Think at London Business School
To stay relevant, you need to be curious and take charge of your own learning, say François Ortalo-Magné and Tansy Rothwell
By Kathy Brewis
Recently I was teaching alongside Andre Comte-Sponville, perhaps the most distinguished living French philosopher. He put the following question to our audience of managers: “Would you still go to work if you were not paid to?”
In other words, “If you had no financial needs, would your job still hold its attraction?” There was a pause as everyone reflected on the question. Then, to my surprise and Comte-Sponville’s astonishment, almost everyone in the room claimed, with seeming sincerity, that their work was sufficiently fulfilling to retain their utter commitment to it. Since this event, I have put the same question to the executives attending all my LBS company-specific programmes, including those for Old Mutual in South Africa, Bridgestone in Japan and America, Forvia in France and Germany, and Sage in Britain. The vast majority freely expressed the view that their work was intrinsically fulfilling. It gave meaning to their life. This is good news.
We are moving towards an economy in which social and moral capital count for more than financial capital, and play a much greater role in driving behaviour and employee satisfaction. People are increasingly being treated as ends, not means – as resourceful humans, rather than human resources. In other words, we work not simply to make a living, but to make a life. It is particularly at work that we express our talent, collaborate with others, contribute to the world’s wellbeing and find joy in life. The moral of the tale is this: as leaders and managers, we need to think of work as play, not toil. If we assume that money is the prime motivator at work, we are missing a trick. If, instead, we design the workplace with pleasure in mind – doing things for their intrinsic worth – then prosperity and not just enjoyment could ensue. This might even suggest that the more the workplace is a place of play, the more it will be a place of wealth creation, too.
Jules Goddard teaches on Executive Education programmes at London Business School
Discover fresh perspectives and research insights from LBS
In March 2020, when the UK went into lockdown, my friends Dominic Houlder and his partner Lucas drove to their home in Scotland. In the two years that followed, I glimpsed (through Zoom) a remarkable social experiment. Dominic, a winner of multiple teaching awards, set up a remote teaching outpost, revamped his courses to fit online delivery and eventually taught more courses than ever before. Like many employees around the world, he experienced an effective “boom” – high demand, great feedback, lots of work and the perception of a lot of bargaining power. At the same time, and under the same roof, Lucas – a renowned photographer, whose work requires in-person contact – was unable to continue doing what he loved. Like many, Lucas spent most of 2020 and 2021 in an effective recession – unemployed, with more free time than he could use and uncertain about his professional future.
Dominic and Lucas are not rare examples. We emerged from the last two years with a split economy and split labour force. Some employees (think tech company programmers) started 2022 believing that demand for their skills is endless and that their negotiating power allows them to demand high salaries, flexible hours and, in some cases, to work “from a beach anywhere I want” (a real quote heard by the CTO of a large German company from a young programmer). Let’s call them the Dominics of the world. Others emerged from the crisis humbler and more grateful. Lucas now has a backlog of work that is bigger and more prestigious than ever before. That is not surprising – in many cases, the pandemic did not erase demand; it just paused and shrank it. When the floodgates opened, fewer qualified photographers, drivers and yoga instructors had just as many models to shoot, people to drive – and probably many more backs to fix.
This reversal of fortunes, in such a short period of time, has profound implications for employees and managers alike. Much research shows that employees who start a job during a recession switch jobs less, are more collectivistic, and 15 years later have better life and job satisfaction. My own work demonstrates that these employees would also likely be more ethical. So, as we look forever forward, let’s shift our managerial attention to those whose lot was hard during the pandemic and know that, if we hire and onboard them well into our organisations, we might just have more motivated, harder-working and – eventually – happier and more ethical employees.
Aharon Cohen Mohliver is Assistant Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship at London Business School
It’s such a pleasure to be back in the classroom. Remote learning has many advantages, but being in the room is unbeatable in terms of the quality of experience. Yet Covid, by forcing us to think innovatively, will also leave positive learning legacies. Combining in-person with remote learning opens up many possibilities that might not have been considered once. We may all be Zoomed-out now but, used carefully, this technology helps us reach people and places we might only have dreamed about before.
Covid has also made a difference even in “normal” teaching. For example, as a way to use the period of isolation positively, I interviewed some people on Zoom on my research area – human judgement. I got some wonderful answers, which I’m now using not only in teaching about judgement, but also in other courses. (All with interviewees’ permission, of course.) Pre-Covid, I might have brought someone in as a guest speaker. Guest speakers are still great and they can provide a live Q&A, but video interviews bring colour to the topic and a variety of views in the same lecture – just one of the many ways in which possibilities have been opened up for the teaching and learning experience.
Sir Andrew Likierman is Professor of Management Practice in Accounting and former Dean of London Business School
It’s easy to become blasé about living and working in London. On courses like the Senior Executive Programme at LBS, our international participants often seem better informed about the city: what’s new, and what’s not to be missed. We have a new cohort landing in early 2023, so I thought I’d lift my head up and see what’s on the horizon.
A short stroll from LBS, the gobsmacking Bond Street Station development is opening. One stop along on the amazing Elizabeth Line is @sohoplace, the West End’s first purpose-built theatre for 50 years. Part of a £300 million regeneration of the area near Tottenham Court Road station, @sohoplace combines intimacy with innovative design – and the site was developed by an esteemed LBS alumnus, Ray O’Rourke (SEP47).
South of the river, Nicholas Hytner’s Bridge Theatre has been stunningly good since it opened in 2017 and will be reviving Guys and Dolls next year. The original show was created in the golden age of American theatre; a musical comedy that evokes what was a carefree way of life for many in the 1950s. Whatever your taste in entertainment, we could all do with some of that in 2023.
John Dore is Programme Director of the Senior Executive Programme at London Business School