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Business Deans’ perspective Essay

The business world has recently witnessed numerous instances of shocking behavior from certain leaders in the form of unethical practices and incompetence. Academic experts feel that these unfortunate incidents could set a bad example for aspiring business professionals. Although many business school deans have expressed that this trend is the result of a flawed curriculum, Bennis and O’Toole in their article “How Business schools lost their way” feel that there are more intricate factors that have resulted in the flop of the business education system, which need to be deeply examined so as to improve the quality of professional managers.

In “Educating by Ethics: Business Deans’ perspective”, Evans and Marcal reinforce the need to teach the importance of ethics to future managers. It is not only the right thing to do, but also the best thing to do from a business perspective. The lack of faith in the business leaders among the general public has only reiterated the fact that following a strict code of ethics helps win and retain customers. Extensive research has been carried out in the sphere of business during recent years, as business academicians of this era have started to measure their student’s growth by considering scientific

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parameters such as regression analysis.

Hence, Bennis and O’Toole refer to these methods as scientific model and feel that such methods have little significance in training students to face real-world business scenarios. Business schools have also experienced a substantial shift in their missions, as more emphasis is now being given to academic research. Also, most of the professors in these schools are academic experts, rather than professionals with extensive first-hand experience. They feel that the first major pitfall of these schools is the assumption of business as a science rather than a discipline.

They also emphasize that business school education needs to be centered upon practical learning like Law and Medical schools, rather than scientific research favored by physicists and economists. Before the 1960s, business education was based on practical experiences and business acumen. However, there was not much research in this area to theoretically quantify learning. Business schools started to witness rapid changes as the demand of managers educated with professional degrees increased by leaps and bounds.

Carnegie and Ford foundations started to fund research in Business education, which marked the beginning of a new phase in professional business education. The massive amount of scientific research forced a reduction of conventional trade school education and training. This compromise has had far-reaching consequences as it has led to a downward spiral of ethical business practices and essential managerial skills. Nonetheless, it would not be very wise to completely switch back to old methodology of teaching.

The authors acknowledge that there is an urgent need to balance the importance given to practical business education and scientific research. Bennis and O’Toole also feel that a bulk of scientific research based on data collection under standard conditions, would not come in handy as major problems faced by managers in the real life occur under the most unforeseen circumstance and cannot be easily quantified. The importance of imparting business ethics has also taken a backseat in the midst of misguided significance of scientific research in business management.

The unwritten law for attaining tenure had lured many professors to focus on research of specific subjects and almost ignore the importance of practical exposure. This also indirectly influences professors to write articles to primarily please their follow community, rather than to contribute something useful to the business community. Since these most of the professors hired by elite B schools fall under this category, the curriculum framed by them lacks the essential ingredients for producing an ideal business manager. A discipline-based curriculum has also come into effect as a result of the limitations of some of these professors.

Even some of the CEOs share this view as they feel that most of the academic journals are helpful only to professionals in finance, and not to business managers. However, the authors do not entirely discredit all the business schools and give due credit to business schools that focus on practical experience and undertaking extensive case studies. Hence, they urge business schools to adopt a professional model and to diversify their faculty comprising of both experts in scientific research as well as seasoned professional backed up by invaluable experience.

When a leader is found guilty of unethical business practices, it is not such a healthy sign for any company. It brings dispute to the whole company and breaks the circle of trust that the investors have for the company. It creates doubts and distrust in the minds of its customers which will eventually stigmatize the integrity of the company. There is also a common opinion in the minds of the American consumers that business managers are financially. In spite of this notion, when a scandal involving a highly-paid CEO in made public, it further makes leaders appear selfish and greedy in the public eye.

Hence, there had been an increase in public demand to regulate business to keep corrupt businessmen and businesses under check. Evans and Marcal attempt to uncover the reasons behind the disturbingly increasing number of scandals in the recent past. They feel that the economic boom in the past two decades forced business leaders to look for ways to meet the increasing investor expectations. The trend of traditional moral values being refined the society also aided companies to overlook certain ethical obligations.

The authors also attribute the fall of business ethics to failure of business schools in imparting ethical practices to its students. They surveyed the deans of business schools affiliated to the Association of Advanced Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) International, to understand the problem better. The results of the survey indicate a strong support of teaching business ethics at school, but about 20% actually disagree that ethics has declined in the business world over the past few decades. Again, there is a strong support for the belief that only an ethical individual can be a strong leader.

There seems to be agreement among the academic community to increase the emphasis on teaching business. A majority of them also acknowledge the need to introduce a separate course for learning business ethics. However, log-liner analysis of the data suggests the deans are more responsible for incorporating ethics into the curriculum, compared to the other professors. The analysis makes it apparent that deans support ethics education, since they believe that it can have positive impact on the students’ attitudes. However, deans attribute their inability to make radical changes to their short tenure period.

Evans and Marcal’s study also found that public institutions placed less importance on ethics, compared to private religious as well as secular institutions. Conclusion Bennis and O’Toole take a logical approach to analyze the different factors contributing to the declining trend of business ethics; it suggests that good judgment guided by experience can make a note-worthy difference in improving the quality of future leaders. There is also a need to employ more professors with professional experience and motivation, which would eventually alter the curriculum to produce competent business managers with strong business ethics.

Evans and Marcal follow a very statistical approach to under the role of business schools deans in influencing ethics being taught at school. Their study concludes by suggesting professionalizing business similar to other common professions, since business leaders have been traditionally given the power to be unrestrained by usual ethical norms since the concept of self-regulation has apparently failed. Reference: Bennis, W. & O’Toole, J. 2005. How Business schools lost their way. Harvard Business Review.

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