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Focus on Individualism Creates MBA "Monsters"?

Business schools have created the crisis we're in, says Dr. Peggy Cunningham, the new director of the School of Business Administration at Dalhousie University, Canada, in an interview published in Monday's Globe and Mail. Having left a tenured position at Queen's University, Cunningham wants to restructure the Dalhousie business school program around a core concept of responsible leadership.

In a Q&A with reporter Gordon Pitts, Cunningham lays out the problems as she sees them, and offers a new vision for future business leaders. Here are some nuggets from their conversation:

  • Business schools have created monsters.
Too much focus on individual success and competition between companies makes people forget that they're part of a larger social system to which they are accountable. As Cunningham says:
Business schools have to take a very hard look at themselves to see the kind of people we are graduating and take our responsibility very much to heart in terms of the models we use to graduate these people.
  • Wanting to get rich is fine, but it's not sustainable as a sole motivation.
'Greed is good' may have been Gordon Gekko's motto in the hit movie "Wall Street", but Cunningham says, "If what it takes to make one person rich is to make two-thirds of the rest of the world poor, I don't think that's a sustainable model."
  • Turning out more public administration grads is not necessarily the answer.
Citing the eight-year lag between the entrenchment of the Internet and the first legislation to protect online privacy, Cunningham is skeptical about the government's ability to take the lead in new technologies. "Even though I might be very critical of business, business is going to be the engine that drives new technologies that will make business itself more sustainable."

MBA programs everywhere have begun an era of introspection. Last week, the Wharton School announced that the keynote speaker for MBA commencement will be Dr. Muhammad Yunus, founder and managing director of Bangladesh's Grameen Bank and recipient of the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize. More and more, business school programs are eager to point out that entrepreneurship can be about more than merely making money.

(photo credit: Dalhousie University)

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