Silicon Valley Watcher - Former FT journalist Tom Foremski reporting from the intersection of technology and media

IBM Study: Millennials And The New Corporate Leaders - Social Responsibility Is Essential

Posted by Tom Foremski - June 22, 2010

Irving Wladawsky-Berger, a former senior executive at IBM, responsible for strategy, reports on two recent studies: 1500 face-to-face interviews with CEOs: 2010 Global CEO Study; and 3,600 mostly 20 to 25 year old undergraduates and graduates in 40 countries: Inheriting a Complex World: Future Leaders Envision Sharing the Planet.

The students were asked many of the same questions as the CEOs.

This made it easier to look for commonalities and differences between these two generations - one at the top of their careers, the other about to start out on theirs.

The students are from a much different world than the CEOs.

These students have no nostalgia for a simpler era, because they never knew one. They grew up in a complex world. They intuitively understand the tenets of globalization.
. . .
More than 90 percent of the students we surveyed were born after 1980, so for them, games, music, mail and data have almost always been digital. They came of age in a world of interconnections, even hyperconnections.
. . .
They understand implicitly and intuitively that economies, societies, governments and organizations are made up of interconnecting networks. Once viewed as discrete and independent, it is clear now that these spheres - both manmade and natural - connect in a myriad of ways. We may not have even needed to define complexity: they seemed so familiar with the term for an interconnected, multifaceted environment."

There were some similarities between the responses of both groups:

"Overall, creativity was the leadership quality most frequently selected by both groups. Students and CEOs alike viewed creative leadership in terms of disrupting the status quo and taking bold rather than incremental steps.


But there were also strong differences...

... that were entirely consistent with students' values about sharing the earth. Among the nine leadership traits CEOs and students could choose from, students placed a higher emphasis on only two leadership qualities - global thinking and a focus on sustainability. Students were 46 percent more likely than CEOs to view global thinking as a top leadership quality. And they were 35 percent more likely to include sustainability in the top three."
Beliefs about globalization and sustainability were even more defining. We found students were much more concerned with these issues than CEOs, and most importantly, saw them as inherently connected."
...
Based on their comments, it was clear that students view globalization and sustainability as intertwined themes. They believe that a global citizen has responsibilities to others in the world, and that an emphasis on sustainability makes one better appreciate the impact of globalization.

"Students' views were stronger than CEOs on every one of the ten questions relating to these topics, and, as their comments made clear, called for bold and immediate action. They spoke about a new relationship among societies and business, economies and governments, and the need for a new definition of 'value' on what they see as a shared planet."

When asked for the top three factors that will impact organizations, 23 percent of CEOs mentioned globalization and 21 percent environmental issues, ranking them number 6 and 7 among their top issues.
For students, globalization was the highest ranked issue, voted on by 55 percent. Environmental issues were voted on by 42 percent of students and ranked fourth.

The IBM study concluded that universities are behind the times in educating "students in the wider meaning of sustainability, to reflect not just environmental concerns but also the economic, social and cultural implications."

And companies "need to be very sensitive to the increased expectations in corporate social responsibility of this new generation."

More here: Irving Wladawsky-Berger: Growing Up in a Complex World


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