Rodrigo Canales, Cade Massey and Amy Wrzesniewski make several good points in their WSJ op-ed about the need to incorporate values into business education (via Teaching Ethics to M.B.A.s – WSJ.com).
Some pundits [...] believe that schools should train managers in narrower elements of business strategy—negotiation, incentives and the like—and leave the teaching of values to others.
We couldn’t disagree more.
Business education is much more scientific than it was in its early years. It has been made more rigorous by the rising influence of statistics and economics. We believe in analytics. [...] But analytics are not a substitute for values. Indeed, an overreliance on analytics leaves managers poorly prepared to lead in moments when statistics obscure the full human dimensions of a choice.
Like a chastity vow, the M.B.A. oath has an unstated assumption that those who have gone before are somehow different: They had weaker wills, less resolve, looser morals. The oath is meant to signal a stronger commitment to values. The danger is the false sense of moral inoculation such oaths engender. Just as teenagers who take a chastity vow in lieu of better sexual education are more vulnerable to the consequences of unprotected sex—vow takers are actually more likely to engage in risky sexual behavior—M.B.A.s who take an ethics oath without enough supporting leadership education are likely more vulnerable to ethical breaches.
An oath makes a clear statement as to what is missing in the curriculum, and it can encourage self-criticism and curriculum change in business schools. Making a public statement of intentions is often the start of real change and it communicates clearly and unambiguously what are the values that are being transmitted.