New MBA Requirement: Acting 101?

Last Updated Oct 4, 2010 6:46 AM EDT

Business school students already have plenty on their plates. From advanced math to organizational psychology, there is no shortage of subjects to master. As a Stanford University professor Jeffrey Pfeffer knows this as well as anyone, but that didn't stop him from suggesting an unorthodox addition to the MBA curriculum in a recent Big Think interview.

To make his case, Pfeffer starts with the premise that in business presentation is key. He gives the example of a doctor:

One way of gaining power, according to Pfeffer, is to exhibit confidence, even if you aren't confident. "If you go to a doctor and the doctor comes to you and says you know by the way you have a serious disease and you know I don't know what to do about it, you're probably not going to stay in that doctor's office very long," Pfeffer says.
This is the familiar dictum to fake it until you make it, but Pfeffer takes the idea one step further. Who is best as faking a persona? Actors, of course. So,would business students benefit from learning a bit about actors' craft?
"Absolutely," says Pfeffer. Those wishing to gain power must learn how to express emotions that they may not feel, he says. "The people in your workplace aren't necessarily that interested in the bad things that have happened to you," he says. "They want for you to demonstrate to them that you care about them, that the organization is in great shape and that we have all these wonderful things to achieve."
Is Pfeffer off his rocker, or would learning the basics of acting benefit you in your career? In the wide-ranging interview, he also urges ambitious young people to to spend less time with their friends and get used to the rough and tumble realities of our competitive world.

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(Photo courtesy of vancouverfilmschool, CC 2.0)
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