Business as a Human Enterprise: Implications for Education
34 Pages Posted: 28 Jul 2008
Date Written: July 24, 2008
There is a malaise in the business academy, with much noise but not much change. This essay suggests an underlying cause of the current difficulties. We argue the challenges facing management scholarship and education grow out of a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of business itself. Much of current research and teaching treats business as a deterministic phenomenon and management as a science. Business is a thoroughly human institution. However, business schools and business scholars rarely recognize this. However, this perspective creates a great opportunity. First, and most importantly, it lets us correct many of the problems identified in the modern critiques of management scholarship and education. More importantly, by embracing business as a human institution and leadership as a creative act, we can begin the long overdue task of building bridges between our business schools and the rest of the academy. We can find multiple, useful lenses through which business leaders and academics can view business activities. And, a portion of our colleagues can continue to pursue their scientistic agenda should they choose.
In this paper, we engage in a brief stylized history of the business academy, primarily in the United States where it finds its most dominant form and, historically, its largest audience. We juxtapose this history with the tremendous changes that have occurred in business over the last 40-50 years, and suggest that the time is ripe for change. Next we examine several recent critiques and demonstrate that they rest on a faulty and outmoded view of business. We use the thinking underlying stakeholder theory to frame the arguments showing we need a new approach, most easily characterized as 'business as a human activity'. We suggest two central questions and four problems that business education must place front and center. We then begin to discuss how we might draw on all of the disciplines of the academy for a more robust and useful view of business and more powerful portfolio of research and educational tools.
Keywords: business, ethics, management education and scholarship, business academy, ethical issues, stakeholder theory, history of business academdy
JEL Classification: A10, A20, I20
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation
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