Thoughts on a chocolate teapot

September 22, 2014

Teapot
Chocolatiers in York have produced a chocolate teapot that can be used to brew tea. A very English project?

York, home of the Chunkie bar, can lay claim to being one of the two great chocolate centres in England, the other being Birmingham, home of the venerable Cadbury site at Bournville.

Chocolate is a wondrous material for product development, being perfect for liberating the creativity of food technologists in ideas for a near infinite array of shapes, sizes, flavours, colours, and fillings of chocolate products.

The uselessness of a chocolate teapot

The uselessness of a chocolate teapot has become an ironic saying about futility. Another example is the uselessness of a concrete parachute.

The chocolate challenge

Anyway, there were these food technologists who were challenged to make a chocolate teapot to see if it could do the one thing it was reputed to be useless at, namely brewing a cup of tea.

Cue for action. With no little ingenuity the techies produced a chocolate teapot that could hold an infusion of tea leaves in boiling water until ready for pouring. The result, a nice cup of tea with a slight chocolate favour. Well done all.

The impossibility of uselessness

When gainfully employed as a new product team trainer I liked to argue for the impossibility of uselessness. A chocolate teapot might not brew a cup of tea but it might be a nice retirement gift, or a present for the cricket captain too often found in the double teapot pose.

Not so impossible, and a nice exercise for creativity workshops

Next week

Thoughts on a chocolate chess set


Nestlé buffs its image with its living wage policy

July 4, 2014

The global consumer goods giant Nestlé develops its living wage policy. Will the approach help it avoid further lapses in Corporate Social Responsibility?

In June 2014, Nestle announces an extension of its policy of paying the living wage to employees. From 2017, the company will pay contractors in a similar fashion to its own workers.
[For an explanation of the minimum wage concept see this BBC article]

The unrepentant chocolatier

In 2009, the Economist examined Nestlé’s history and current strategy in an article entitled The unrepentant chocolatier.

The potted history reveals how a little Swiss firm making chocolate products became the World’s largest manufacturer of food products by revenues, ahead of Kraft, an American multi-national.

The stated plan is to strengthen future growth through a move into ‘wellness products.’ The Economist notes the commercial logic of the plan, but identifies a dilemma for Nestlé

The Dilemma

The Dilemma is suggested in the title of the article. Nestlé is seeking to reposition itself as a thoroughly ethical company,. Yet it will persist as a purveyor of many products seen as unhealthily loaded with carbohydrates and fats. The Dilemma has some similarities to challenges that facing the giants in the soft drinks and the alcoholic beverages markets.

The dilemma is made tougher for Nestlé for its historical record of association with stories damaging to the company’ brand. These include the baby milk scandal in Africa, and more recently the bottled water product with chose affinity to branded tap water, and meat products of dubious origins.

The company hopes to promote a policy that preserves its hard-earned revenues from its indulgence brands and grows new brands associated with the ‘noble cause’ of functional foods and wellness products.


Developing global leaders: the 21st century corporate challenge

February 27, 2012

Professor Bill George

Harvard’s Bill George argues that too many multinationals are still ignoring the need to identify and develop global leaders equipped for the challenges of the 21st century

Tudor Rickards

Professor Bill George suggests that a new era for global leadership is developing which requires greater focus on emotional intelligence, self-awareness, and empowerment. We examine and test his ideas as published in Harvard Business Review and compare them with experiences from a major exercise developing such leaders within the Manchester Business School’s executive programme.

Synopsis of the article:

Too many multinational still concentrate vital decisions in the hands of a small group of trusted leaders from their home country. They rarely promote [local staff] Instead, they groom future global leaders from the headquarters. In order to adapt to local cultures and market needs, companies must shift to decentralized, collaborative decision-making. That requires developing many leaders capable of working anywhere. Rather than concentrating on the top 50 leaders, global companies need to develop hundreds, even thousands, of leaders comfortable operating in a variety of cultures. Developing such leaders with cultural sensitivities and collaborative skills requires greater focus on emotional intelligence, self-awareness, and empowerment than on traditional management skills.

Coke’s global leaders

Atlanta-based Coca-Cola is one such pioneer in geographic diversity. Since the 1960s Coca-Cola has had South African, Cuban, Australian, Irish and its current Turkish-American CEO Muhtar Kent.

Nestle & Novartis

Over the past decade, Nestle and Novartis have made dramatic shifts from Swiss-dominated boards and executive leadership to a diverse set of nationalities.

IBM’s revival

Samuel Palmisano reorganized IBM into an “integrated global enterprise” based on leading by values and collaboration, using special bonuses to empower leaders. Its former chief learning officer recently estimated that the company will need 50,000 leaders in the future.

Unilever

Unilever has undertaken a major initiative to develop 500 global leaders in intensive leadership development programs to prepare them for expanded roles. According to CEO Paul Polman, “Unilever’s Leadership Development Programme prepares our future leaders for an increasingly volatile and uncertain world where the only true differentiation is the quality of leadership.”
Such global roles require experience working and living in multiple countries. German chemical maker Henkel insists its executives live in at least two different countries before being considered for promotion.

More than international experience

Developing global leaders necessitates a shift focusing on helping leaders increase their self-awareness, emotional intelligence, and resilience. It’s not [even] enough just to work overseas. To process and learn from their experiences, individuals should utilize introspective practices like journaling, meditation or prayer, and develop support networks of peers. There they can consult confidentially with people they trust about important decisions and have honest conversations about their dilemmas, mistakes, and challenges. These methods are still in their nascent phase, but there is little doubt that they will have a profound impact on developing global leaders in the years ahead.

The Global Events and Leadership module

The Global Events and Leadership module (GEL) introduces the Manchester Business School’s executive MBA programmes around the world. Its basic messages chime with those suggested by Bill George, and his Harvard colleague Teresa Amabile, studied as part of GEL.

Ten thousand leaders and more

It is worth noting that the point about the need for ‘tens of thousands of leaders’. This implies a major rethink in many corporate boardrooms on the nature of leadership and the further split between traditional modes of top-down cultures and structures.

Dilemmas, mistakes, and challenges

GEL, like Bill George, emphasises the dilemmas of leadership through its course textbook, and its ‘learning through doing’ project-based workshops. global leadership is inherently a process
requiring what has been described as a Yes And approach to challenges. This involves an openness to change and a commitment to ‘authentic’ ethical values.

Acknowledgements

To an increasingly diverse and skilled group of associates dedicated to facilitating global leadership through exploration of its practices.