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Posted at 6:30 AM ET, 05/ 7/2010

Ethics expert to head Harvard Business School

By Valerie Strauss

Could it be that business schools will start to care more about ethics?

Harvard University just named as dean of its influential Business School a professor long active in promoting business ethics, at a time when the image of the country's world is severely bruised.

Nitin Nohria, 48, a professor of business administration who has pushed for the “M.B.A. oath”-- a voluntary pledge for graduating MBAs and current MBAs to “create value responsibly and ethically”-- was named this week by Harvard President Drew Faust, who said it was “an important moment for the future of business.”

Nohria is one of several new business deans hired not just for their fund-raising expertise but also to help improve the reputation of the graduate business enterprise.

For example, Sally Blount, named as dean of Kellogg in March, teaches courses in management, negotiations and ethics. Yale University’s School of Management also has a highly respected new dean, Edward A. Snyder. Searches are under way for deans at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business and the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business.

Nohria co-wrote an article for the Harvard Business Review in 2008 that said managers had “lost legitimacy” and called for a “rigorous code of ethics.”

In part as a response to the article, students at the business school last year started a movement to institutionalize the “MBA oath,’’ which is similar to the Hippocratic oath taken by doctors. MBA students and graduates representing about 250 institutions around the world have signed the oath, which is designed to create a community of business people with high standards and ethics.

Some of the blame for the country’s economic troubles has fallen on business schools, where a winning-is-eveything mentality has long dominated.

Skeptics say that despite the new leadership and the MBA oath, nothing will really change, and they point out that ethics programs initiated after the Enron collapse a decade ago and other business scandals. Others say change is inevitable.

"The old message of business schools was that ethics and values was an add-on," Judith Samuelson, executive director at the Business and Society Program at the Aspen Institute, was quoted as saying in the Wall Street Journal. "That’s the antithesis of what we need now, and these new deans understand that."

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By Valerie Strauss  | May 7, 2010; 6:30 AM ET
Categories:  Higher Education  | Tags:  business ethics, business schools, business schools and ethics, doo, harvard and faust, harvard business school and new dean, harvard dean, harvard names new dean, nitin nohria  
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Comments

Ethics is concerned with morals, fairness, respect, caring, no false promises, no lying, cheating, stealing, or unreasonable demands. The stakeholder approach addresses the needs of stockholders, employees, customers, suppliers, the government, the community, and the environment. Ethics can be taught in a classroom, via a practical approach in preference to a philosophical one, but ethics training cannot prevent certain individuals from being themselves, e.g., Bernie Madoff, Vincent Lacroix, Conrad Black, etc., although a well-designed & implemented program can

(a) help good people to do the right thing consistently
(b) make it difficult for wrong-doers to succeed &
(c) raise people’s ethical IQS

Business decisions often concern situations which are neither totally ethical nor totally unethical. Therefore, it is often difficult to do the right thing!

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Posted by: crespin79 | May 10, 2010 12:06 PM | Report abuse

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