mine its oil resources before 2050 when the Paris Agreement stipulates we should all go green and as a consequence, GNPC has to step up. But where does Ghana start from? The national oil company, GNPC, has existed for decades and is part of all the petroleum agreements in the country. It has several hundred employees. Still, it does not have any operational capacity and is only able to assume the passenger role in field development and production. It needs a partner. Just as the likes of Statoil in Norway were trained by the American oil companies in the 1970s, GNPC is in need of a trainer—a mentor; a partner.

This was the backdrop against which GNPC reached out to Aker and AGM. After careful consideration, Parliament gave its bi-partisan support for GNPC to negotiate with Aker a transaction that delivers on Ghana’s long-standing ambition to control its own resources. If successful, the transaction will be a landmark one; potentially, the most important acquisition any Ghanaian company has made at any point in time.

Conceptualizing the Aker Energy-Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC) Marriage as a Development and Learning Opportunity

Development and learning opportunities occur in a multiplicity of ways and these include improvements in corporate orientation, technical, and soft skills as well as improvements in revenue-generating capacity. I will discuss the potential benefits of the GNPC-Aker marriage in the light of these potential development and learning opportunities.

Improvements in Corporate Orientation

The economic and social challenges that characterize the continent of Africa could be argued to be partly because of the systemic weaknesses and poor performance of public sector institutions in that region. In an assessment of countries’ performance in the Ibrahim Index of African Governance (IIAG) over the period of 2006 to 2015, for example, Ghana was reported as “the fifth most deteriorated country on the continent” in terms of the provision of sustainable economic opportunities to citizens. The first clear learning opportunity will be the introduction of new public management principles into GNPC by virtue of Aker’s 175-year history of professional service delivery in the oil and gas space. In conversations with some managers at Aker, it was revealed that there is a comprehensive corporate culture reorientation program to bring the GNPC corporate ethos up to the standards of Petroliam Nasional Berhad in Malaysia, for example. Petroliam Nasional Berhad is a premier national oil and gas operator who makes energy investments both in hydrocarbon and renewables across the globe and maximizes value through their integrated business model.

Technical and Soft Skills Development

In conversations with the management of Aker Energy, it was revealed that the proposed Aker/GNPC colloboration will lead to the creation of a joint operator company in the DeepWater Tano/Cape Three Points and South DeepWater Tano oil fields in Ghana, operated by Aker and its affiliate AGM, respectively, and this will give GNPC hands-on experience in exploration and production in some of the most promising oil fields in Ghana. In conversations with GNPC management as well, they also admitted the deep technological transfer that could take place if they acquired the stake in Aker Energy.

Improvements in Revenue-Generating Capacity

In the proposed acquisition of the stake in Aker Energy by GNPC the following financial contributions could be made to the Ghanaian economy:


There are some debates surrounding what GNPC should be paying for the stake they want to acquire in order that they become a significant player in the oil and gas space in Ghana. This is despite the fact that GNPC has hired a third party independent expert, Lambert Energy, which has determined the value of the stakes GNPC is to acquire at US$2 billion. The Parliament of Ghana has set the maximum purchase price at US$1.1 billion, almost 50% below Lambert Energy, creating a substantial margin of error to avoid GNPC overpaying.

Additionally, it is also important to point out that recently, the ministers of finance and energy went to Parliament to seek a loan ceiling to enable them negotiate in line with the higher policy shift for GNPC to be an operator and for Ghana to take charge of its own upstream destiny in the face of the energy transitions in the global north. In this regard, Parliament only approved a loan ceiling. Cabinet approved and asked for Parliament to approve the loan ceiling mandate and tasked the two ministers to go and negotiate a price. Government has not accepted the Aker price as a fait accompli.

For me, when all the payment and pricing issues have been settled, there are tremendous development and learning opportunities the GNPC can take advantage of to become a truly significant oil and gas player in Africa, and this is what all well-meaning Ghanaians should be pushing for. 


Bandura, Albert (1971). "Social Learning Theory" (PDF). General Learning Corporation. Archived from the original (PDF) on 24 October 2013. Retrieved 25 December 2013. 

Bandura, Albert (1963). Social Learning and Personality Development. New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston.

How Governments Can Take Action Against Fake News

12 May 2021 • by HEC Paris

The COVID-19 pandemic has touched almost all countries around the world. The crisis marks an undefined period of uncertainty and fear among citizens around the globe. Such prolonged conditions of uncertainty and fear amongst people has triggered a surge in the amount of fake news circulating on the Internet. Research from HEC Paris highlights the urgent need to arrest the growing “infodemic” of fake news, which has increased significantly during the current COVID-19 pandemic. There is a clear need for governments to plan and invest in tools for identifying misinformation and improving online accountability, especially during times of a crisis.

Propensity of Fake News Related to COVID-19 Varies by Country

Despite the global bearing of the coronavirus pandemic, there is a significant variance in the propensity of COVID-19 related fake news instances across nations (Brennen et al., 2020). Reports by the Poynter Institute for Media Studies show that more than half of the COVID-19-related fake news until July 2020 originated from four countries, namely – Brazil, India, Spain, and the United States. The incidence of fake news is low in less polarized European nations such as Denmark, Germany, and Netherlands, where citizens prefer consuming objective news, and the Nordic countries, where media literacy is high (Newman et al., 2020). Fake news propensity is high in countries where the uncertainty about online information is high and national institutions are relatively weaker, such as Brazil, Kenya, and South Africa (Newman et al., 2020). 

Designing Appropriate Policies to Protect Citizens

For better pandemic preparedness and control, it is necessary to mitigate fear among people, manage rumors, and dispel misinformation (Sakurai and Chughtai, 2020Islam et al., 2020). Hence, from a policy perspective, it is of utmost importance to appreciate the mechanisms propelling the production and consumption of fake news. Given the large variance in the COVID-19-related fake news volumes across nations and the potential damage that such misinformation can cause, we conducted research to understand the factors contributing to fake news propensity across countries. Such knowledge can help governments better understand the fake news phenomenon and design appropriate misinformation-related policies to protect their citizens (Fleming, 2020Laato et al., 2020). 

A prolonged state of heightened uncertainty and fear is upsetting for citizens, who want reassurance and predictability in times of crisis (Ågerfalk et al., 2020). We posit that informational and institutional resources in a nation are the two key resources that citizens draw upon to counter the uncertainties and fears emanating from the pandemic situation, and to better appreciate the current and future implications of the crisis. Informational resource comprises all the available information to the citizens through government and non-government channels such as Internet, mobile phones, and other forms of technological connectivity (Schedler, 2013). Institutional resource, on the other hand, is the institutional and governance framework in a country, which is the second key resource that the citizens use to better assess the meaning of the crisis (Shirish et al., 2017). 

We offer preliminary insights into the national-level technological and institutional determinants of fake news propensity. We identify the informational resource of mobile connectivity in a nation as a potential playground for the spread of COVID-19-related fake news. Instead of providing an informational coping mechanism to the citizens during a crisis, mobile Internet access may aggravate the propagation of fake news. We also find that the institutional resource of political freedom in a nation contributes to fake news propensity. In consonance with past instances of political parties using political freedom to manipulate public opinion by spreading misinformation, political parties and politicians can influence and shape public opinion by spreading fake news. On the contrary, the institutional resource of media and economic freedom guaranteed by the national institutional structures can prevent citizens from becoming the victims or perpetrators of fake news. Summarizing, our results establish the key role of mobile connectivity and political freedom in increasing fake news spread in a nation, whereas the economic and media freedom is shown to curb its spread. 

Governments across the world consider fake news as a socio-technical phenomenon requiring contextualized policy and advice tools to combat its spread. Our findings do underline the need for governments to reflect and reorient their strategies related to mobile Internet connectivity by taking preventive measures to avoid misuse of this potent medium for the spread of misinformation during a crisis. Our study reiterates the need for governments and policymakers to assess the impact of infrastructural technologies in a holistic manner, considering their possible negative effects. It is imperative for governments to understand and develop an effective mobile Internet policy that can provide the right information to the citizens yet arrest the spread of misinformation. This would allow governments to leverage mobile connectivity not only for maintaining public health and citizen protection services, but also for fighting against fake news propensity. We recommend increased government presence on social media platforms, such as Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram, as this could help in providing credible local content about the pandemic and information on related governmental actions, in real-time to the citizens.

Using Nordic Countries as a Model to Strengthen Media and Economic Freedom

The second key strategy could be to strengthen media and economic freedom in their countries, which has been shown to contain fake news propensity during the current pandemic. As a crisis preparedness measure, we recommend bolstering government communication strategies that increase media and economic freedom perceptions to arrest uncertainty perceptions from crippling the national peace and prosperity when an exceptional crisis such as COVID-19 strikes. We have seen that prior experience with the SARS outbreak and legitimacy perceptions in governmental agencies acted as a buffering resource to several Asian countries such as Singapore, Japan, and China, which could quickly mobilize their agencies to plan and execute coherent, multi-pronged policies to combat the COVID-19 pandemic compared to many countries in North America and Europe. Similarly, the already existing strong media literacy polices in the Nordic countries such as Finland buffered the citizens from falling prey to fake news consumption and propagation. We thus believe that along with media freedom, governments should make efforts to boost media literacy among its citizens, which should act as a counter-surveillance measure against fake news perpetrators in times of crisis. Educational institutions and the governments should prioritize media literacy so that people become educated to follow authentic news and exercise discretion in what they watch and read.

Results from our study indicate that economic freedom as an institutional resource acts as a protective national-level capability that can offer collective resilience against fake news propensity. Hence, from a policy perspective, governments should undertake proactive efforts to build economic freedom perceptions among its citizens as a crisis preparedness measure.

Lastly, our results inform the policymakers that fake news propensity, especially in times of crisis, can be a challenge for democratic systems. Hence, there is a pressing need for democratic countries to ensure suitable checks and balances on the spread of fake news by political parties. Countries need to develop politically neutral and federated systems to restrain the menace of fake news. A multi-pronged governmental approach integrating Internet security, proactive citizen communication, citizen digital and media literacy training along with the necessary institutional trust building efforts could perhaps curb fake news from further fueling fear and uncertainty during unprecedented crises situations such as COVID-19.

Article by Shirish C. Srivastava, based on his research paper, “Impact of Mobile Connectivity and Freedom on Fake News Propensity during the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Cross-Country Empirical Examination”, co-authored by Anuragini Shirish of Institut Mines-Télécom Business School, Paris-Saclay University, and Shalini Chandra of SP Jain School of Global Management of Singapore, and published online in the European Journal of Information Systems in February 2021. You can download the full research article here

This article was originally published on Knowledge@HEC on April 26, 2021.

Addressing Fear in the Workplace: Making Teams Stronger and More Productive in Difficult Times

8 March 2021 • by University of Cape Town Graduate School of Business

Fear is rising in workplaces around the world—both for those working from home and in offices. A recent study shows 63% of South Africans are concerned they may lose their jobs in the next 12 months. Reassuring employees and creating psychological safety at work is one way to support and strengthen teams in these highly uncertain times.

anxious person

By Hamieda Parker

In a busy South African hospital recently, teams of nurses and doctors were given an unusual task—figuring out who could build the tallest freestanding structure out of nothing but sticks of spaghetti and then balance a marshmallow on top. They had 20 minutes to figure it out.

These were stressed individuals, not used to working together or communicating this much under normal circumstances, let alone on such a seemingly random task, and they were feeling somewhat tense. But this would soon change. Their manager commented afterward: “My staff all went into it with apprehension and anxiety and fear of the unknown, and all of them without fail came out of it with a different vibe. They just had energy. It changed them. I don’t know how, in less than half an hour, but they definitely came out with a positive outlook.”

The marshmallow challenge is a well-known design-thinking challenge used to foster team cohesion and communication. In this instance it formed part of a UCT Graduate School of Business study into how the creation of psychological safety in workplaces can improve team morale and performance. Research has shown that creating a space where people feel safe to voice opinions, make mistakes, and risk ridicule when offering an idea can have a significant effect on teams. Quite simply, an environment of trust and mutual respect is crucial if you want to get things done.

Anyone who works with teams will know that building these kinds of safe spaces can be difficult at the best of times. And the challenges of COVID-19 have arguably made it even harder. As workplaces have migrated to virtual platforms, team cohesion has taken a knock. One study has found that up to 45% of people working remotely in teams feel less connected to colleagues due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

An Expanded Skill Set Needed for 2021

As managers and leaders look toward 2021, they may need to expand their skill sets to include a specific focus on psychological safety, specifically how this pertains to new structures and operations. And a good place to start is to focus on virtual meetings and interactions between colleagues.

“Detecting social cues or non-verbal agreement [in virtual meetings] is nearly impossible,” writes Edmondson, author of the book The Fearless Organization: Creating Psychological Safety in the Workplace for Learning, Innovation, and Growth. In a recent article, she notes, “Team members may feel isolated without the natural support of an ally nodding from across the table. And distractions (emails, texts, doorbells, children, pets) are everywhere.”

Fortunately, she says, there are simple ways to ensure all voices are heard. Encouraging the hand raise in a virtual meeting, using yes/no answers, and anonymous polls in an online meeting can help elicit responses to perhaps sensitive questions. Creating smaller breakout groups to discuss issues can also be helpful. Team leaders need to familiarize themselves with their meeting tools and use them to their advantage.

After a virtual meeting, managers can also reach out to talk to participants who were quiet during the session. There are a host of communication tools—from phone or email to WhatsApp—that can be used to check in and give feedback. The important thing is to keep the lines of communication open and free-flowing—in both directions.

The Quality of Interaction is Important

One study on Google’s Project Aristotle revealed that the best teams were not more skilled or had smarter people—but did have higher-quality interactions. This can seem problematic for those managing remote teams, but in most cases, it really means getting people to talk more, to be genuine and authentic when communicating with each other, and investing time and effort into finding out how colleagues are doing.

Harvard Business School Professor Tsedal Neeley believes communication between colleagues should not go down just because they are working remotely. She notes that scheduled virtual coffee breaks are a great way to communicate and should be done regularly, as if people were at the office. She says, “There’s ample research showing that virtual teams can be completely equal to co-located ones in terms of trust and collaboration.”

GitLab, a company that has only remote-working teams with employees in 39 countries, had put virtual coffee breaks in place before COVID-19. CEO Sid Sijbrandij believes that face-to-face interactions are perhaps even more important in a remote environment as they “help prevent potential burnout and isolation.”

The investment in developing safe and trusting workspaces, whether remote or otherwise, is undeniably worthwhile. A 2017 Gallup report showed that if organizations improve psychological safety, it could lead to a 12% increase in productivity. A practical example of what this looks like in the real world can be seen in supermarket chain Tesco in the UK, where a cash-out staff member 20 years ago felt confident enough to voice a new idea to a visiting board director—the concept of cash back at the check-out. In the space of only a few months, the supermarket chain saved millions by cutting down on funds sent to banks while increasing customer satisfaction.

The UCT GSB hospital study adds to this existing field of knowledge by establishing that not only do performance and team learning behavior significantly improve with psychological safety—but stress and anxiety are also reduced. After the intervention, teams at the hospital communicated better, and staff interacted more freely and felt more engaged and less anxious. This is especially significant, given the current context.

As the pandemic continues to cause uncertainty and upheaval in professional as well as personal lives, leaders and mangers can play a key role in helping to reduce anxiety by consciously building more psychologically safe workplaces. This will likely benefit both their individual team members and the organization as a whole and could prove to be a key differentiator in helping to build organizational resilience in these difficult times.

Dr Hamieda Parker is an associate professor at the UCT GSB. She lectures on the Operations Management and Global Supply Chain Management on the MBA and Postgraduate Diploma in Management Programme. This study draws on a paper co-authored with GSB alumnus Dr. Earle du Plooy. The paper is titled“Team-Based Games: Catalysts for Developing Psychological Safety, Learning, and Performance.”


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