The MBA Oath
October 29, 2011 2 Comments
It’s always like this: you look for something in a vast pool of information and you end up reading an interesting article about something totally different. In my case, I end up reading an article from Della Bradshaw about promising students (FT October 24, 2011).
The article goes about how MBAs and MBA students were linked with unethical behavior following the credit crisis. But the article introduced (to me, at least) the MBA Oath, a pledge to serve the greater good and act with the utmost integrity. Initially developed by the prestigious Harvard Business School (3rd B-school in the world in 2011), the author wonder why there was a drop in people signing the Oath (more than 50% decrease in 3 years, see figure below). She put forward a number of reasons.
There is however one reason I don’t clearly understand. Apparently, “it is very difficult for an individual to make a real “ethical” difference in a company if the corporate culture is set against such a course of action“. But MBA students are confronted with this potentially difficult corporate culture after they finished their studies. So students study and learn what they have to do. Then students optionally sign the Oath. And finally students go to work. Will you not promise to do your best, just because you think the future corporate culture you will face will potentially be difficult? IMHO, the corporate culture is a very bad excuse not to sign.
However I completely agree with Max Anderson, one of the authors of the MBA Oath, when he tells Della that “one of their focuses now was on talking to corporations and trying to inculcate them with the ethos of the oath“. IMHO again, it’s is the next logical step: you leave MBA alumni in the wild with the Oath, you try to “tame the wild wold” so it sign the oath too.
INSEAD (4th B-school in the world in 2011) seems to have a different opinion and organized a small debate between two of its professors, where we see 2 things being opposed: on one side, you have the “finance view” (the Oath is incompatible with maximizing shareholders’wealth ; more details on Theo Vermaelen’s blog post) and, on the other side, you have the “corporate responsibility” view (behave with integrity, be ethical in the way business is conducted ; more details on Craig Smith’s blog post).
Until now, 5 people from Vlerick signed the Oath. Will 2nd year students sign this oath in June/September 2012? Here is an inspirational video for them ;)