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Executive Interviews: Interview with Shantanu Dutta on Building Trust
January 2011. - By Dr. Nagendra V Chowdary


Shantanu Dutta
Shantanu Dutta
Vice Dean for Graduate Programs
Marshall School of Business USC
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  • After having spent quite a lot of time observing the way management education, management research, MBA programs and Executive MBA programs have been taking new shape in the last 1- 2 decade, what do you think would be the shape of things to come in the future as far as MBA programs, Executive MBA programs and management research programs are concerned?
    The recent economic and financial crises have highlighted the interdependence between emerging markets like China and India and more developed economies like the US and Europe. Emerging markets are

    no longer mere exporters of goods and services; increasingly they are also consumers of products and services that have been produced in developed markets. This suggests that businesses, irrespective of their country of origin, must develop management teams that have a global mindset. A global mindset is an open way of thinking and behaving that is able to learn from other cultures and countries, as well as develop new insights and innovations for business and society.

    MBA programs should think creatively about how to develop this ability in their students. Management research will have to focus on identifying those factors and environments that engender the development of a global mindset.

    The recent crises have also thrown into sharp relief the fact that many citizens – perhaps with some reason – do not trust businesses. CEOs of many companies are seen as individuals who care only about their short-term returns often at the expense of other key stakeholders. therefore, management programs and research should also focus on how their businesses earn back the trust of their stakeholders.

  • How do high performing companies achieve strong results in each area?
    If the last two decades are any guide, the next two decades will see profound technological innovations and changes in business models. These ideas will come from different parts of the world and from unexpected sources. Those companies that develop leadership teams, which are able to learn and adapt to these changes will continue to do well in the market place.

  • What is trust according to you and why do you think it is so important for the companies and companies' boards to renew and rejuvenate their trust-related dashboards?
    Developing trust implies that employees and other stakeholders feel that the company is offering products and services that not only benefit their direct consumers, but also benefit the surrounding business, environmental, social eco-systems. Developing this trust is sound and indeed a vital business practice. Technological advances are ensuring that information flows are very rapid even in remote areas. This rapid dissemination of information enhances the likelihood that bad business practices become widely known. The resulting blows to an organization's reputation can impair its competitive position.

  • Building trust amongst customers is the biggest challenge that any company faces. What according to you are the best ways to build trust amongst customers? Are there any lessons from fairly longlasting brands such as P&G, Nestle, Louis Vuitton, GE, Unilever, Rolls Royce, etc?
    Building trust amongst customers is an ongoing challenge for all companies. Companies that succeed in this are very good at establishing processes that enable them to receive feedback from their customers. This should be done in a way that ensures that the voice of the customer is heard and contemplated without filters or biases at various key levels in the company. Sometimes strongly held beliefs amongst senior or middle management is unable or unwilling to listen to customer feedback. Even the best of companies, including some mentioned above, have made mistakes from time to time. However a hallmark of a good company is its willingness and ability to learn from past mistakes. Such companies also take tangible actions to demonstrate their commitment to build customer trust.

  • How to build trust in online businesses like e-Bay, Amazon.com, monster.com, ecch.com, etc?
    The growth of social networks is impacting the reputation of companies. Negative word of mouth spreads quickly. Companies must figure out how they can use the social network in credible ways. If consumers perceive that companies are manipulating the networks and are not being transparent, their trust in the company will be eroded.

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