EFMD encourages and rewards innovative and impactful cases in management development each year. This year brought an exceptional variety of winning cases across various industries. EFMD decided to interview the winners to find out more about their motivation, inspiration and significant challenges.
The tenth interview is with the winning team of authors from the China Europe International Business School (CEIBS), from the “Responsible Leadership” category.
The winning authors:
- Liman Zhao, (CEIBS)
- Daniel Han Ming Chng, (CEIBS)
- Byron Lee, (CEIBS)
- Peter Moran, (CEIBS)
- Hellen Heming Sun, (CEIBS)
Daddy Lab: A Chinese Social Enterprise’s Dilemma
Daddy Lab is a Chinese social enterprise founded in 2015 by Wenfeng Wei. It is committed to outputting professional and high-quality science evaluation content to the entire network and providing consumers with good products in various aspects such as food, beauty, and maternal and child.
Could you share with us what the greatest inspiration for your case was?
The greatest inspiration for this case stemmed from our broader research interest in social enterprises. In a world in which governments face great resource constraints to deal with wicked social problems and corporate businesses’ lack of interest in advancing social issues beyond their narrowly defined mandate, we see social enterprises as increasingly relevant institutional actors in advancing plausible solutions to social challenges.
They are particularly relevant in emerging markets where social problems are persistent while resources are constrained.
Yet, social enterprises are inherent contradictions. They strive to address wicked social problems using market means that are not designed to do so. As hybrid organizations with both for-profit and not-for-profit characteristics, the paradoxical tensions between their social and financial objectives present significant challenges to the development and sustainability of any social enterprise.
Social entrepreneurs and their enterprises require creativity, passion, and persistence even to have the slightest chance of succeeding. We hope to enable them. We hope that our research can offer some nuggets of knowledge to help existing and new social entrepreneurs navigate the difficult path they have sought to undertake.
We developed a series of social enterprise cases, including (1) Xihaner Car Wash: Building a Sustainable Social Enterprise in China, winning “Best Case Award” in the 2018 Global Contest for the Best China-focused Cases, (2) Smart Health: Negotiation with a Social Purpose (HBP Case: CB0001&CB0002), an anonymous case developed based on Shenzhen Renrenzhuang Ltd., (3) this case, which also won the “Best Case Award” in the 2020 Global Contest for the Best China-focused Cases, and (4) an ongoing case of Canyou Group, a company helping 5000+ physically disabled employees build up their sustained competitive advantage in high-tech industries.
Daddy Lab case is interesting to us as the firm’s development also resulted in tough issues that the founder had to manage to ethically continue to make a social impact while continuing to be financially viable.
Daddy Lab case is interesting to us as the firm’s development also resulted in tough issues that the founder had to manage to ethically continue to make a social impact while continuing to be financially viable. We hope that users of this case can draw inspiration from the real struggles but the ultimate breakthrough of Daddy Lab in building an organization that can make a significant social impact while being financially viable at the same time.
What were the major challenges in designing the case?
One of the major challenges in designing this case was how to provide a framework that accounts for the dynamic nature of the social enterprise. In China, as well as for social enterprises, the company is constantly evolving to meet the needs of its users and customers. We interviewed the founders of the company and also its employees many times and found that the situation changed constantly.
Amidst the changes to the business model, the ethical struggles and how Daddy Lab wanted to be position in the market, we needed to develop a framework that can help readers systematically understand how to analyze the dynamic nature of this company and the considerations that have been made to manage a complex environment that consists of ethical considerations, financial considerations and its overarching social purpose.
To be able to present this case systematically and provide tools to analyze this case amidst such change was a large challenge. It is also a challenge to design the right questions to engage students, especially in business schools, where profits matter a lot!
In what ways, according to you, could the case impact society and business in the near future?
First, we hope that our case(s), at the very least, bring awareness to this special class of actors called social entrepreneurs and social enterprises. They are trying exciting ways to address age-old social challenges that neither governments nor businesses can adequately address. We see them as essential civil institutions that can function alongside governmental agencies and corporate companies to improve society. By recognizing and enabling them, we can make not only business but also society better.
Second, regardless of whether the firm is designed to impact society positively, any firm will face ethical dilemmas in its operations. It is not sufficient to simply pursue an ethical goal and thereby avoid all ethical questions in the firm. Instead, it is important to take a step back and consider the ethical process through which the firm tries to achieve its goals to ensure that the firm is able to tackle such difficult dilemmas in an ethical manner.
Third, this case also shows how a small entrepreneurial firm can use the digital tools and existing digital environment to make a significant impact and how digital tools can act as an enabler to help organizations both reach a greater customer base and to interact in more meaningful ways with such customers.
Last but not least, we hope that our students will learn to become more thoughtful and responsible business leaders that build purposeful, sustainable enterprises.
The Sponsor’s Commentary
The category “Responsible Leadership” is kindly sponsored by the University of San Diego School of Business. EFMD greatly values the sponsorship, the expertise and the effort of the sponsor to contribute to the Case Writing Competition.
Eileen Daspro, from the University of San Diego School of Business, shares more information about sponsoring the category.
Why is case writing & teaching on the topic of “Responsible Leadership” important?
Case writing and teaching are incredibly valuable for responsible leadership education. They introduce a level of realism into the classroom. They force learners to address real-world challenges that leaders of both profit and not for profit organizations face every day. Most importantly, they allow learners to put themselves into the shoes of the case protagonist who is faced with tough decisions on how to create economy and value while balancing the diverse interests of multiple and often competing stakeholder groups across the globe. This is essential for developing critical thinking and ethical decision-making competencies.
What are the reasons that the University of San Diego School of Business is encouraging case writing on the topic by sponsoring the category?
The University of San Diego sets the standard for engaged, contemporary Catholic higher education where innovative changemakers confront humanity’s greatest challenges. As a designated Changemaker Campus, USD is part of Ashoka U, a worldwide network of universities focused on social change and innovation. We encourage our community to commit to addressing social issues that matter to them and exploring new ways to make a positive social impact.
At USD’s School of Business, develop socially responsible business leaders with a global mindset and a passion for innovation, social responsibility and international leadership.
At USD’s School of Business, develop socially responsible business leaders with a global mindset and a passion for innovation, social responsibility and international leadership. On our campus, rigorous academics converge with experiential learning so that graduates are equipped to tackle real-worth problems and are empowered to protect and care for society while embracing a stewardship approach to business.
Developing responsible leaders is essential for us to fulfil our vision as business as a force for good.
Further Comments on the Winning Case
We chose this as the winning case because it explored multiple themes related to responsible leadership: ethical decision making, sustainable business models, stakeholder management and social enterprise. The focus on social entrepreneurship from the perspective of a Chinese founder was refreshing and unique as it brought to light unique opportunities and constraints of the Chinese context. The ethical dilemma faced by the leader in the case was very evident and yet nuanced and complex, forcing the reader to devise innovative solutions that generate economic and social value.
The case itself is really user friendly. It is clearly written and easy to follow. The teaching notes are clearly laid out and with well-developed suggested responses and activities to support the professor using the case for the first time. For these reasons, the judges felt this case would be very appealing to our students and also easy to adopt and implement in a business school setting.
Each year, more than 14 institutions sponsor categories in the EFMD Case Writing Competition. The choice of category, its exact definition and any specific conditions are the privileges of the sponsor. Sponsorships for the following categories are currently available – Bringing Technology to Market, Continuous Improvement: The Journey to Excellence, and MENA Business Cases. If you are interested in sponsoring the mentioned categories or launching a new category relevant to case writing and teaching, please contact Hansol Park at firstname.lastname@example.org.
More information about the 2020 EFMD Case Writing Competition can be found on the EFMD Global Case Writing Competition page.
Please visit the Case Centre’s webpage to access the collection of the winning cases.