A portrait of the center & its director Alain Chanlat
Profile: Alain Chanlat, Director of The Humanism, Management and Globalization Centre
by Bee MacGuire
Professor Alain Chanlat, director-founder of the Humanism, Management & Globalization Centre at HEC (Hautes études commerciales) Montréal, University of Montreal, is the recipient of the two highest honours that institution bestows: the Grand-Prix of Research and the Grand-Prix of Education. His award-winning career, spanning three decades, has been deeply committed to a single theme: Unity. Specifically, to the mission of fostering a bridge-building process between the cadre of financial values, and the realm of human and social values, on an operational level.
It has long been Professor Chanlat’s view that if either polarized approach to our core human issues – financial values, or human values — becomes too dominant, devastating crises and polar shifts can be the result in real life for our human family.
He viewed the economic crisis in New York, which, based on the greed of a few, reverberated around the world, as an early warning signal re the possible long term results of such an imbalance, if rendered extreme, not only on a social level but on an economic one as well.
Chanlat’s career-long commitment to this, in his view, crucially important bridge-building process was catalyzed in the 1980s when, as a professor of management at HEC Montréal, he witnessed a paradigm shift in the world of business. At that juncture, the standard of financial practices and values traditionally held to be acceptable — based in that era not only on profit, but on excellence, legacy, service, and ethical factors — was peremptorily replaced by a pure-profit-based ‘get rich quick’ standard. Alain was particularly concerned to see a new breed of intensely profit-focused executives hailed as heroes by the press, and as a result, adulated by the new generation. He was troubled re how this shift might affect not only our society, and our social issues, but in the long run, our economy.
In the face of that shift, Chanlat was quick to react. His first step was to found the Humanism and Management Group, at HEC, an international think tank whose mandate was to explore new means to forge win-win, ‘and’-based links between the realms of financial and social and human values on an operational level.
Concurrently – and this move was unprecedented – he launched a programme of courses in the humanities within the cadre of HEC Montréal’s MBA programme, in an era when, the world over, the realms of business and the humanities were classified as academically and logistically incompatible. Today, under his aegis, a PhD joint programme in both categories is offered at HEC Montréal.
As news of this dual approach travelled, he was invited to introduce similar joint programmes in universities in North Africa, and Central and South America, which today, are going concerns of their own, yet closely linked by student and professorial exchanges, findings, and by shared values. His win-win approach, of course, extends to the respect of core values on an intercultural level
As the globalization process broadened and began to impose financial values over human ones on a world scale, unchecked, Chanlat broadened the compass of his own mandate. Six years ago, the Humanism, Management, and Globalization Centre opened its doors at HEC Montréal under his directorship, mandated to foster proposals for unity in these two core domains on a world level: a move that he viewed to be urgent not only due to humanistic concerns but to economic ones as well.
His concern proved to be prophetic. Two years later, witnessing the financial decimation of the middle class in the United States, by the few, for pure profit gain, and its world-wide effects on the global economy, Chanlat was reminded of the cautionary tale of the killing of the goose that laid the golden egg and the fable of the scorpion and the frog.
In his view, it is only in bringing both seemingly polarized approaches, social and financial values, to our core issues as a human family into a state of critical mass at the midpoint that catastrophic polar reversals – either way — can be avoided. Become, in fact, logistically impossible.
Today, in Quebec , generations of graduates of the joint programmes founded by Chanlat have themselves become leaders in the business community, working daily with that win-win intention, that intention of unity, in view, creating an expanding firework affect in the community.
Always in the same spirit of unity, and in the spirit of intercultural respect, Alain Chanlat has been involved in virtually all international projects taken on by HEC in the last two decades, and has himself directed joint projects in Algeria, Senegal, Camaroon, and in Central and South America.