December 12, 2019 The Corporate Social Responsibility Newswire

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Collective Intelligence and CSR


Before talking about collective intelligence it would probably make sense to talk first about individual intelligence.

The title of this reflection came to mind when I began questioning my own intelligence applied to CSR during a crisis of faith. One day I felt like the child in the parable of St. Augustine who was busily digging in the sand on the beach and trying to fill the hole with seawater, and I wondered if I was like that boy working in vain for the cause of Social Responsibility or even worse, if I was more like Nero, happily using my work to burn the foundations of CSR, the Corporate responsibility we want to build.

I think we need to do some soul-searching, a kind of psychoanalysis of our commitment and the basis of our own responsibility. Why? Because I am convinced that all CSR agents, including myself, can move up a step and transcend our respective activities, our own work, and build something greater.

In our dual role as CSR consumers and workers, are we like hamsters running on the wheel of the very system that we are struggling to change? Are we applying the same logic used by this unsustainable system?

What are the drivers of our businesses? Is growth the main driver of our activity?

Do we draw ethical and sustainability lines for our customers? Or just do we sell them a product with a CSR label?

Do we have “irresponsible” allies?

Do we have a long-term vision for our own activity?

If CSR claims the monopoly on change management, what are we doing differently to differentiate ourselves from other economic and social activities? It should serve to manage change in an imperative economic and ethical restructuring

-        CSR must become a credible tool for competitiveness,

-        a mechanism of collective efforts and load sharing,

-        it should promote innovation and education for change.

So where do we have to start so that CSR can be a genuine lever for change?

First of all, we need to dispel the myths of CSR. Some of them are old ideas that have never abandoned us and they reappear over time dressed up in different disguises; others are new brands that invade us in waves as part of a sort of planned obsolescence that makes up the "CSR MARKET".

Second, it is necessary to make a break with traditional structures.

Third, we have to change our behaviour.


CSR in its short existence has already generated some myths. The main one is that it is voluntary in nature. In “The map of CSR is not its territory” we briefly discussed the origins of this "dogma", used subsequently by some to protect their own interests, and unconsciously by others. We had to wait until the European Commission's Communication of October 2011 and a serious economic crisis, which led to greater interest in CSR as a way to manage environmental, social and economic impacts, and for CSR to gain impetus, whether it be in corporate governance, reporting, gender, etc. Obviously, there is room for voluntary actions in CSR, but letting it stand as a banner for such crucial tasks is a terrible blunder.

Organisational Change

Stanley Milgram showed some time ago that adults have an excessive tendency to follow orders and reproduce behaviour patterns. What happens when organizations tend to replicate the behaviour of a dysfunctional board of Directors or management team?

In how many organizations can we disagree (without getting our heads cut off)?

- The biggest barrier to disruption is internal

- Organizations do not have to seek out talent; they usually have it inside ... But they do not listen.

We must encourage critical thinking. And it should be something that HR policies value in firms. IKEA conducted a recruitment campaign that said, “Because you think differently, we want you on our team." However, this is not the norm. Organizations often pay their members to defend the Status Quo.

Thomas Davenport and Lawrence Prusak said that the most effective way for enterprises to be competitive is "hire smart people and let them talk to each other." Mats Alvesson and Andre Spicer in "A Stupidity-Based Theory of Organisations", used the term "functional stupidity" which promotes the idea that decisions do not need to be justified or explained and any reasoning that supports those decision can be eliminated.

Organizations tend to avoid conflict because

- It takes time

- It threatens established hierarchies

- It often leads to divergent points of view (which is seen as inefficient in the short-term)

- And to get the job done, communicative actions are blocked.

But the worst is the contagion effect because...

- People act according to their perception of the environment. We all know that the emperor is wearing no clothes but we find it easier and more comfortable to agree with him.

If it is so hard to break these organizational and behavioural patterns within organizations, how do we move forward in CSR?

The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by CSRwire contributors do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of CSRwire.

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