Brian Ganson

Brian GansonPeriodically we'll be interviewing Senior CEME Fellows to check in on their latest research, big questions they've been pondering and everything they're keeping an eye on in the world. Today we spoke with Senior Researchers at Stellenbosch Business School, Brian Ganson.

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Interviewer: What are the questions that keep you up at night around your current work?
BG: Right now I am concerned with how to deliver on the promise of business as a driver of stability and inclusive development in fragile environments such as Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The current narrative around business is quite negative, especially in places where some businesses benefit from corruption and the lack of state institutions. Making difficult changes takes time and commitment from various stakeholders. In my research and work I try to hone in on understanding each stakeholder’s role and interest in promoting stability.

Interviewer: What do you see in the developments and events around the world today that make your work relevant and timely?
BG: As investment increases in fragile countries, the question, “What is the role of companies?” is increasingly debated in the public sphere. We see investors, customers and governments setting the performance bar higher, as well as attempts at regulation, such as the IFC's Performance Standards. My work looks at the questions governments and others should ask as they shape different types of regulations, and equally importantly at how global firms are going to implement solutions to meet heightened social, political and economic expectations. One recent strand of work focuses on the role of leadership in complex environments. What does a Norwegian country manager for an extractives firm in South Africa need to know when leading the business there? How do the leader and the company understand and work within complex social-political dynamics? The need for global talent that can work in this context is of ever increasing importance.

Interviewer: Where do you see the greatest opportunities for impact for students who affiliate or work with IBGC?
BG: One of the successful things we do is a project started four years ago called "Reflects from Practice.” This pairs students with executives of companies and non-profits working in complex environments. Executives share with students a defining experience and answer the question, “What did you learn about how and why you needed to act differently?" Executives report a rare chance to reflect critically on their work, while students see business decisions from the inside. About thirty of these interviews have been conducted, with seven of the Reflections from Practice making it into my new book.

Interviewer: What is the most interesting book you have read recently?
BG: Time to Listen: Hearing People on the Receiving End of International Aid, by Mary B. Anderson, Dayna Brown and Isabella Jean. It should be required reading for anyone in business, government or the non-profit sector trying to “do good” in the developing world.

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