"How often have you read that a company is taking off because they give their employees a free lunch?” That was Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, decrying the state of modern business writing. The remark came as part of an endorsement for a book he actually enjoyed—Business Adventures by John Brooks, published in 1969—but he argued Brooks’s work stood apart from its modern brethren. Too often, writers offer “pat how-to lessons for success,” Gates said, rather than actual scrutiny of why companies thrive or fail.
It was an offhand critique, but it rattles around my head, particularly after reading yet another article about how the secret to success is sleeping four—or three or seven or maybe 12—hours each night. Too often, business leaders seeking to improve their management practices and company strategies are offered the equivalent of a fad diet. Just as you'll never get thin by eating only grapefruit, you'll never improve your corporate culture by adding a foosball table.
And yet, we live in a time when corporate leaders desperately need strategic insight and trustworthy advice. According to a global survey released earlier this year, CEOs’ confidence that their own companies will continue to grow has fallen to the lowest levels since the financial crisis. Meanwhile, there’s been a fivefold increase in the belief that the global economy is headed for decline. From blockchain and artificial intelligence to protectionism and climate change to cybersecurity and currency volatility, business leaders face a dizzying array of risks and opportunities.
Starting with this issue, we’re honing the focus of Report on Business to concentrate on management strategy and corporate leadership. To serve this purpose, we’ve introduced a new section, Need to Know, highlighting the best analysis coming from Canada’s business schools, think tanks and other thought leaders. In this month’s edition, you’ll find a high-level look at corporate social responsibility, practical advice for dealing with duplicitous employees and a frank conversation with Ed Sonshine about how he reshaped RioCan’s corporate strategy.
This issue also marks the debut of Canada's Top Growing Companies, a ranking that spotlights the country's next generation of corporate superstars. With this package, we celebrate entrepreneurial excellence while sharing the secrets that allowed these firms to skyrocket.
We undertake these new initiatives while remaining committed to the indepth storytelling and commentary that’s been central to the magazine’s mission for 35 years. Today’s business leaders don’t need easy answers. They need ideas to answer their most complex questions. We are here to help.