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The rise and fall of Elizabeth Holmes, the founder of Theranos, will in due course launch books, films and a thousand case studies. My column this week looks at how she herself told the story of the blood analysis technology, creating an emotional bond with investors, the public and, yes, journalists. Her storytelling contributed to the myth. She settled fraud charges last week, accepting various penalties, without admitting or denying the allegations.
In a departure this week, I've set more of a literary than a management challenge. Take the plot of any well-known novel, play, opera or film and rewrite it as a one- or two-line business news story. Send it, as usual, to me via firstname.lastname@example.org. Here are a couple of examples: King Lear — "Torrid UK Succession Battle Ends With Deaths Of Former Boss And Front-Runners For Top Job" or, Bizet's Carmen: "Tobacco Worker Slain in Seville, Disrupting Production and Marring World-Famous Fiesta".
Last week, I asked for some solutions to the possible loss of "institutional memory". Peter Hahn sent a reminder that in banking, institutional memory is "more than best practice…[it] is the key driver of risk management". Arvin Anoop suggested a three-step approach: build "a culture of documenting and recording thought processes rather than just finished products"; require employees "to onboard the peers who replace them"; and "allow more seamless transitions between softwares and systems".
In further reading, an interesting sequel to the blogpost I highlighted in January about the clever behavioural science behind McDonald's new restaurant design. That post extolled McDonald's focus on automation, which allows staff to "do what do they best". But Bloomberg's Leslie Patton has been out talking to the workers and they don't like the changes. "They added a lot of complicated things," one 23-year-old former employee told her. "It makes it harder for the workers".
Every week a business school professor or academic recommends useful FT articles.
The backlash against shareholder value I used this article in my MBA Corporate Finance class to look at the pros and cons of listing a business on the stock market. We discussed the extent to which private companies seek only to achieve maximisation of their share price when they are listed. This narrow objective will lead, as the article argues, to limited risk taking, new capital investment and innovation. This aim will also benefit only senior executives who get a large proportion of their compensation in the form of shares.
These issues are contrasted with the benefits of listing, namely the ability of the newly listed company to raise funding.
Jonathan Moules's business school news
The MBA has been called the golden passport. But how effective is it for getting people to the top of the corporate ladder?
Number crunchers at Verve Research in London analysed the data for the CEOs of the Fortune 100 and FTSE 100 companies and found that 31 per cent had completed an MBA. Half of them had some form of postgraduate qualification and 11 per cent had a doctorate.
CEOs with an MBA were on average paid £2.8m, the highest level for any qualification. Those educated to doctorate level on average earned £2m, as much as those with an undergraduate degree only. Those with other master’s degrees earned on average just £1.6m.
One of those on the list is Paul Polman, chief executive of Unilever. He has an MBA from the University of Cincinnati.
His announcement last week that his company would be moving its headquarters from London to Rotterdam has created some excitement at the local business school about the potential for providing more leadership education to the Anglo-Dutch consumer group’s senior executives.
The positive effect for the Rotterdam School of Management may be limited, however, as Unilever is not moving large numbers of executives across the Channel. The company also runs a lot of its leadership training courses in house.
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Edited by Wai Kwen Chan — firstname.lastname@example.org
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