Adam Jones

In the workplace, green issues used to be the preserve of activists. Now they are drawing in careerists too.

By factoring sustainability into their day-to-day decision making, managers can gain plaudits from their bosses. Reducing waste, for instance, is a great way to cut costs in a recession. Many companies are also looking to profit from green-tinged government spending plans.

In a new FT Management podcast, Andrew Shapiro of GreenOrder, a sustainability consultancy that helped GE craft its ‘Ecomagination’ strategy, explains why middle managers can profit from a policy of enlightened self-interest when it comes to the environment.

You can listen through the FT’s podcast player or through iTunes.

Adam Jones

How can western companies thrive when they are having to cut spending and their customers are doing the same? They should look east to China, says Professor Peter Williamson of the University of Cambridge’s Judge Business School.

In a new FT Management podcast, he argues that the best Chinese companies are models of “cost innovation”. This doesn’t mean expertise in cheap manufacturing alone. Rather, their skill is in entirely rethinking product and market definitions by doing more with less.

This might involve making high-end technology available in low-end products, or exploding an elitist niche market into a mass market, he says.

You can listen to our conversation — and my concerns about whether this is something western companies truly can emulate — on the FT’s podcast player or download the interview (and also subscribe to future episodes) via iTunes.

Adam Jones

I’ve said before how much I enjoy Freek Vermeulen’s corporate strategy blog, Random Rantings. The London Business School associate professor is a rising star and his pithy observations are both accessible and authoritative.

So when I was planning a podcast on how the crisis in capitalism is being taught in MBA classrooms, I went straight to the Dutchman and he filled me in on the ways in which he is encouraging students to avoid the idiocy that caused today’s chaos.

Whether they take heed is another matter, of course.

The podcast also includes a discussion with Della Bradshaw, the FT’s business education editor, about its 2009 ranking of MBA programmes. You can listen here or subscribe via iTunes.

Adam Jones

A new FT Management podcast has just been published, featuring Tammy Erickson, author of Plugged In: The Generation Y Guide To Thriving At Work.

Tammy, a perceptive blogger as well as author, wrote the book as a form of career advice for Generation Y, which she loosely defines as those born between 1980 and 1995.

However, I wanted to ask her how older bosses should approach the task of managing these younger workers. How do you recruit and retain the most talented “Ys”? And are they really as impatient as their critics make out?

Tammy prefers to call them “immediate” rather than “impatient”. On the plus side, they have a suppleness and adaptability that can make their seniors look rigid and over-scheduled.

Yet she says they can be naïvely ignorant of the unwritten rules that govern most workplaces:

The Ys often just simply don’t get how business in done within corporations… they don’t really understand how things happen.

Does any of that sound familiar?

Adam Jones

Now that the waves of redundancies are spreading from financial services to other sectors, more and more people are having to rely on their networking skills to find new jobs. But how do you network from such a position of weakness?

This is one of the questions discussed in a new FT Management podcast featuring two executive search specialists – Samuel Johar, chairman of Buchanan Harvey, and David Peters, Heidrick & Struggles’ regional managing partner for Europe, the Middle East and Africa – and Paul Danos, dean of Tuck business school.

Mr Peters says those who haven’t been very good at maintaining a professional network should not feel that this precludes them from ringing old contacts at times of great need.

I think people often worry too much about this and make the mistake of thinking that, because they may call somebody that they haven’t been in touch with for a while, they will look awkward or seem as if they were a supplicant…

Most people, especially good people, do understand that [networking] is a circular business and everybody needs help at some point in their career.

Elsewhere in the podcast – which can also be downloaded through iTunes – Mr Johar and Professor Danos discuss the extent to which emerging markets and regulatory bodies might hire those who have lost jobs in finance and other industries.

Adam Jones

Turmoil in the financial and property markets has left buyers and sellers eyeing each other warily. Negotiating amid such systemic mistrust is far from easy.

Tim Cullen, head of the negotiation programme at Oxford University’s Saïd Business School, says there are strategies that can help, however.

In a new FT Management podcast, he says good negotiators develop a full understanding of the other side’s agenda to identify areas where compromise might be acceptable.

In a downturn, he says it can be advisable for buyer and seller to break with convention by negotiating directly instead of through intermediaries.

Contingency agreements – linking payments to future variables such as interest rates, for instance – can be another useful tool for negotiators in uncertain times, he adds.

Previous podcasts include the Kellogg School of Management on “analysis paralysis” in marketing and Stanford Graduate School of Business on controlling emotions in a downturn.

All are available for free download through iTunes and can also be found by scrolling down the list of shows on the FT podcast player.

Adam Jones

Marketers used to struggle to get all the information they wanted about their customers, says Tim Calkins, a professor at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.

Now, thanks to the internet and other advances, the opposite is true: many marketing departments have access to so many facts and figures that “analysis paralysis” has set in.

In a new FT Management podcast, Prof Calkins says the profession needs to become less preoccupied with gathering information and more concerned with translating insight into action – especially now that deteriorating economic conditions have made companies question all costs that do not have a clear payback.

He warns: “If all you do is know your customer really well, that doesn’t help you.”

Adam Jones

Preparing for the GMAT business school admissions test has been more nerve-wracking than usual recently. GMAC, the not-for-profit body that owns the exam, announced in June that it had won a court order to shut down Scoretop, a website it had accused of improperly featuring questions still being used in the computerised exam.

GMAC says it might cancel the scores of those who broke its rules by using Scoretop to share or confirm the content of “live” questions, leading to speculation that some students might be thrown out of business school or have the offer of a place on an MBA course rescinded.

In the light of this drama, I decided to have a chat with Dave Wilson, chief executive of GMAC, about the dos and don’ts of getting ready for the GMAT, which aims to test verbal and mathematical ability through multiple choice questions and essays (it is also a “computer-adaptive” test, which means it gets harder the better you do).

In the first section of the interview we talk about issues such as: the ideal length of preparation (100-120 hours spread over 7-10 weeks); new security features designed to prevent cheating; and the difficulties faced by non-native speakers of English. In the second part, we discuss the ongoing Scoretop crackdown.

These and other Management podcasts can also be downloaded through iTunes and by scrolling through the list of episodes at the FT Podcast Player.

Adam Jones

dr-spock.jpgFear is ruling many an office right now. How should managers make decisions in such a nervy climate?

Professor Baba Shiv of Stanford Graduate School of Business is a specialist in the science behind decision-making. He believes senior managers can weather a downturn by emulating Star Trek’s emotionless Mr Spock.

In a new FT Management podcast, he says one way they can unleash their inner Vulcan is to stop watching TV news – or, to be more precise, to get someone else to watch it for them – in order to avoid doom-laden and emotive images that might cloud their judgment.

Prof Shiv uses the example of a private equity boss trying to invest a fat chunk of cash to illustrate the weakness of the “sequential” approach to making decisions, in which options are evaluated as and when they come up, as opposed to the “simultaneous” approach of just choosing between the best options that exist at any one moment.

The latter strategy is also a good one to follow if you are single and trying to find a mate, he adds, as I lure him off-topic at the end of our 9½ minute chat.

This and previous podcasts can also be downloaded through iTunes or by scrolling through the episodes on the FT podcast player.

Adam Jones

Ben Heineman was one of the most powerful lawyers in the corporate world when he was GE’s general counsel. It was a role he played for the best part of two decades under Jack Welch and then Jeff Immelt. Now a senior fellow at Harvard’s law and government schools, he has written a book called High Performance with High Integrity, outlining his vision of how companies can be both profitable and ethical.

In this 16-minute podcast, he says a company’s top in-house lawyer must be a partner to the CEO but also a guardian of the organisation’s integrity and reputation (that goes for the chief financial officer too). He tells of his method for presenting his legal recommendations – and his analysis of legal grey areas – to Messrs Welch and Immelt. He suggests that company boards meet regularly with the general counsel and the chief financial officer without the CEO being present in order to reinforce independence. He even lets me drag him into a discussion about private investigators and Michael Clayton, the movie that featured a memorably immoral general counsel played by Tilda Swinton, who won an Oscar for her performance.

You can listen to our conversation by clicking here. You can also click here for ways of subscribing to this and other Management Blog podcasts through iTunes or other podcast software. I’d also recommend a profile of Brackett Denniston, the man who succeeded Mr Heineman as GE general counsel, that was published in the FT in 2005. And here’s another FT story from the same year about GE’s attempts to encourage staff to report wrongdoing.

About the authors

Stefan Stern writes a column on Tuesdays on management. He is winner of the 2010 Towers Watson award for excellence in HR journalism, and has previously won awards from the Work Foundation and the Management Consultancies Association.

Ravi Mattu is the editor of Business Life, the FT's management features section, and a former editor of the Mastering Management series. He joined the FT in 2000 from Prospect magazine

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