Jan 2024

Reflections and Learning

Reflections and Learning

Progress and challenges

This year, through the addition of the masterclass format, delegates were given the opportunity to examine in greater detail the specifics of the Economics of Mutuality. What does a management model built on the principle of mutuality look like? How does it tackle the key questions around the measurement of non-financial capital? What are the results and what does it mean for business leaders and managers? And more broadly, is the Economics of Mutuality transferable beyond Mars’ family-owned structure?

While significant progress has been made across the themes of measurement, management, leadership, and ownership, a lot of further work is still required. For example, companies that are striving to adopt mutual business practices are eager for measurement practices that capture human, social and natural capital in robust ways.  Yet, capturing the health of these forms of capital that would allow a company to compete, report, compare and benchmark – both internally and externally – faces many challenges. These are to do with conceptual ambiguity, as well as technical questions around data collection mechanisms and standardization. Nevertheless, as was shared passionately by a number of Mars leaders and in the case study, Maua and Bloom are pioneering ways of measuring these forms of capital that is scalable and actionable for business.

Should mutuality be enforced?

Finally, learnings from the day culminated in a lively, traditional Oxford Union style debate. Six business students debated yet another pressing question related to the concept of mutuality – should such a principle be enforced? They address the motion: ‘This house would oppose the enforcement of mutuality in business.’ Three students argued for the enforcement of mutuality, expanding on different definitions of enforcement and calling for the need for regulation as a method of accountability, especially within business.  The other three argued against enforcement, pointing to the vagueness of the definition of the concept and questioning the possibility of full implementation as the main reasons it could not be enforced. After a close vote, the motion was rejected.

Technology and finance industries

On day two, we shifted focus from a discussion of the Economics of Mutuality within a corporate context to its future application in other industries such as technology and finance.

Experts on the fast-growing innovation economy – home to companies like Uber and AirBnB – returned to the fundamental importance of trust. As technology shifts towards the sharing economy and collaborative platforms, trust is no longer centralized within a single organization but rather distributed through networks and digital platforms. The panelists discussed the opportunity for mutuality to shape this growing economy as it develops.

We then heard from several leaders in the financial sector who inspired a vision for mutuality within financial institutions.  These leaders acknowledged that historically financial institutions have been focused on short-term earnings and for the past decade, there is a suspicion towards financial institutions and their ability to operate with any considerations beyond profit.   However, each of these speakers described how they are shifting the perspective and practices within their own firms towards longer-term objectives, in hopes of restoring trust and integrity within the industry.  These investors all described the possibility of taking into account notions of alternative forms of capital as they make decisions about investments, and ultimately broadening the goals beyond financial performance.

Finally, we heard form a panel who discussed how we might design organizations – both in terms of corporate governance and structure as well as culture and values – in way that assist them to achieve the implementation of mutuality. Central to this conversation was the importance of including humanities modules in MBA curricula so current and future leaders do not simply learn to compete, but learn to do so with compassion.

 


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