The Economist takes top honors in new competition at Olin Business School

Corporate strategy at Cisco is subject of winning article

The Olin Business School at Washington University in St. Louis has announced the winners of the first Olin Corporate Strategy Prize honoring the best business journalism covering a company experiencing significant strategic change. The top-ranked business school hopes the annual prize will help to expand awareness and understanding among business school students and the general business public about the importance of successful strategic change to the ongoing vitality and competitiveness of the firm.

The winners of the 2010 Olin Corporate Strategy Prize are:

1st prize: “The World According to Chambers,” a profile of Cisco Systems by Ludwig Siegele, technology correspondent at The Economist.

2nd prize: “The Transformer: Why VW is the Car Giant to Watch,” a profile of Volkswagen by David Welch, Detroit bureau chief at Bloomberg Businessweek.

3rd prize: “How GE Teaches Teams to Lead,” a profile of General Electric by Steven Prokesch, senior editor at Harvard Business Review.

“This new prize provides a wonderful opportunity for the worlds of academia, business and media to intersect,” says Mahendra R. Gupta, PhD, dean of the Olin Business School and the Geraldine J. and Robert L. Virgil Professor of Accounting and Management. “It allows us to spotlight today’s best reporting on leaders who are managing strategic change and to share those examples with our students who are tomorrow’s business leaders.”

The Olin Corporate Strategy Prize was established with the generous support of Richard J. Mahoney, executive-in-residence at Olin and former chairman and CEO of Monsanto Co. During his career at Monsanto, Mahoney’s leadership catalyzed years of innovation and strategic change. “Strategic change is the essence of sustainable growth during both stable and unstable times,” Mahoney says. “It is the firms that embrace change as a way of life that succeed and become very important models from which future leaders study and learn.”

The Olin Corporate Strategy Prize grants honorariums of $5,000 to the first prize winner, $3,500 to the second prize winner and $1,500 to the third prize winner. Submissions were received from leading business publications worldwide and judged by a distinguished panel of leading journalists, journalism professors, business leaders and faculty, comprising:

  • Nick Argyres, PhD, the Vernon W. & Marion K. Piper Professor of Strategy at Olin;
  • Howard Fineman, senior editor, the Huffington Post and NBC/MSNBC news analyst;
  • Jeff Fox, CEO of the Harbour Group Ltd.;
  • Andrew Leckey, president of the Donald W. Reynolds National Center for Business Journalism and the Reynolds Endowed Chair in Business Journalism at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University;
  • James T. Madore, Albany bureau chief, Newsday,(Washington University ’87);
  • Joe McCue, visiting professor at the University of Edinburgh Management School and former director and executive vice president of Barclays Bank;
  • Jeff Quinn, chairman, president and CEO of Solutia, Inc.;
  • Randall Smith, the Donald W. Reynolds Endowed Chair in Business Journalism at University of Missouri-Columbia School of Journalism;
  • Anjan Thakor, PhD, the John E. Simon Professor of Finance at Olin; and
  • Judy Warner, managing editor, National Association of Corporate Directors’ NACD Directorship Magazine and

Submissions were judged on three factors: the nature of the strategic change profiled in the story; the article’s potential for significantly increasing business-school students’ understanding about the importance of strategic change; and the overall journalistic quality of the story.

First prize winner Ludwig Siegele

In commenting on the winning article, University of Missouri J-school professor Smith called Siegele’s piece an excellent case study, saying, “In this look at the transformation of Cisco, Siegele takes the reader on a fascinating journey that gives insight into Cisco’s leader, John Chambers, and the complex web of businesses that he’s weaving in these difficult times.”

Newsday’s Madore said he was particularly impressed by the Chambers’ piece because of its scope and depth. “Mr. Siegele takes readers inside the company and clearly explains how Cisco is trying to change. Mr. Siegele also is a fine writer, capable of grabbing the reader’s attention so they stick with the piece as it becomes more technical,” Madore said.

Select articles submitted to the competition will be included in a compendium for case studies to augment the educational experience of Olin students and made available to all accredited business schools for use in their academic programs.

An event honoring the first-prize winner will be held at a future date.