Tag Archives: ethics

New HBS Dean talks of competence, character, internationalism, and dirty boots. Adcom will follow suit

The soul-searching at Harvard Business School over business ethics and the relationship between business and society has been widely documented. From Anderson to Enron to Lehman Bros., risktaking, dodgy, and sometimes outright criminal companies have been loaded with HBS alumni (as well as many from other schools as well, let’s not forget.) But somehow, of all business schools, perhaps because of its self-proclaimed “leadership and influence” focus, Harvard sees itself as needing to lead a new era in business-society relations.

With this as background, a recent Economist piece views the appointment on July 1st of new dean Nitin Nohria as part of a general HBS ethics-focused shake-up.

“Mr Nohria is the first HBS dean who was not born in North America. He is also the first who has come to the job having said that business faces a ‘crisis of legitimacy’ and that business education is at an ‘inflection point’…

“Mr Nohria’s first task is to try to restore faith in business in general and in business schools in particular. This means improving two things, he reckons: “competence” and “character”. He wants the faculty to focus more on the risks of clever financial techniques; they will have plenty of case studies to choose from. He also wants HBS to renew its commitment to shaping its students’ characters as well as their intellects. He has long argued that business people should regard themselves as members of a profession. He supports a movement by students to adopt a business equivalent of the Hippocratic oath… (For more on the MBA Oath see here.)

“Mr Nohria’s other great passion is for super-charging innovation at HBS. This will involve making the school even more globally connected than it already is: one of Mr Nohria’s first acts as dean was to embark on a whistle-stop tour of the world’s business hot-spots. More ambitiously, he wants to rethink the school’s hallowed teaching methods. Since the 1920s, HBS students have pored over case studies of business decisions. The new dean wants them to take part in live case studies—to take themselves to the Midwest or Mumbai and spend time working for real companies. This answers one of the most persistent criticisms of business education: that it is too abstract. Mr Nohria wants his students to get their boots dirty.”

So there is clearly a manifesto from the top of HBS to (1) address character issues and define competence more broadly, that is, to exclude absurd risk-taking; (2) to increase the school’s active global connections, including in emerging markets, in the spirit of innovation, and; (3) to extend the case-method to include “do-it-don’t-just-think-about-it” immersion.

Nobody is suggesting that the Dean makes admissions decisions directly. But HBS Adcom as a whole can hardly be immune to the strong winds of this new directive either. Therefore, applicants who (while staying true to themselves!) show evidence of good character, a measured risk-taking profile, global-innovative intent, and readiness to go beyond the ivory tower during their studies and afterwards, will be doing themselves a favor.

‘Ivy League East’ MBAs unite to brand themselves as ‘Top 4 Asia B-schools’

Many industries have seen a shift from the US / Europe to Asia, yet, somehow, education has been one of the slowest sectors to make this transition. Certainly at the elite level there has always been, and remains, a significant migration westward to attend brand-name universities. Institutions such as Harvard and Oxford have unbelievable prestige across the Orient and this is not going away any time soon.

But there are straws in the wind, and the wind is blowing the other way.

As an admissions advisor I’ve started to hear Americans and Germans and Canadians and Italian nationals saying this kind of thing: “My target schools are Harvard, MIT, LBS, and HKUST, and Nanyank.”
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Now four Asian schools have gotten themselves together under the banner “Top 4 Asia B-Schools” to solicit applicants from North America and Europe. The Top 4 are the Indian School of Business (ISB), Hong Kong University of Science & Technology (HKUST), China Europe International Business School (CEIBS), and Nanyang Technological University (NTU, Singapore). The programs are all well-ranked, all accredited by AACSB (US) or EQUIS (Europe) or both, and feature prominent Western faculty.

The admissions implications: First, none of these schools are easy to get into. Part of their growing exclusiveness, part of reaching the top-tier and staying there, is having admissions policies that turn away similar percentages as those dinged by top US / EU schools (about 85% on average.) So there won’t be any “gimmee’s”. But, having said that, the Asian programs are very keen to balance their intake between East and West, so for now a foreigner stands a much greater chance of admissions than a local, all other things being equal.

Second, these four (and other) Asian schools are going to grow further in prestige. This is similar to what I said about the new Johns Hopkins Carey School MBA here. Look ahead and realize that while CEIBS et al does not sound as good as UCLA now, during the span of your career it no doubt will, and the MBA branding, alumni network etc., will be just a strong.

Footnote: According to the CEIBS site, teams from the Top 4 Asia B-schools will attend QS MBA fairs this fall as a group. The dates are:

North America
• Los Angeles: September 11th, Wilshire Grand Los Angeles
• San Francisco: September 12th, The Fairmont San Francisco
• Toronto: September 19th, Metro Toronto Convention Centre
• New York: September 25th, Hilton New York

Europe
• Paris: October 9th, Palais des Congres
• London: October 23rd, QEII Conference Centre
• Madrid: October 26th, Husa Princesa

A little parody on MBA ethics and the Harvard MBA Oath, from Comedy Central

Hey it’s August, and even though it’s definitely, seriously, MBA application season we can still have a little fun, right?

Here’s a video from Comedy Central / The Daily Show, featuring intrepid reporter John Oliver who enlists the “help” of a former convict to convince hold-out MBA students at MIT and Harvard to sign the MBA Oath.

In an interview of the type made famous by Sasha Baron Cohen (and with the same Oxford-dragged-through-Essex accent) Oliver talks to Columbia GSB ethics professor Bruce Kogut (he really exists, bio here,) who has not the faintest idea he’s been set up.

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The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
MBA Ethics Oath
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political Humor Spinal Tap Performance

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Of course, ethics is a real and important topic to get right in MBA admissions. For a copy of the oath, and what it means for MBA applications this year, see previous post here.