Every other year, the vibrant city of Shanghai becomes the venue of several major management education conferences arranged sequentially in one week. These conferences -organised, respectively, by Antai Business School, EFMD, AACSB and APBS - congregate a good sizeable number of scholars, business school officers and corporate managers, particularly from China and South East Asia.
This year, the Antai Conference –the first of the weekly intense networking events- focused on the social responsibility of business schools and I was invited to speak at the opening session. Normally, when I address issues related to business ethics or social responsibility I try to avoid the overselling of my school. I believe that if I would speak profusely about the different initiatives related to social responsibility at IE Business School I could be compared to those individuals who show off when practicing charitable deeds. In this respect I find pertinent the popular quote from the Gospels that says “when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do”.
Indeed, social responsibility initiatives should not be merchandised as communication or marketing tools by business school representatives. What is decisive is that those initiatives permeate the curriculum and the experience that students learn and live. Actually, students themselves should be the ones who testify if their schools and professors have influenced positively their views and lives. After all, educating is about moulding better persons, good citizens, promoting good habits and behaviour, isn´t it? If the MBA is a transformational experience, and participants learn new knowledge and acquire new skills, they should also be encouraged to improve their ethical attitudes and their business deontology. For those who may be still sceptical about the teaching and the learning of business ethics at business schools, or those who may hold the Freudian thesis that individual ethics is formed in early childhood and unchangeable afterwards, I recommend the classical and stimulating book “Can Ethics Be Taught”.
When I am asked summarily about what is the social responsibility of business schools, like I was at this Shanghai conference, I respond with a simple statement: It is nothing less than preparing leaders, managers & entrepreneurs who transform the world. Interestingly, Francis Estrada, Dean of the Asia Institute of Management in Manila, who made a very interesting presentation after mine, formulated a very similar statement.
My presentation, which you will find in the PDF attached- covered three main challenges that business schools managers have to face if they aim at achieving their social responsibility goals. First, choosing the strategic group that better suits their schools in the global context. Second, the role of business schools in the new knowledge value chain. And thirdly, the ideal profile of the faculty in order to achieve the intended results in the learning process. Many thoughts delivered at the Shanghai conference have been previously shared with the readers of this blog and I thank them for their valuable comments.
“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lightening of a fire”, a favourite and evocative quote from the Irish poet William Butler Yeats You may disagree with me, but I hope you will acknowledge the passion for education that I try to convey in my addresses.