One of the topics that is usually covered in a business ethics class is the concept of a moral minimum. This is a choice made by management to either do no harm or to do good within the community. Usually the moral minimum is to do no harm. A business takes a defensive position making sure that its product or service will not harm the users if properly handled. A car can be very safe at 40 miles per hour, but if one is driving it 120 miles per hour that is a different story. This is fairly common, but sometimes a TOMS shoes will come along that attempts to accomplish good.
Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks, has stepped up to the plate and slammed a home run. He has decided to do his part to stimulate the economy. He, as other CEO’s are doing, is sitting on a stockpile of cash. He has made a commitment, and has challenged other CEO’s to do the same, to hire new employees and implement plans to grow the business by opening new stores. It makes me want to buy a cup of coffee. However, that is not the only good that is happening in the world of business.
Harvard is known for producing some of the highest paid MBA grads in the nation. 95% of last year’s graduating class have found jobs. Not bad, especially in a down economy. However, many blame the MBA for the plethora of problems occurring in the business world. Nitin Nohria, Dean of the Harvard Business School, has made some huge changes to the curriculum at Harvard.
Nohria stated, “When you take the reins as a leader you start suddenly believing that your words are more important than everybody else’s.” Because of this tendency he has decided to make ethics a centerpiece in the new program.
The focus of the program is now Entrepreneurship and Leadership. This seems to be common in many schools across the United States. The emphasis is on micro-businesses. In fact, Harvard is giving each student $3000 to launch a product or service. The new program will be very hands on.
Nohria stated, “After Enron, we were the first business school to introduce a required course that focused on corporate accountability.” However, the emphasis is not just on words, the focus in on responsibility and holding up under pressure and temptation. There is a recognition that under the right circumstances one’s moral compass could fail.
Harvard has finally gotten it. It is not just making money, it is the process of making money that is important. The process must be one of integrity making the world a better place. You know what as business people we can do both, make money and make a difference for humanity.
And that is my thought for the day!