Inside Asia Podcast

Putting the Purpose in Strategy (w/ Tom Malnight)

June 27, 2021

My guest this week is Tom Malnight. He took time to speak with me from Lausanne, Switzerland, where he serves as Professor of Strategy at IMD Business School. 

We live in an era when time-tested business practices are all of a sudden being called into question. The same goes for strategy; that nebulous part of the planning process that asks you to take a 30,000-foot view then bring it down to actionable outcomes.

The fact is, there are as many theories on strategy as there are organizations in need of one. Some take it seriously, employing high-paid consultants to produce thick and colorful playbooks that are then left unopened. Others try to make it sound simple. Remember Jack Welsh, GE’s notoriously outspoken former CEO. He once famously said (and I quote): "In real life, strategy is actually very straightforward. You pick a general direction and implement like hell." 

That might have worked during the 1980s and 90s. In fact, by all traditional measures, it did work. GE’s revenues grew five-fold under Welch’s leadership. Today, however, running a business is more nuanced. Stakeholder Capitalism is far from straight-forward. Just how strategy has changed and how companies are failing to adapt is the subject of this week’s conversation. And wouldn’t you know, Corporate Purpose is playing a big part.

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