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​On Principle, Season One: Bonus Episodes

During On Principle’s regular season, we tell the stories of business leaders navigating tough calls and pivotal moments. Between seasons, we share bonus episodes that delve deeper into earlier interviews, elaborating on research, scholarship and experience about values-based, data-driven decision-making.


Discovering Higher Purpose: Anjan Thakor

“Higher purpose acts as the arbiter of every business decision the firm makes. It's a lens through which you see all your business decisions.”

Summary

Leaders of firms are often very good at explaining their company’s vision and mission, but less clear on why their firm exists in the first place. We explore the economics of higher purpose in firms. What does the research say? What does it mean? And why does it matter?

Episode Notes

In our first-season On Principle episode with Dave Ciesinksi, CEO of Lancaster Colony food brands, we also spoke to Anjan Thakor, Olin’s John E. Simon Professor of Finance. He had consulted with Lancaster Colony as its leaders sought to drive deeper employee engagement—and better results. Thakor, along with collaborating researcher Robert Quinn from the University of Michigan, has done pioneering research into the economic benefits of higher purpose. Why does the firm exist?

As the pair found, higher purpose must be discovered, not invented. And once it’s discovered and articulated, it drives the firm’s decisions. It’s not about charity or doing good for the sake of doing good, but about understanding why the organization exists and having a north star to drive decisions.

In our third bonus episode of On Principle, Anjan helps us understand what drove his research into higher purpose in the first place, what it means for leaders, and the benefits to firm employees and the firm’s bottom line.

Other Related Links

Download the podcast transcript (PDF)


Anne Marie Knott: The IQ of Innovation

“Just as smart individuals are high IQ—individuals solve more problems per minute—high IQ companies solve more problems per dollar of R&D.”

Summary

How do firms know they’re getting the right bang for every buck they spend on research and development? Olin’s Anne Marie Knott explains her concept of RQ—the research quotient—and what it means for measuring the return on innovation.

Episode Notes

In our first-season On Principle episode with Nina Leigh Krueger, CEO of Nestle Purina PetCare for the Americas, we also spoke to Anne Marie Knott, Olin’s Robert and Barbara Frick Professor of Business. Her research focuses on questions around innovation, R&D and entrepreneurship. We talked to her about corporate innovation and how companies know they’re seeing a return on their innovation dollar.

In today’s second bonus episode of On Principle, we dive a little deeper into our conversation with Anne Marie as she explains the genesis of RQ and some of the tools firms use to drive research, invention and innovation.

We also learn a little about her background, how she creates her semi-regular RQ 50 list of top corporate innovators and why she thinks firms haven’t more widely adopted her measure of corporate innovation—even as the research community seems to embrace it.

Other Related Links

Download the podcast transcript (PDF)


Jesse Wolfersberger: The Value of Values

​“Some say they’ll pay any price to support the brand that supports a cause they care about.”

Episode Notes

In a white paper published in June 2021, WashU Olin’s Professor Stuart Bunderson and Jesse Wolfersberger, CEO and cofounder of Vrity, outlined a cross-section of consumer attitudes about how they relate to brands that outwardly articulate their values. Among their findings:

  • Consumers said they will vote with their wallets when people value-align with a brand. They’ll drive farther, dig deeper, spend more to support those brands.
  • Consumers who had job disruptions because of the pandemic were more likely to reevaluate their personal values.
  • Thirty-nine percent of people said there are brands they will never support because they were silent on an issue that was important to them.

“On the whole, what was so interesting is simply that these younger generations — and by younger, you’ve got to include Gen X in there — they're very values-driven in their purchasing behavior and the way they think about companies,” said Bunderson, director of Olin’s Bauer Leadership Center. “So, this isn't going away.”

Other Related Links

Download the podcast transcript (PDF)


Credits

This podcast is a production of Washington University in St. Louis’s Olin Business School. Contributors include:

  • Katie Wools, Cathy Myrick and Judy Milanovits, creative assistance
  • Jill Young Miller, fact checking and creative assistance
  • Hayden Molinarolo, original music, sound design and editing
  • Nate Sprehe, creative direction, production and editing
  • Angie Winschel, production assistance and project management
  • Lexie O'Brien and Erik Buschardt, website support
  • Mark P. Taylor, strategic support
  • Paula Crews, creative vision and strategic support

Special thanks to Ray Irving and his team at WashU Olin’s Center for Digital Education, including our audio engineer, Austin Alred.

Additional information
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