Creating Social Value Blog / Corporate Social Relevance

Debunking a Dangerous Assumption

By Mary C. Gentile PhD, Director of Giving Voice To Values at Babson College

I spend all my working hours (and many of the hours when I am theoretically sleeping) sharing an innovative approach to thinking about, talking about and developing values-driven leadership called Giving Voice To Values (“GVV”). GVV is based on the idea that most of us do want to act on our values and rather than endless debates about what the right thing to do may be in any particular situation, we would be better served by some time spent on sharing positive examples of folks who have found ways to  do so and actually crafting effective scripts and action plans – and rehearsing them together.

This new approach to building the skills and confidence that enable us to act on our values in the workplace has met with rapid and enthusiastic uptake in both business schools and companies around the world; we have had hundreds of pilots on all seven continents.

However, despite this global enthusiasm, I often hear the following comment:
“I am not surprised that folks in the U.S. and Europe are excited about GVV, Mary, but you know this will never work in  (fill in the blank). The business environment there is corruption-ridden and folks just don’t have the same values.”

However, I am here to say that this has not been my experience. I have spent time in many of the regions  to which these comments are referring and I continue to encounter folks who not only HAVE strong values but are increasingly frustrated by the challenges to them in their own countries and have begun to figure out ways to address them.

Take a look at the CEO of Tasty Bite, for example, as he tells of the ingenious ways he has reversed corruption in his food products company in India.

Or take a look at “Not an Option Even To Consider” where the new Country Manager for a pharmaceutical MNC in Southeast Asian finds ways to deal with corruption in both the public and the business sectors, while building positive  social impact around the country’s health challenges.

And I am excited today that the United Nations Global Compact’s PRME (Principles for Responsible Management Education) has decided to partner with GVV to launch a new initiative to develop more positive solutions-oriented GVV cases based on Anti-Corruption in many regions of the world, starting with India. We already have over half a dozen faculty there who are working on these examples and hope to launch the materials at a conference in Kolkata in February 2014.

I am especially heartened that wherever I go, I find individuals who DO care about values in business and want to find ways to voice them. The context may be different; the challenges may certainly be daunting; and the means to effective action often have to be customized to the cultural norms around hierarchy and communication – but the desire to bring one’s whole self, values included, to work appears to be universal.