When it comes to keeping norm violators in line, it sure beats ostracism or physical confrontation

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

Social norms keep communities and organizations humming along. These unspoken rules are easy to overlook. But when you violate a norm — talk when a teammate is giving a presentation, for example, or sit next to a stranger in a half-empty theater — you’ll either have some explaining to do or suffer serious reputational damage.

Just as there are norms about acceptable behavior, there are norms about norm enforcement. When do we react to a transgression? When do we pretend not to notice? And if we react, what’s a suitable response? Across cultures, we know that there are three common…

Celebrating women who break through the glass ceiling or pushing the business case for diversity can set back the drive for equality

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If you work in the diversity and inclusion space, you likely have a couple of go-to moves. Celebrate progress made by a woman in a high-profile leadership position. And tout the business case for diversity to win over skeptics.

It is indeed heartening to see women, such as Jacinda Ardern, prime minister of New Zealand, and Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors, steering countries and corporations successfully. And the business case for diversity is certainly compelling. …

New York City parking ticket scofflaws teach us a lesson about the limits of behavioral economics

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Over the past decade, if you feel you’ve been played like a puppet — nudged to pay overdue taxes or limit water consumption — it’s not your imagination. It’s just some government department dabbling in the dark arts of behavioral economics to encourage (arguably) better choices for society.

Those nudges often work. Manipulating the way choices are presented to people can indeed have an impressive impact on outcomes. A reminder note based on a social norm (“Nine out of 10 people pay their taxes…

Peer mentors can provide a bigger boost than traditional mentors. Pity that few organizations bother to tap this hidden power

Image: iStock

Management thinkers are not used to looking to the education or health-care systems for inspiration to improve organizations. If they did, they might appreciate a simple yet effective tool: peer mentorship.

Peer mentorship is what’s left when traditional mentorship is shorn of power dynamics. Peer mentoring refers to a one-on-one relationship between people of similar tenure, status, or age in which the more experienced person acts as an adviser for the less experienced peer. Imagine an upper-year Indigenous student role…

Companies with strong environmental, social, and governance metrics often do better in tough times. This pandemic may be different

The Covid-19 pandemic has been miserable for business across the board, buzz-sawing through corporate plans and industry assumptions. But it also accelerated trends rumbling in the economy’s background. The virtual workplace, for better or worse, is here to stay. And, if you believe a growing chorus of market analysts, so too is sustainable investing.

During the pandemic’s first wave, J.P. Morgan polled investors from 50 global institutions (representing US$13 trillion in assets under management) on how they expected the pandemic to…

Dense friend networks and tight community ties give start-ups better access to bank loans and other formal investments

Social capital is like a trump card that improves any hand you’re dealt. Having a dense network of family, friends and colleagues — or living in a trusting community in which members volunteer and look out for one another — is good for your mental and physical health and career development.

It’s even good for business. Research has shown that firms located in U.S. counties with high levels of social capital receive lower-cost bank loans, enjoy lower audit fees and report higher…

Why greenwashers and their ilk need some time in the rinse cycle

Have we ever lived in a greener, more socially aware and public health-loving era of corporate activity?

The greenwashers tell me that bottled water is the most environmentally responsible product in the world. The coronawashers suggest I focus on the 2,700 ventilator parts that an arms manufacturer produced rather than on their main line of business. The wokewashers are proud to support Black Lives Matter, though their management ranks look awfully monochromatic. The pinkwashers say I can join the fight against breast cancer by buying their fried chicken dinner. …

Congestion pricing and car bans are great for the environment. But are they deadly for local businesses?

In the late 1800s, big urban centres such as London and New York City were powered by horses, tens of thousands of them plodding on any given day. There were horse-drawn carts and drays, horse-drawn carriages, horse-drawn buses, even horse-drawn streetcars on rails (or “horsecars”). All those horses generated more than power: in New York City, residents had to deal with millions of pounds of horse manure each day, and London was no better. …

The wall of denial has been breached. Now is the time for fierce workplace conversations

diverse collection of people and colours
diverse collection of people and colours

Before George Floyd, before COVID-19, before Zoom and Teams became de facto workplaces, some of Canada’s top corporate diversity and inclusion (D&I) leaders came together to discuss the challenges of advancing their mission. It was October 2019.

The attendees identified six challenges facing their work. Two related to attitudes and behaviour: the perception that diversity and inclusion issues don’t exist, and the imperative of converting fear into empathy. Two had systemic dimensions: de-biasing recruitment policies and processes, and the persistent lack of role models. …

Sometimes you need to put the Gantt chart aside and use soft skills to get everyone on the same page

Photo by Diggity Marketing on Unsplash

IT project failure is the business version of a highway crash: irresistible to watch yet a chilling reality check. After all, it could just as easily be you in that wreck.

Epic IT crashes, of course, get all the ink — fiascos such as the FBI’s Virtual Case File are stupefying in all their glory. Yet let’s not forget that fewer than half of all information systems development projects reach their final destination. Inadequate controls, unclear schedules and milestones, faulty…

Alan Morantz

I write about new management ideas. And other stuff. Author of Where Is Here: Canada’s Maps and the Stories They Tell.

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