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:

Navigating Asia’s new urban landscapeND

Richard Dobbs and Jaana Remes, McKinsey Quarterly, April 2011

When engaging with emerging markets, businesses tend to focus on megacities like Mumbai and Shanghai. However they should be expanding their reach to the ‘second-tier middleweights’ such as Bangalore and Wuchan, which are developing rapidly and will soon constitute a significant portion of their nations’ GDP. There are however various challenges in entering these markets, meaning that companies will need to tailor their approach in each city. One of the more successful ways of breaking into these markets has been the ‘cluster approach’, which involves targeting a number of geographically proximate middleweight cities. For more information see

Strategies for learning from failureND

Amy C. Edmondson, Harvard Business Review, April 2011

Organisations rarely take the opportunity to learn from their past failures, instead framing failure in a negative way and associating failure with fault. Mistakes are, however, much more complex, and can potentially have a positive effect on an organisation. There are three classifications of mistakes, those that are preventable, those that are complexity-related and hence unavoidable, and those that are intelligent and have the potential to generate new knowledge. In order to learn from past failures, organisations need to create an environment that moves away from associating failure with blame, instead facilitating openness to allow people to own up to their mistakes and have the opportunity to learn from them. In addition to increasing an organisation’s capacity to detect mistakes, facilitating an open culture will promote experimentation and hence bolster innovation. For more information see

Tapping into social-media smarts ND

Terri Griffith, Wall Street Journal, 25 April 2011

Companies should consider tapping into the benefits of social networking in the workplace. Skills learnt from using social networking tools facilitate collaboration, brainstorming and allow for large-scale coordination, which companies can use to maximise the work done by employees. When introducing social networking into the workplace, employers need to set clear guidelines and ensure that everyone understands the goals of the tools. Leaders should be prepared for expectations of greater democracy following the introduction of social networking, and should be open to change. For more information see

Why Barbie flopped in ShanghaiND

Anil Gupta and Haiyan Wang, Bloomberg Businessweek, 21 April 2011

When operating in dynamic markets such as that of China or India, managers need to be able to quickly localise their product so as to suit the domestic population. The failure to localise products can be catastrophic to a company, seen in the example of Mattel establishing a giant Barbie store in China that was forced into closure only two years after its establishment. Pursuing an experimental approach can be beneficial for companies operating in these markets. There are a number of tips that can help companies operating in these dynamic markets; including the need to engage in trial-and-error learning and the need to avoid generalisations. For more information see

China, other developing BRICS nations seek change in global economic orderND

Keith B. Richburg, Washington Post, 15 April 2011

As the US and Europe are recovering from the 2008 recession, Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS), are uniting in voice to demand global economic restructuring. Demands include an end to the US dollar as the world’s reserve currency, change in authorities and rules within the WTO, IMF and UN Security Council. Their first action is their joint agreement on having their development banks provide credit to one another, in form of local currencies, not in U.S. dollars. For more information see

Sparking creativity in teams: an executive’s guideND

Maria Capozzi, Renee Dye and Amy Howe, McKinsey Quarterly, April 2011

The key to generating creativity is to focus on changing peoples’ perceptions, which involves constantly exposing ourselves to new things. In a corporate environment, this can involve strategies such as looking at products from a consumer perspective and considering competitors’ strategies. Executives also need to challenge their established assumptions regarding their customers, industry norms and existing business models. For more information see

The rise of SRI and what it means in MalaysiaND

Sharmel Ali, CSR-Asia, 13 April 2011

SRI — socially responsible investing — is a rising trend in investment practices that aims to maximise financial return and social good. While investors choose a broad range of issues to invest in, there are various criteria that investors look for; including transparency and strong governance. The demand for SRI in Malaysian business is growing. Bursa Malaysia is planning to launch an environmental, social and corporate governance index by 2012. Eventually, it is hoped that increased SRI will have a positive impact on national economic growth, and will drive long-term sustainability practices in companies. For more information see

How the ivy league is killing innovationND

G. Michael Maddock and Raphael Louis Viton, Bloomberg Businessweek, 12 April 2011

Companies that rely on professors to teach innovation may be missing the real benefits of innovation. Courses taught by professors tend to be process-driven, while what is actually needed for companies to foster innovation is to encourage ‘fast-failures and messiness’. Innovation is best fostered through constant experimentation, which can be learnt through examining the practices of entrepreneurs. For more information see

No wins with bullies at workND

Andrew Quilty, Australian Financial Review, 12 April 2011

Companies are being forced to take bullying seriously, with courts awarding high level of compensation in successful cases and the Victorian government recently passing legislation allowing for a jail sentence of up to 10 years for bullies. Given the media attention surrounding bullying, more employees are seeking legal remedies, however they don’t often recognise the hidden costs of litigation, including cost and the difficulty of returning to their workplace. Workers typically have little faith in their companies’ human resources procedures to deal with bullying, instead either choosing to leave the corporation or transferring to a different sector within the company. For more information see

Schools set global track, for students and programsND

Diana Middleton, Wall Street Journal, 12 April 2011

Having recognised the increasing importance of globalisation, most business schools now offer some global aspects as part of their business programme. The aim of this global focus is both to prepare students for overseas work, as well as to raise the international profile of the business school. While some schools have established international campuses, alliances with foreign schools might be a more cost-effective means of ensuring this global component. However there has been some criticism concerning whether or not the efforts of business schools are sufficient in preparing students for overseas work. For more information see

Talent alone does not make a leaderND

John Baldoni, Bloomberg BusinessWeek, 12 April 2011

Leadership qualities should be the major criterion for selecting managers, not just individual excellence. To ensure a candidate has leadership qualities, it is useful to ask three questions. How does the candidate measure success? Success should not be seen as an individual task but something achieved by working through others. Can they contribute to the development of others? Leaders must be able to identify and enhance individual strengths of the team and converge them to achieve results. Finally, have they earned the respect of others? Co-workers’ opinions are invaluable in informing whether the candidate takes initiative and responsibility for results. A true leader is able to help others achieve more than they might have individually. For more information see

A meeting of mindsND

Sarah Murray, Financial Times, 11 April 2011

In recent years there has been an increasing number of partnerships between NGOs and businesses. However a new trend is now emerging, seeing the formation of partnerships between NGOs and business schools, with schools recognising the potential of NGOs to inform the content for social and environment related classes. Past collaborations between these sectors has involved informal partnerships and internship programs. While there are risks involved in the partnership, for example the risk of transmuting political motives into course content, it is likely that these partnerships will grow in the future. For more information see

Finding top talent in China, India, Brazil ND

Joann S. Lublin, Wall Street Journal, 11 April 2011

China, India and Latin America are experiencing a shortage of executive talent, with competition for talent becoming fierce. Foreign multinationals based in Brazil are looking in particular for executives who can go beyond simply following headquarters’ orders, and can add value in terms of the strategy. In India, companies are looking for executives that have the ability to navigate between the global and domestic market. While executives operating in these companies may be able to earn considerably more than their counterparts in the developed world, the talent pool for these types of executives is quite small. For information see

India must create its own research cultureND

Nirmalya Kumar and Phanish Puranam, Financial Times, 11 April 2011

Although India has established reputable business management schools such as the Indian Institute of Management (IIMs), these institutions are failing to provide innovative ideas. The key to improving these schools is to produce new research, thereby building their reputation as innovative institutions. However to do this, India needs to build a research culture, which includes providing support to trained faculty members, providing research support, and adjusting teaching load. For more information see

Delhi’s mixed message on FDIND

Wall Street Journal, 8 April 2011

In the past, strict regulations have made it difficult for investors in India to operate, thus discouraging investment. However the government has recently introduced new legislation designed to loosen the legal regulations governing investment. These regulations will hopefully create certainty for investors, thus encouraging increased investment. However, at the same time, the government has demonstrated reluctance to allow investors access into India, where investment projects are perceived to threaten the ‘national interest’. Investors are, as such, getting a mixed message from the Indian government, which the government needs to rectify if it hopes to attract investors to fuel economic growth. For more information see

Climate change, poverty reduction and business — can dialogue platforms break down barriers for engagement? ND

Leena Wokeck, CSR Asia, 6 April 2011

Climate change has been identified as the most pressing CSR issue for business, yet there has been little progress towards formulating long-term climate adaptation strategies. Stakeholders are, however, increasing their pressure on businesses to assist those who are most vulnerable to climate change, and to assume a more proactive role in developing the capacities of these vulnerable communities. Companies should not forget this opportunity to tap into new markets to build their corporate reputation. For more information see

Rush to use crops as fuel raises food prices and hunger fearsND

Elisabeth Rosenthal, New York Times, 6 April 2011

Biofuels are catching on in the developed world as a green technology, with many developed countries passing laws mandating greater use of nonfossil fuels. As such there has been a rapid increase in the rate exports in developing countries of crops used to produce biofuel such as corn, sugar and palm oil, as well as a huge surge in the price of these crops. While biofuels present a valid alternative to fossil fuels, the products used to make biofuels often form the basis of average diet in developing countries. Consequently, the increase in the price of these crops has led to large food insecurities, which will undoubtedly go on to cause political instabilities and regional conflicts. For more information see

India graduates millions, but too few are fit to hireND

Geeta Anand, Wall Street Journal, 5 April 2011

There is a perception that well-educated students from India are challenging the job security of middle class workers in the West. However poor teaching standards and inadequate English communication skills are negatively impacting on the potential of Indian graduates to gain employment both internationally and domestically. Despite the skills deficit, government leaders are far from engaging in education reform. This has significant implications, as economic growth has boosted employment availability in India, however there is a lack of skilled graduates to fill these places. Additionally, the poor educational standards of many graduate schools has resulted in many students becoming disillusioned, as they have invested heavily in their education only to find that they are unable to secure employment. For more information see

Japan rebuild must focus on region’s potentialND

Robin Harding, Financial Times, 5 April 2011

Following previous disasters, Japan’s reconstruction efforts have largely focused on simply rebuilding the infrastructure that has been damaged. However given the destruction caused by the recent tsunami combined with the fact that the regions hit were already in decline, Japanese authorities are instead realising that reconstruction plans need to be reviewed to accord with the region’s changing economic dynamics. A ‘reconstruction planning conference’ is being scheduled to bring experts and local leaders together to conceive a plan to develop the region, with plan focusing on creating a sustainable economy and possibly incorporating social security and environmental concerns. For more information see

Vietnam to raise minimum wage by 14 per centND

Ben Bland, Financial Times, 5 April 2011

Authorities in Vietnam are set to raise the public sector minimum wage by 14 per cent as a means of combating rising inflation rates in Asia. Approximately one third of Vietnam’s salaried workforce is engaged in the public sector. However private sector companies are also coming under intense pressure by factory workers and trade unions to increase wages to address higher living costs, with the rate of unofficial strikes having risen recently. While increased wages will somewhat alleviate the hardships for workers, several economists have warned that increasing civil service wages will add to inflationary pressures. For more information see

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