May 2004 NewsLeader Year 2 number 3

Alfredo Behrens

This is a space for quick conversations on management and society. 

Our interests gravitate around issues of leadership, management of workteams, technology, creativity, emotional intelligence and most issues which should be shared to shape a better world. 

Our approach brings thorough  perspectives into real-life situations and seeks awareness rather than compliance

Your comments will be most welcome.


Lack of research is one of the weakest points of Latin American business schools. Lack of research means that our business schools teach management techniques transposed from business schools elsewhere. Some of those techniques, namely the motivational ones, fail to reflect local values or the education level of the workforce. As companies grow and hire below the skill level of those that read English; those managerial techniques loose effectiveness.

This is why this issue’s Feature Article brings up the relative irrelevance of the foreign incentive system of our prevailing managerial paradigm. It works, but it seems to work better for a too small share of our populations.



This is also why the Spotlight section brings forth an unorthodox business valuation solution that set the tone for a quick and effective solution of a partnership breaking up.


Rio de Janeiro samba schools also offer an extraordinary example of how to manage a local workforce, traditionally resilient to the American incentive management paradigm.  



Not that you could run an industry as you run a samba school; but you could certainly run a project on those teachings. At the samba schools, leaders are capable of assembling the necessary mix of talents into work teams and infusing them with their vision. Leaders coach, stimulate and coordinate the work teams who work while having fun. 


The samba schoos still manage to deliver the Carnival parade by a sharp deadline, and this is World class entertainment. Not only is this more that what you usually get in business; you also get it for work teams in their hundreds; and for little or even no pay!


Yet, many of the people that work and play in those organizations are the ones which work for corporations, public service or service companies, where those same people frequently fail to fully respond to the orthodox incentive systems.


People work for more than money; perhaps more so in developing countries. But our managerial incentive system insists in ignoring what makes our people tick.


NewsLeader will be very grateful if you could help us become aware of more popular managerial techniques that our foreign based training may have turned us blind to. This should help us develop business training courses more attuned with the needs and responsiveness of our peoples, and more capable of designing more effective incentive systems that can be effectively deployed by the corporations. This should contribute to bridge the productivity gap that separate our societies from the developed ones, a gap that only reproduces poverty.



In Nourishment for the Mind and Soul we bring you a few words of Martin Seligman; he is the current President of the American Psychological Association, but he is better known for investing his best efforts in making people happier rather than less miserable. Much of what Seligman considers the highest level of happiness is related to what apparently drives some of the most effective business leaders, as mentioned in the April issue of NewsLeader.


In the same section we bring you a reproduction of Katinka Matson’s scanned flowers. We had already brought you this in our first issue, but that issue had only 200 subscribers. As readership has increased over 25 times since then, a lot of our new friends may have missed our call to Katinka’s work; which you may find more of in the same site as the Seligman excerpts,; besides in Katinka’s own site:


We gratefully acknowledge warm messages of appreciation received from Rosina de Souza, IADB, Washington D.C.; Claudio Haddad, Head, IBMEC, Sao Paulo; Eleutério Freire, PREGE, Government of Angola and Dave Harcourt of Bio/CHEMTEK, South Africa.


Enjoy, keep in touch and please send us short cases exemplifying how people may respond to unorthodox incentives.


The Editor






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Feature Article Back to Table of Contents



In their father's image




Alfredo Behrens

May, 2004



A young executive walked into an up-scale shoe shop in Washington DC and asked for a brown pair of shoes of a certain style. With an earnest smile the shop attendant kept bringing black shoes in various lengths and breadths until the customer’s precise shoe size was ascertained; when the attendant exclaimed: “Well, there you are! What else can I do for you today?” Pointing to the black shoes, and as if afraid to sound impolite, the young executive  stuttered:  “Thanks! But do you have them in brown?” “Sorry, Sir;” he heard from the attendant, “We do not do those shoes in brown.”


Some time later the same executive walked into a smart shoe shop in Rio de Janeiro and asked the attendant for the same type of shoes, still in brown. Graciously, the attendant let him know that they did not have those shoes in brown, but that their competitors across the street did.


An American shop attendant is managed to sell. A Brazilian attendant apparently sees the customer not as a sales opportunity but as a fellow pilgrim, to whom one offers directions when asked for them. Modern and foreign managerial techniques have been in place in Brazilian retailing for decades now and pursue the same objective: to align salespeople with their employer’s goal.  Yet, the point is that those incentives do not seem to entice in Brazil the same response as they do in America. Why would the same incentives result in different effectiveness?


Perhaps it is not a question of different values but of different stages of development. In  America and Europe people are brought up in a complex array of rates designed to shape people’s demand. In those markets we have not only low and high season prices; we even have time-of-day rates for public services, as well as coupons and rebates aimed at segmenting markets for consumer goods. On the other hand, in developing countries the majority of the population will have difficulty in understanding a discriminatory pricing system, and they may even consider it offensive, because, to the economically uneducated, price discrimination seems unfair. As it seems unfair to withhold information from a customer.


Man, we are told in management textbooks, toils for money; and much of management motivation strategies rest upon that simple assumption. Yet, the men that have a lot of money seem to carry on toiling for something other than money; perhaps they also toil for recognition; and money is only a poor proxy to recognition. See the most recent case in point offered by the Google lads; who resist giving away control of Google - though their idea is unlikely to make them wealthier as fast as other investment opportunities would.


That man strives for recognition is recognized at least since Plato’s concern over man’s “thymus,” that area of man’s soul beyond rationality and even desire. Hegel attributed to avid striving for recognition man’s taking part in contests and wars devoid of any economic meaning. Yet it was Marx’s materialism that folded religion and “men’s striving for recognition,” into an ideological superstructure serving economic motivation, which, unbridled, ran man’s behaviour.


What we need to ask ourselves now is whether a late XIXth century based managerial incentive system, neglecting thymus, is as effective and whether it may not be wiser to develop a managerial incentive system appropriate to each stage of development rather than lazily impinging the current American one on all; and reproducing at all business schools the same credo, to our father's image.[1]


After all, the value-ridden managerial technology embedded in the globalization path renders many a man a foreigner in his own country. This feeling of inadequacy deprives man of his basic need for recognition and is at the root of the fundamentalist overtones of the reaction to globalization; whether it is perceived in the protests at Seattle, the terrorism in the Middle East, or the passive resistance of a shoe shop attendant in Rio de Janeiro.


Once we allow for a more creative managerial outlook we will be able to see more readily why Rio de Janeiro Samba Schools manage to put on a street quite a few thousand dancers and musicians who have practiced for months and spent relative fortunes in decoration and costumes; all for no money nor MBA advice. Joazinho Trinta, who has masterminded many of those Carnival feats, argues that he simply allows people to achieve their “desire for realization;” now, if that is not blending Plato’s “thymus” into a managerial incentive system, what is? Yet why are those popular team management skills so absent in the region’s managerial technology?





[1] Professor Paine’s elective MBA discipline, “Globalization, Culture, and Management,“at Harvard Business School, is still a noteworthy  exception, five years later.

The Spotlight Back to Table of Contents

King Solomon at work in a business valuation quagmire


Alfredo Behrens

May 2004


After a few years in a substantial 50/50 road haulage partnership in Brazil, Mr. Moreira was faced with the uncomfortable decision to leave the partnership. How to evaluate the business, and how to separate are frequently difficulty issues in themselves; in the case of road haulage business the difficulty is compounded by the significant amount of under invoicing that goes on in Brazil.


Blue suit consultants are likely to come out tarnished when giving their expensive advice based on accounting-based estimates that may be way off the mark. Besides, neither Mr. Moreira nor his partner, nor any of their advisors, had come within an arm’s length of an MBA. They would not have paid for highbrow advice and the partners needed a quick and ready solution that would put them at ease.


NewsLeader stepped in and assigned a consultant, well versed in Social Sciences, who offered a bit of Solomonic wisdom: Mr. Moreira would buy the his partner’s part, or sell his own, for a price stipulated by his partner. Should the latter come up with a price that Mr. Moreira would deem too high, Mr. Moreira would be tempted to sell his part. Should his partner's price be too low, Mr. Moreira would want to buy his partner’s half.


After some years in the business together Mr. Moreira and his partner had more information on the profitability and prospects of that business than most consultants could have come up with in the time (and the pay) available.


The NewsLeader consultant came up with a Solomonic decision in only a couple of hours of conversation with the partners, who sealed their transaction a week later. Mr. Moreira sold his half.



Nourishment for the mind and soul Back to Table of Contents

Eudaemonia, the good life.
Excerpts of a talk with Martin Seligman

With Edge 135


Martin Seligman is a crusader for Positive Psychology. This is a movement away from the disease perspective on patients, which turned psychologists into pathologizers. Under this perspective; therapy was content with making people less miserable instead of happier.


But what is happiness?

At Edge, Martin Seligman comes up with three types of existence that bring happiness:


“The first is the pleasant life, which consists of having as many of the positive emotions as you can, and learning the skills that amplify them. There are a half dozen such skills that have been reasonably well-documented. That's the Hollywood view of happiness, the Debbie Reynolds, smiley, giggly view of happiness. It's positive emotion.”


We get a lot of this when watching TV and are coached to laugh by electronically canned laughter slots in the programming. But we also get a lot of this in bars and pubs. It is fun. But it is not enough.



“The second one is eudaemonia, the good life, which is what Thomas Jefferson and Aristotle meant by the pursuit of happiness. They did not mean smiling a lot and giggling. Aristotle talks about the pleasures of contemplation and the pleasures of good conversation. Aristotle is not talking about raw feeling, about thrills, about orgasms. Aristotle is talking about what Mike Csikszentmihalyi works on, and that is, when one has a good conversation, when one contemplates well. When one is in eudaemonia, time stops. You feel completely at home. Self-consciousness is blocked. You're one with the music.”



The eudaemonia stage is unfortunately less frequent; but it is within us to attain those stages, value them, share them, pursue them.

Them comes the third form of happiness, you may with to relate this phase with the closing remarks in  the article in the April issue of NewsLeader, “Feudal Values boost stock price.”


“There's a third form of happiness that is ineluctably pursued by humans, and that's the pursuit of meaning. I'm not going to be sophomoric enough to try to tell Edge viewers the theory of meaning, but there is one thing we know about meaning: that meaning consists in attachment to something bigger than you are. The self is not a very good site for meaning, and the larger the thing that you can credibly attach yourself to, the more meaning you get out of life.”


John Seely at Xerox’s Parc is credited with having said “The job of leadership today is not just to make money, it’s to make meaning.” Also, relate this sentence by Seely with Seligman’s third stage of happiness. Leading in a way to make meaning is the only way to attract the talent that makes a company great. For a great company cannot be made with people who to do not expect to contribute to make a difference.


Though not on leadership you will learn more at Seligman’s, where you can take a variety of happiness and depression tests, and more.


Katinka Matson

Following the link above you will encounter a most pleasurable example of a creative intersection between work and art. Katinka scans flowers to reproduce subtle shapes, colours and textures of flowers. Her work will help you have another look at dull office equipment, like scanners, and perhaps put it to creative work like hers. It would surely be another of the positive “Interventions” Martin Seligman tells you of, above.


Click here for a sample of Katinka's work

Feedback from our readers Back to Table of Contents

Dear Alfredo,

I enjoyed the April Newsleader - the selling by country of origin debate is interesting. We have it in South Africa - see . The unions are actually pressurising (there have already been strikes) some of the retailers who import cheap clothing and household goods from the East. Maybe South Africa needs it for a while given our past. 


Over the last years, we have been seen in Africa, as muscling in and putting smaller and lower technology companies out of business. This, I would think, makes the use of the Proudly South African approach debatable in these areas.



Dave Harcourt


BIO/CHEMTEK, South Africa

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How to Be Featured as our Guest Columnist Back to Table of Contents
Provocative insights under 400 words long will receive our attention more rapidly. Larger pieces may be abridged without consultation with the author. Guest authors may wish to submit contributions in English, Spanish or Portuguese. Please use Arial 12 font; and  with each submission include a statement indicating the work submited is your own. Please also submit your affiliations, email address and CV or Oxford Muse like portrait.  Authors will only be notified when their contributions are selected for publication.

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Copyright 2003: Authors retain copyright of their work. Alfredo Behrens is entitled to all other rights concerning NewsLeader, except the template design. You are encouraged to make use of the views and information provided herein, as long as you appropriately give credit to the author and quote this Newsleader's issue number and date.

To contact the Editor Back to Table of Contents
Alfredo Behrens 
Phone +55 11 38713363
São Paulo, SP

Alfredo Behrens is an economist. He holds a PhD by the University of Cambridge; has lectured at Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School, at FSU and at PUC-RJ. He has broad experience in advising high public officials, shareholders and board members of banks and large corporations on issues such as: governance, corporate relations with governments, M&As and strategic planning focused on the internationalization of companies. He has worked in or with the private and public sector in the Americas, East and Western Europe and Southern Africa. He was awarded the McNamara Fellowship by the World Bank, the Hewlett fellowship by Princeton University and the Jean Monet Fellowhship by the European University, Fiesole, Italy.

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