November 6, 2015 by John Schoonejongen for Gabelli Business School.
Associate Professor Michael Pirson will address a gathering at the World Bank in Washington, D.C., on November 9 as part of the organization’s Internal Justice Week.
Pirson will also talk with Yvonne Tsikata, the chief of staff to World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, about the organization’s challenges and mission. We asked Pirson a few questions about his upcoming visit and talk:
1) You have been asked during the upcoming Internal Justice Week to help the World Bank chief of staff address some of the internal challenges. For those who aren’t aware, what is the World Bank, what is its mission, and what are its current challenges?
The World Bank is one of the Bretton Woods institutions that were designed to avoid humanitarian disasters like World War II. The World Bank is a global institution with a mission to end poverty around the globe, seated in Washington, D.C., yet not governed by U.S. law. It has its own independent legal system, and Internal Justice Week allows the staff to reassess its functioning. I was asked to consult on trust, cooperation and innovation through the humanistic management lens because World Bank president Jim Yong Kim has restructured the organization away from geographical areas to focus on global challenges, such as access to potable water. That change has caused some concern for employees; engagement and trust has been affected. As the mission of the World Bank group is to solve big global problems related to poverty it is imperative that trust, collaboration and innovative capabilities can be restored.
2) How do you think that trust and innovation can affect positively an organization’s action plan?
It is really rather elementary. Collaboration allows us to solve problems we cannot solve by ourselves. The big challenges of our time require more collaboration and innovation. However, our traditional way of organizing through command and control is very inadequate with regard to fostering novel thinking and collective problem-solving. To make collaboration work effectively and efficiently, we humans need to trust each other. If we do, there is no limit in the creative powers we can use to solve problems, including those connected to the challenges of sustainability. If managers wish to create an environment of collaboration and innovation, building trust is the first step.
3) Is there anything specific about the World Bank’s mission that appeals to you and that you would like to export to other influential entities?
Ending world poverty is an inspirational goal for everyone with a little bit of compassion and concern for the world around. The United Nations’ sustainable-development goals are an attempt to share that development challenge among countries, and through the U.N. Global Compact, corporations are called to contribute to that goal more effectively. I think smart business leaders are already taking up the challenges to raise what is often called the “Base of the Pyramid,” but more can definitely be done to achieve true sustainable business conduct. But in the end everyone needs to contribute their share, including universities, professors, students, and administrators.
4) You will be meeting with the chief of staff to the current World Bank president. Is there anything specific you plan to discuss?
Well, I wish to learn more about the specific challenges she is facing, the bank is facing and we will try to explore whether and how my expertise in humanistic management and social innovation can be of assistance.