Challenging the Perceived Wisdom of Management Theories and Practice

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Challenging the Perceived Wisdom of Management Theories and Practice

We consider criticisms of business school education and the values it propounds in the context of wisdom. We ask whether the perceived wisdom relating to what business should be is “wise,” and whether the models and frameworks used in management education enable wisdom to flourish. The distinction between means and ends (i.e., terminal goals, such as human welfare and instrumental goals, such as money) is highlighted. We argue that management models that measure success in purely financial terms demonstrate foolishness by conflating the means with the end. If business is to retain its legitimacy and benefit society, profit needs to be seen as a means to the end of sustainable business not an end in itself. This should in turn be reflected in the metrics used to measure success in management models and theories. Cross-cultural comparisons with economies based on different value systems offer insight into alternative approaches. We highlight examples of how business schools are adjusting their curriculum and conclude that changes need to go beyond superficial inclusion of ethical issues. Recommendations include updating the business curriculum with more prosocial management theories and a reprioritization of the goal of social welfare over individual business profit maximization.

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