Dreaming in Business? Dream On

Last Updated Apr 29, 2009 5:14 AM EDT

Can we dream ourselves out of the recession? That was the parting question at a round table discussion run by INSEAD last week. The event was hosted by technology hardware supplier HP across three cities: London, Munich and Paris, with the aid of a telepresence link.

Two leading lights at INSEAD were there. Ludo Van der Hayden is a former director of the school's Advanced Management Programme (AMP) and Marc Le Menestrel is visiting professor of ethics.

AMP students who take the elective Dreaming in Business are asked to consider their own dreams and aspirations when they began their careers and ask themselves how these dreams have changed over the years and whether they have been fulfilled.

Le Menestrel argues that this approach is different to business vision, because dreams include goals which may be farfetched, just as a young athlete dreams of becoming a champion, even though the chances of doing so are slight.

He adds that while dreams have been the genesis of many of the global companies that dominate the business landscape, they have little place in contemporary business, where managers are driven by performance metrics and shareholder value.

Goal-setting using these criteria, not real-world benefits, has played a significant factor in causing the downturn -- people cared more about securing a bonus based on a profit margin than they did about the risk to which they were exposing their own company and customers.

Conversely, by incorporating each member of the company's dreams into the overall goals of the organisation, businesses open the door to innovation, motivate the workforce and fulfil the needs of the wider world responsibly, argue Le Menestral and Van Der Hayden.

The panel agreed that in order to rise above a tough economic environment, it's essential to consider the business's circumstances post-recession, so that you can work towards making them a reality.

But it's also essential that the people within the business focus on specific tasks, rather than their own desires. As employees, we all set aside our own dreams to an extent and subscribe to a strategic vision set by the leaders of the business.

Perhaps there is a space for dreams in business and that they are essential in rising above the recession. But it may be only a lucky few at the top that can allow their dreams to shape the direction of the company.

(pic tibchris cc 2.0)