Knowledge Centre:
News Digests

Stay abreast of what’s happening internationally with developments in corporate public affairs. Here is news that you may find useful and interesting:

The Key to Change Is Middle ManagementND

Behnam Tabrizi, Harvard Business Review, 27 October 2014

A study of large-scale change and innovation efforts in 56 randomly selected companies have found that most efforts at enacting change ultimately fail. A commonality shared by the minority of success stories was the involvement of mid-level managers two or more levels below the CEO. Many change efforts fail because people reduce themselves to checking boxes in safe, secure systems such as Six Sigma. It was determined however, that successful change leaders are open, audacious, and have a clear sense of what their primary motivations are. For more information see:

Six reasons CEOs feel powerless to drive sustainability into their companiesND

John Confino, Guardian Professional, 23 October 2014

The implementation of sustainable investments and policies continues to pose challenges for today’s chief executives. CEO’s eager to generate change, who seek long-term sustainability, often feel stymied in their attempts to enable this transition. Challenges facing chief executives include peer pressure and the fear of failure, a lack of board support creating a lack of incentive to innovate, a lack of investor interest and a lack of political and regulatory support. The combined result of these challenges, as well as continuing global economic weakness and a lack of consumer demand for ethical products, leads some CEO’s to reluctantly maintain the status quo. For more information see:

How Uber and the Sharing Economy Can Win Over RegulatorsND

Sarah Cannon and Lawrence H. Summers, Harvard Business Review, 13 October 2014

Sharing economy firms are altering the existing state of affairs globally. The value of Airbnb is currently greater than that of the Hyatt hotel chain, while Uber, valued at $18.2 billion is worth more than Hertz and Avis combined. The major barrier to future growth for these firms is regulation. The sharing economy is a new concept and regulators are unfamiliar with the business model. As a result they are often wary and assume such firms are trying to make a profit by dodging protocols. These issues are considered in this article with judicious advice for those grappling with government regulations. For more information see:

Ending Gender Discrimination Requires More than a Training Program ND

Francesca Gino, Harvard Business Review, 10 October 2014

Women remain underrepresented in the majority of high level positions, making up 5 percent of Fortune 500 CEO’s and less than 15 percent of executive officers. Approximately 9,000 current and former female employees of KPMG are receiving notices this week about the opportunity to join a class-action lawsuit against the firm, claiming they were paid less than their male counterparts. In the workplace, biases can deeply affect how welcoming an organisation is to different people and ideas. Some organisations are attempting to raise awareness of potentially harmful gender biases through training programs and policies. But do these programs actually work? For more information see:

Research: More Than Half of Top Female Executives Were College AthletesND

Nanette Fondas, Harvard Business Review, 9 October 2014

Playing sport at school and university influences corporate success. According to a newly released study by EY Women Athletes Business Network and espnW, players of sport have a much higher success rate than those who hadn’t participated. Three quarters of executives surveyed said that candidates involved in sport were more attractive as potential employees. It’s argued that former athletes have intangible assets not attainable in the classroom. Discipline, determination and work ethic were cited as common characteristics attributable to those who have experienced competition through sport. For more information see:

Inspiration, not just grim reality, needed to engage millennials on sustainability ND

Jonathon Porritt, The Guardian, 7 October 2014

The inability to enact measures that adequately address the global sustainability crisis are vexing for environmental activists. The objective of activists to garner support and interest in the plight of the world often goes unnoticed. A demographic often found hardest to gain the attention of is young people. A platform being launched today by ‘Forum for the Future’ in partnership with leading companies including Coca-Cola and Google, aims to address this shortfall. aims to highlight influential, inspiring examples of sustainable innovation, showcasing technologies, campaigns and entrepreneurs for young people to participate in and help bring about change to this disconcerting issue. For more information see:

Sea Change: How Sustainability Drives PerformanceND

A GlobeScan/SustainAbility Survey, September 2014

The value that corporate transparency brings to companies can be underestimated. This insightful survey, composed by ‘SustainAbility’ and involving the input of 491 sustainability experts from around the world, provides the reader with an insight into the value that corporate transparency brings to an organisation. An overwhelming majority off participants of the survey indicated that corporate transparency has a positive impact on a company’s sustainability performance. The study acknowledges barriers to transparency within organisations and makes for very interesting reading. For more information see:

Are Companies Ready to Finally Kill Email? ND

Terri L. Griffith, MIT Sloan Management Review, 8 September 2014

A recent report by the McKinsey Global Institute estimated that comprehensive implementation of internal social media tools such as Yammer, Jive and Chatter can raise productivity by as much as 25 percent. Yammer claims that it’s “loved by 85% of the Fortune 500,” yet the question that should be asked is how many of these companies have successfully implemented the tool. Companies should not assume that because people use social media in their personal lives they will know how to get the most out of internal social media tools. A common problem is the failure to fully implement the tools into the fabric of their communication and collaboration. For more information see:

Why Social Media Will Fundamentally Change Business ND

Gerald C. Kane, MIT Sloan Management Review, 8 September 2014

The role of information technology in transforming business and society is evident and has been for decades. The introduction of ATMs in the 1960s and 1970s, and the introduction of high-speed trading algorithms in the 1980s are two examples of technology revolutionizing business and society. The magnitude of the impact social media will have on business is still largely unknown. The growth of the collaboration economy is one example where social media has contributed to the transformation of an industry. Companies like Uber and Airbnb bypass traditional means to provide their services. Distinct trends are also occurring in traditional companies. This article provides an interesting overview of social media in business and offers advice for executives grappling with the challenges it has created. For more information see:

Who’s Being Left Out on Your Team? ND

Carolyn O'Hara, Harvard Business Review, 27 August 2014

When one feels ostracised in the work place wellbeing can be severely impacted. The creation of a workplace that fosters inclusion and acceptance is directly linked to worker retention, growth and employee satisfaction. People feel included when they concurrently feel that they both belong and that they are unique. This article offers advice on how to counter negativity within the workplace and how best to foster an inclusive environment. For more information see:

Social Media and the ‘Spiral of Silence’ ND

Keith Hampton, Lee Rainie, Weixu Lu, Maria Dwyer, Inyoung Shin, Kristin Purcell, Pew Research, 26 August 2014

The tendency of individuals to withhold opinions regarding policy issues when their own point of view is not widely shared is termed the ‘spiral of silence’. This inclination was addressed by human behaviour studies prior to the transformational effects thrust upon society by the social media revolution. The societal transformation inflicted by the likes of Facebook and Twitter, it was hoped by many, would transform this behaviour by facilitating unconstrained dialogue. A recent study conducted by Pew Research set out to determine the actual effects social media has had on the ‘spiral of silence’. For more information see:

Business, society, and the future of capitalismND

Paul Polman, McKinsey & Company, May 2014

In this article the CEO of Unilever, Paul Polman, discusses the relationship between business, society, and the future of capitalism. He deliberates the pitfalls of the current capitalist model and questions the viability of the system into the future. The massive discrepancies in wealth and opportunity and the dire state of the world’s poorest are highlighted as issues destructive enough to render the current system obsolete. Polman highlights the critical role business must take in redirecting the current system and reflects on his journey as CEO of Unilever. He endorses the adoption of a long-term strategy, the embrace of the new Millennium Development Goals and adherence to the responsible-investment principles that the UN Global Compact is advocating. He shows support for philanthropy and CSR yet indicates that if corporations wish to exist in the future they must achieve more. For more information see:

Seizing China’s new digital opportunityND

Dominic Barton, McKinsey and Company, March 2013

The transformational effect the digitization of the global economy has had on society is obvious. The ability of companies to keep up with rapid technological advancements is cited as one of the greatest challenges facing corporations today. Dominic Barton, Managing Director of McKinsey and Company, explores the challenges facing corporations and directs his focus on China, the most active social media population globally. While the population is at the fore of technological usage, he indicates that most big Chinese enterprises are still playing catch-up when it comes to technology. For more information see:

The changing face of marketingND

John D. Louth, McKinsey and Company, September 1966

This article was published in the McKinsey Quarterly in 1966. It is derived from a presentation made by John D. Louth, a principal in McKinsey’s San Francisco office who specialised in problems of organisation, marketing, and sales management. His presentation was made to a West Coast marketing-executives group in 1964. The article investigates six major changes of the era that promised to transform the marketing industry at that point in time. The article makes for very interesting reading as the reader quantifies the accuracy of the assumptions and relates the issues afflicting the practitioner then to the issues encountered by today’s practitioners. For more information see:

China tightens censorship on mobile messaging apps ND

Charles Clover and Song Jung, Financial Times, 7 August 2014

The Chinese government this week intensified its suppression of China’s blogosphere and popular social media Apps. The new requirements announced by the State Council Information Office forbids the publishing of political views without prior consent. It was revealed also this week that a number of foreign chat services have been blocked, with Beijing citing the use of such services to incite terrorism. For more see:

The digital tipping point ND

Josh Gottlieb and Paul Willmott, McKinsey and Company, August 2014

The digital revolution has instigated massive transformations of the organisational structure. CEO’s are increasingly acclimatising by devising policies and injecting funds to facilitate adaptation to this transition. A recent study by McKinsey and Company indicates that what organisations are doing may be insufficient to reap the transformative benefits that digitisation offers them. The study analysed how companies spend on digital, their goals and the challenges they face such as a scarcity of adequate talent. For more information see:

Creating partnerships for sustainability ND

Marco Albani and Kimberly Henderson, McKinsey and Company, July 2014

The role business plays in addressing social and environmental issues is evolving. Societal expectations increasingly anticipate business will play an active and engaging role in addressing societal challenges. How corporations go about confronting these challenges can create difficulties. The terrain which organisations can find themselves is often foreign thus presenting an inability to effectively achieve desired goals. The role of partnerships—with governments, investors, local communities, NGO’s among other organisations—can often present the best option. Collaboration in a socially desirable project should be entered into with genuine interest, not solely for the appeasement of an expectant society. This article offers seven methods to achieve a successful collaboration. For more information see:

Sustainability’s strategic worth: McKinsey Global Survey results ND

Sheila Bonini and Anne-Titia Bové, McKinsey & Company, 31 July 2014

This article by McKinsey and Company analyses a 2014 global survey of company leaders and their insights to sustainability. The survey results suggest that a number of challenges raised by senior practitioners and heads of function at Centre for Corporate Public Affairs roundtables over the past year are common across many corporations: while sustainability is core to business strategy, there remains a gap between how the company is managing decisions and resources to generate value, and what most senior management may see as value. The survey results confirm that corporate reputation remains a key driver of sustainability: and that despite at least a decade of corporate responsibility evolving from being a collection of 'programs' to how companies make decisions and engage with their stakeholders to generate mutual benefit and corporate longevity, there remains a perception among senior leaders in organisations that sustainability remains a 'program driven' management approach. For more information see:

Social value: a sustainability buzzword without a meaning?ND

Adrian Henriques, Guardian Professional, 23 July 2014

Determining the contribution to society that social investments make is ever more sought after and can now be accurately achieved. The appeal in measuring this value is that economic valuation techniques can be used thus providing added certainty to results. Measuring the added value from a particular investment does however present challenges, such as measuring the marginal difference a project makes, and what value it adds. For more information see:

Social media in government: Five key considerationsND

Hootsuite Enterprise White Paper, July 1 2014

Governments are increasingly looking to leverage social media to better engage their stakeholders, improve public services, and achieve greater efficiency. Until recently governments have relied on traditional means of stakeholder engagement. However, the exponential rise of social media has made it critical for government agencies to develop sound social media policies. This article offers five key considerations for government agencies using social media. For more information see:

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