UVA Darden Professor R. Edward Freeman and York University Professor Ellen Auster Publish new Book on Business Values
By Laura Hennessey Martens
University of Virginia Darden School of Business Professor R. Edward Freeman has co-authored a new book with York University Professor Ellen Auster titled, Bridging the Values Gap: How Authentic Organizations Bring Values to Life. The book explores the principles of many leading companies and offers a process through which organizations can enact deeply held values that resonate with everyone throughout the organization, from top to bottom.
According to Auster, “One such value that we are increasingly becoming conscious of is that business is a deeply human institution, living within society rather than existing above it in some mythical free-market land where everyone is a short-term, purely economic maximizer.”
By developing values through discussions — casual or formal, one-on-one or in groups — what Freeman and Auster refer to as Values Through Conversation (VTC), companies can ensure that values are dynamic and evolving, not static words on a wall or a website. Freeman and Auster offer advice, real-world examples, and sample questions to help business practitioners create values that are authentic and embraced, since they are rooted in the “lived” experience of the organization.
“To understand how business really works, we have to understand human beings and their hopes, dreams and abilities to do great harm as well as good,” said Freeman. “There is no magical transformation of people into one-dimensional, greedy egotists when they walk into their workplaces. They do not check their values at the door and pick them up when they clock out.”
While many businesses have values statements, often they do not translate into living documents. Sometimes the business values conflict with one another, and sometimes they conflict with individual values of employees. Often the world changes and companies encounter new situations that require rethinking how their values are relevant. The result of these forces is a values gap, according to Freeman and Auster.
To bridge this values gap, Freeman and Auster provide a process through which all of us can collectively surface deeply held values that resonate with everyone throughout all levels of the organization. Freeman and Auster’s VTC process focuses on four key types of values conversations:
- introspective — reflecting on ourselves and how we do things in the organization
- historical — exploring our understanding of the past and how it impacts us
- connectedness — creating a strong community where we work well together
- aspirational — sharing our hopes and dreams
The University of Virginia Darden School of Business delivers the world’s best business education experience to prepare entrepreneurial, global and responsible leaders through its MBA, Ph.D., MSBA and Executive Education programs. Darden’s top-ranked faculty is renowned for teaching excellence and advances practical business knowledge through research. Darden was established in 1955 at the University of Virginia, a top public university founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819 in Charlottesville, Virginia.
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