Monday, March 7, 2011

Let's Get Ethical!!

Ok, so admittedly my last entry was terrible. Even my parents told me it was awful, and I’m pretty sure that by law they’re supposed love everything I do. I hadn’t written a post in a while, I couldn’t think of anything all that good to write about, and I was just happy that it wasn’t freezing outside anymore. Not much of an excuse, but from now I on promise to avoid extremely boring nonsense.

Anyway, this term I’ve been taking what is by far my favorite class so far at Darden. To my surprise, that class is Ethics, a subject I only thought was useful for philosophy majors and people who liked to pretend they always did the right thing. When I applied to Darden I heard all about the course, how the school was one of the only top MBA programs to require all students take a Business Ethics class, how it went hand and hand with UVA’s ethics code, and all that other good stuff. I pretended to care in my essays, writing about why it was a major reason I wanted to attend Darden and that I believed it would make me a truly principled leader. All the while, I didn’t really give two seconds of thought to the class and just assumed it wouldn’t be nearly as helpful as finance, marketing, strategy, etc. It wasn’t that I didn’t think the course was a good idea, I just didn’t think it would be very helpful. I envisioned a class where all the cases were about sacrificing profits in order to make the world a better place. Everyone would get on their soap boxes, talk about how they didn’t really care about shareholder value, and we would all feel better about what amazing people we were.
Well as you can probably figure out that hasn’t been the situation. Instead, our cases have been incredibly complex and usually the only possible outcomes involve somebody getting screwed over. The faculty is incredibly engaging and they challenge us to consider harsh realities. For the first time in business school, I’m taking a class that doesn’t try to make a decision easier, but rather much, much more difficult. In other classes, it’s generally simple: buy the company or don’t; release the product or shelve it; change the inventory system or keep the old one. But in ethics, I don’t have a freakin’ clue. I walk into class completely sure of what to do and leave convinced that there is no right thing to do.
Not that we aren’t given lots of tools to dissect and evaluate the decision. It’s just that the frameworks we use serve to ask questions that I normally wouldn’t think of. And that’s what I love about the class: the framework actually makes the case harder. Plus, I can use them in almost any other class to evaluate decisions more broadly than just what the numbers tell me to do (it was getting really boring to just think in terms of the numbers anyway). Decisions are no longer black and white; they involve a lot of gray area, just like they will be after business school.
This time last year, I would have guaranteed you I would be one and done when it came to Ethics classes. Now I’m planning to take as many as I can next year. Because anybody can run the analysis and know why the decision they are making is right. I want to know why the decision I’m making is wrong. 

If you would like to contact the author, he can be reached at david.a.miller4@gmail.com.

3 comments:

  1. Terrific post, David. (But of course I'm biased, being one of the Ethics professors!) Glad you've found the course challenging and engaging.

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  2. I check this stupid blog every week - when is there going to be another post???

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