Olin’s new ‘On Principle’ podcast focuses on leaders’ decision-making process

How do you put a price tag on a hall-of-fame ballplayer? How do you decide to throw away one career dream for another one? How do you survive an existential crisis in your business? A new podcast from Washington University’s Olin Business School brings listeners behind the scenes with entrepreneurs, executives and other business decision-makers, telling stories about the pivotal moments in their businesses — and how they confronted them.

The podcast — named “On Principle” — officially launched its first eight-episode season on June 15. A new episode drops every two weeks after that, with the final first-season episode scheduled to appear Sept. 21. Podcast producers plan to create two eight-episode seasons each year.

“We empower students to become values-based, data-driven leaders at WashU Olin,” Dean Mark P. Taylor said in the teaser episode. “‘On Principle’ really dovetails with that mission by bringing to life stories about the kind of leader our students can become.”

The first episode introduces listeners to Gerard Craft, a James Beard Award-winning chef and restaurateur in St. Louis, who takes us back to March 2020 — and the pivotal moment when the reality of the pandemic set in.

“I am not an emotional guy. I really am not,” Craft says at the outset of episode one. “But I have never cried so much in my entire life [as] during this time.”

Inside minds of decision-makers

Each podcast episode will present a business leader and the story behind a choice that leader confronted. In some cases, the choice represents a moment in time, an immediate pivot the leader was called to confront. In others, the story examines a process that unfolds over days or weeks. Visit the podcast’s website for a schedule of first-season episodes and a summary of each story. Listeners can subscribe on all their favorite podcasting apps, including SpotifyApple Podcasts and Google Podcasts.

In each episode, Kurt Greenbaum, Olin communications director and host of “On Principle,” explores the broader issues with faculty members who put the decision-making lessons into context and drive home the takeaways. In the first episode, Elanor Williams, associate professor of marketing, and Peter Boumgarden, director of the Koch Center for Family Enterprise, provide their research-based insights to the situation Gerard Craft confronted at the dawn of the pandemic.

“I’m fascinated by these thoughtful and deliberative leaders who bring process and principle to their decisions while showing the effect their choices have on them as human beings,” Greenbaum said. “I’m lucky to be part of this new storytelling chapter at Olin.”

Olin’s differentiated approach to a podcast

The podcast was the brainchild of Paula Crews, senior associate dean for marketing and strategy. A yearlong process of research, conceptualization and production led to season one. The planning process focused heavily on finding a niche that would distinguish “On Principle” in the vast podcasting landscape.

“All good decision-makers apply data through the lens of their values. Great decision-makers also know how to prepare to confront the consequences of those choices,” Crews said. “‘On Principle’ not only shows listeners how a decision happens, but how it feels.”

Members of Olin’s marketing and communications department and the Center for Digital Education partnered with St. Louis-based creative agency Almanac in the conceptualization and first-season production phases for the project. The team chose to focus on pivotal decision-making moments by laying the groundwork for those moments and building context and research-based expertise around the stories.

The anticipated audience for “On Principle” includes early- to mid-career professionals open to change, potential students, business leaders and organizations seeking candidates for their positions.