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September 09, 2009

Can Business Learn to Embrace Politics?

Catherine New
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If the financial crisis taught business schools anything, it's that the curriculum can no longer turn a blind eye to pressing policy issues that impact business, says Professor Bruce Kogut. (See yesterday’s post about some of the ways the School is incorporating the financial crisis into course work.)

In a recent article in BusinessWeek magazine, Kogut elaborated on his view of the financial crisis and said that it might be best seen through a political perspective, rather than a technical or managerial one. Abundant liquidity and “unprecedented income inequality”, he wrote, paved the way for a flawed incentive system. Kogut argues that there should be more focus on “regulation of the financial markets and less deference paid to financial innovation.”

What does this view mean for business education? Kogut says that politics must have place in the MBA education. He writes:

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Financial crises are the children of troubled politics, yet management education often eschews political questions. This is a fundamental flaw of most, if not all, business schools. If such questions are left unaddressed, we will produce business leaders with limited perspectives who may not be equipped to deal with the pressing issues of the day. In other words, we must make the case to our students that the political questions, while difficult, are critical to the practice of business — even if this kind of analysis may not appear to serve their immediate self-interest. …

The crisis has reshaped the financial landscape, shifting the value of management education toward pedagogies that strengthen students’ understanding of the fundamental relationships in society — how managerial, technical, ethical, and political elements work together.

Photo credit: Theo La Photo