Knowledge constitutes the greatest wealth of raw materials in the world, especially in the technology era where borders look more like nets than walls, Serge Godin, co-founder of CGI, told graduands Thursday.
Godin received an honorary doctor of law degree, during the Spring Convocation ceremony for graduates of the Schulich School of Business, for his outstanding achievements as an entrepreneur and philanthropist.
“I’ve tried to stay true to some very basic principles of sound management. These principles were developed from the beginning as a team with my colleagues and my fellow collaborators, constantly upheld and shared by all CGI professionals. These principles are based on the essential human values of quality, competence, entrepreneurship and respect,” said Godin, who started CGI in the basement of his house with a colleague – one client, one phone. Today, “we have 400 offices around the world in 40 countries and we work in 30 different languages,” he said.
“If I had to describe the CGI team, I would say it was made up of people with intellectual curiosity, a thirst for innovation and a real passion for excellence. What CGI has succeeded in doing over the years is unleashing this creativity by instituting a management system based on entrepreneurship and teamwork, firmly rooted in fundamental human values.”
Godin said it is possible for a publicly traded company to base its development on such values. In addition to developing the company’s mission, vision and values, CGI also documented its dream to “create an environment in which we enjoy working together”. And that is a key element of CGI’s success.
Over the years, 86 per cent of CGI employees have become shareholders of the company. In doing so, it creates an environment where they take care of CGI as it is their company.
“It gives them rights to participation. It gives them a right to ask questions. And as leaders, you know you have the corresponding duty, you have to speak with them, communicate with them, let them participate and in fact work as a team,” said Godin. “For each dollar, pound or euro someone is going to invest in buying CGI shares, CGI is going to match the same amount. There is no penalty. If the following day they want to sell the share, they can do it.” The fact remains, however, that most don’t sell them.
“Integrity is the true barometer of long-term success in the business world. It is the foundation on which to build cooperation and society,” said Godin. “I’m sure for most of you these values are already embedded. Guard them preciously and use them to advance Canada’s position as a world leader. Let’s think big.”
In his final words to the graduands, Godin thanked York “for its contribution to the development of such high quality graduates”.