Changing the game

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The ripples of the US-led recession were felt all over the world, even though its effects in India were minimal. India’s unemployment rate, close to 11 per cent, still compares favourably with rising unemployment rates across the world. Businesses across the world are undergoing a metamorphosis as they adapt to the needs of the current scenario to survive. Similarly, even business schools are changing their curricula; today’s MBA programmes incorporate new coping techniques and strategies to deal with the nuances of the financial crises with the hope of arming students with the knowledge to pre-empt and cope with future market crashes.
Ajinkya Khedekar, an equities investment banker working in Merrill Lynch, New York, welcomes this trend, “More and more business schools should teach such courses because it is very important to analyse how companies functioned in the past due to market conditions. Such knowledge will equip students to make better decisions when they start working in companies.”
Almost everyone held business schools and holders of the coveted MBA title responsible for the global meltdown of companies and the worldwide recession. Business schools focussed so much on how to achieve success through profits, that students were encouraged to use any means possible to make their future businesses successful. Today, ethics are an integral part of any leading business school’s curriculum as the financial crisis has shown that ethics is as important as making profits in a business. Incorporating ethics in management courses is probably the only way future managers will make the ‘right’ decisions.
“Almost 40 per cent of incoming full-time MBA graduates indicate that they chose to attend Haas based at least in part upon its focus on ‘social impact’,” says Jo Mackness, Executive Director of the Center for Responsible Business of the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley. Business students at Haas are encouraged to engage with leading companies that are making the fundamental shift toward ethics integration and apply lessons learned to their own companies upon graduation.
Harvard Business School (HBS) offers a ‘Leadership, Values and Decision-Making’ module as part of the MBA curriculum. This course serves as a guide for students to make managerial decisions and understand how ethical processes are needed to make value-based and sound judgments. Another course offered by HBS, ‘Leadership and Corporate Accountability,’ is an actual ethics course that focusses on the responsibilities and challenges that managers today face. The course primarily promotes ethical decisions and personal values in leadership.
Have Indian business schools incorporated ethics in their classes? The Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Ahmedabad, offers a ‘Business Ethics and Corporate Social Responsibility’ course. “The ethics course is taught rather unethically and it is just pass or fail. Is IIM propagating that ethics is optional?” asks Raghav Doobi (name changed), a student from IIM Ahmedabad.
“Yes we do learn ethics at our school but the teachers don’t even care to engage us in an intelligent discussion. One would expect the school, given its international repute, to place heavy emphasis on business ethics. The school may argue that ethics cannot be learnt in a classroom, but is instead ingrained in an individual by his or her upbringing. However, when a business school propagates aggressive profit-making, it is the school’s responsibility to teach ethics at the same time,” adds Shravan Khanna (name changed), a student at ISB Hyderabad.
With the changing business scenario and the economic turmoil around the world, it is but natural that schools and colleges change their curricula to incorporate practical courses that help students understand and predict market meltdowns. And teaching ethics to the clueless student is the need of the hour. It’s the only way disasters like Enron or Lehman Brothers can be avoided.

Globally speaking
Georgetown University offers a new course called ‘Financial Crises: Then and Now.’ Such financial history lessons will help students understand the reasons for financial meltdowns and the real reasons why they are caused. Only by actually understanding the past, can similar mistakes in the future be avoided. Steve Miller, a student currently pursuing this course, says “I had read a lot about the recession and how jobs are going to disappear in various places. Taking such a class helped me really understand the intricacies involved in financial decisions and how one can avoid mistakes will result in a domino effect.”

Villanova School of Business offers a course called ‘Understanding the Global Marketplace in the Post-Bailout Economy,” which teaches students how recession affected businesses globally. The course focuses on the problems of the past and how students can learn from them.

“The ethics course is taught rather unethically and it is just pass or fail. Is IIM propagating that ethics is optional?”

Country                                                Unemployment Percentage

Australia                                              5%

Ireland                                                   15%

Portugal                                                20%

Spain                                                       20%

UK                                                              9%

US                                                               9%

Volume 1 Issue 1

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