Methodology vs. values
In our reply in this third part, the time has come when methodology meets principles.
Academic experience tells us that the second always win over the first. But for this to be possible and there are no exceptions, it is clear that the principles of action must be updated.
Generally, these approaches that we have been discussing in the first two parts involve moving from what might be called a “rules plus analysis” model of management education to a “principles plus implementation” approach.
Let us explain, together with the reply we give to our colleague, that a more analytical rules model teaches that the rules that govern corporate behavior, whether imposed by regulation, by competition or by management itself, are simply restrictions that must be overcome .
She talks about restrictions; we refer to barriers, because it seems more appropriate, for example, the barrier that Covid-19 has imposed on us.
Because analytical tools represent ways of working within or around the rules in your path, for the sake of winning the most immediate competitive game. The short term and the obsession with results.
This model emphasizes impersonal aggressiveness, in which the directors and middle managers of any organization walk as close as possible to the legal and ethical line, even crossing it when they hope they will not be caught, encourage students to interpret Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” theory that individually motivated actions combine in unplanned ways to enrich the larger community more than top-down policies could, in the sense that in any situation consider the broader implications of your choices because the market will.
In contrast, a principled plus implementation management education model begins with the fundamental questions of why a business exists and how it generates and deploys wealth.
It teaches the rationale for the rules, the underlying principles, and the story behind their creation, and offers the challenge and opportunity to practice decision-making in service of the goals for which the rules were created. This model focuses on individual acceptance of professional responsibility for a broader commitment to the public good.
In this model, as Khurana points out, leadership success is a matter of personal and collective knowledge, judgment, and commitment, driven by the awareness that the invisible hand works only under optimal conditions and cannot be trusted as a network security card, or worse, a get out of jail card.
Within the principles plus implementation model, education provides opportunities for repeated practice.
Instead of learning to drive to the limits of the law and assuming that their ability to “do the numbers” will negate the need to fix whatever mess they believe in the world at large, students have the opportunity to consider a bigger picture of their purpose and role as business leaders and practice responsibility for it.
The new approach emphasizes asking: What if we could manage responsibly and skillfully? What would that look like?
It helps people recognize the value of earnings and wealth not just as something to accumulate, but as something to use in building new businesses or solving new problems.
Educators are taking advantage of the relative safety of the classroom to encourage this kind of experimentation.
There is less at stake at school than at work, so this is the appropriate time for students to take risks, experiment with alternative problem frames, go down dead ends, ask the “impossible to ask” questions, and even to “change your mind in public” without fear of appearing weak and diminishing your stature, as Harvard Business School professor David Garvin has argued.
Although time pressures still exist for the MBA student, the classroom offers the opportunity to slow down time: deconstruct a situation, learn the value of reflection, and the creative power of diverting attention from a strictly defined focus for a moment.
It seems to us a very didactic way of explaining the nature of the problem we are facing, when our colleague refers to something essential in an educational process: developing rapid response capacity by first practicing the components of decision-making and implementation on slow motion.
The slow motion thing is like when they pass us a sequence in which we notice behaviors and images of the elements that make up that sequence, so that we can see things that we would not otherwise notice.
For this reason he says that “just as a swimmer practices the components of his stroke before putting them together and increasing speed, those responsible for training can use the practice field of a classroom to develop the muscle memory necessary for better judgment”
Although this may seem like a simple process to our readers without too many complications, in reality we must explain the scope of this methodology that prioritizes principles over the analytical factor.
She puts it this way: “The opportunity to use time constructively and to practice management skills with opportunities for ‘repetition’ is the foundation of an innovative curricular approach to values-based decision-making called giving voice to values”.
And this is not a snobbish occurrence in the educational process, since as she rightly points out it is sponsored by the Aspen Institute and the Yale School of Management, which are testing in more than two dozen institutions around the world.
This leads the curriculum to link implementation with personal commitment and self-awareness.
For this, it must be based both on the real experiences of the professionals of the company and on the research in social sciences and management.
This “Giving Voice to Values” process fills a long-standing and critical gap in business education by broadening the definition of what it means to teach business values and ethics.
What is the turn that occurs in the educational process?
Rather than focus on ethical analysis, this new curriculum raises the questions: What if you, as a business leader, acted on your values? What would you say and do? How could you be more effective?
And it provides opportunities to develop values-based leadership capacity by providing students with opportunities to practice articulating their ideas and action plans in front of their peers.