Philosophy and B-School?

At first glance, you might think that philosophy has absolutely nothing to with management education. But a recent article published by QS Top MBA points out several instances where the two already overlap, and notes that philosophy has the potential to greatly enhance business practices. Interesting stuff!

Since the global financial crisis, business schools have addressed the subject of business ethics head-on, which is the most obvious and broad example of an intersection between the two disciplines. Questions about whether companies are too focused on profits at the expense of other social and environmental considerations are rooted in philosophy.

“Philosophy can help articulate the blind-spots of business by looking behind its assumed certainties and theoretical preconditions,” writes Anders Berg Poulsen in his article,  Why Future Business Leaders Need Philosophy. “By pondering the questions which are beyond the scope of business, philosophy can broaden the reflectivity-horizon of future business leaders to help them manage complexity and make sound decisions, not only in the purview of good business, but also in accordance with the needs of society.”

Andreas Rasche, who analyzed business school data from The Aspen Institute’s Beyond Grey Pinstripes survey, explains why ethics should be taught as a required course, not as an elective, at business schools: “Whenever a course is an elective, students are all very interested in the subject. But, it is very hard to really get a challenging discussion going because everybody agrees that it is important. You end up preaching to the converted and that’s why I think the biggest challenge is to move it out of the elective zone and more into the core curriculum.”

Philosophy plays a role not only in ethics, but in practical areas such as marketing to consumers, understanding your customer, or coming up with new markets or products. Professor Rasche also believes philosophy can unmask your own blind spots. “I think it is this ‘seeing things in a new light’ which philosophy can deliver.”

Both of these articles offer much food for thought on this subject, and I invite you to read them to see if you too view this intersection of business and philosophy in a new way.



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