“Businesses are the last place where people cannot choose to relate only to people like them, who believe in the same as they do,” says the executive chairman of Merck’s board of directors
Kenneth Frazier is the executive chairman of the board of Merck and for many years was CEO of the German pharmaceutical company. In his conversation with Bill Nelson at the 2022 Page Society Spring Seminar, he emphasized the crucial role of CCOs for companies in a polarized world. According to Frazier, CCOs have never been more critical than today, when “organizations are evaluated for their performance and their values.” He also pointed out that “the most important role of the CCO is not to represent the company to the outside, but to help represent the outside within the company.”
Under his motto, “Data plus transparency equals trust,” Frazier explained that data is essential when deciding the position the company will take and the values it wants to expose.
In the most provocative moment of his speech, Frazier pointed out that, unlike most environments where there is a congregation of people, “businesses are the last place where people cannot choose to relate only to people like themselves, who believe the same as they do.” Today’s society is highly polarized, and we live with people similar to us in schools, churches, synagogues, or mosques. We also live on social networks or even in newspapers, where people select what they want to hear or believe.
For Frazier, the CEO of an organization must respect the different points of view of various team members, remaining faithful to the company’s principles and values. “It is important that we in business are aware of the role of business in bringing people together.”
He says that CEOs should always reflect the company’s values, counting on the CCO’s help to express this to the public and translate the outside into the organizational environment.