Considering critically the causes of the last financial crisis, one can say that “business as usual” is no longer the way to achieve sustainable success. The classical approach to business that we have seen over the last few decades does not appear to work.
Managers need an expanded skill set that creates new models of business. This means that in their turn, business schools need to be autocritical and rethink what they offer to the world.
The last crisis should be an opportunity to change the behaviour of managers, and in particular to help them learn to be more courageous. Courageous, in this case, means implementing long-term strategies and not focussing on short-term gain (Schmittlein).
This may not be the perspective you would expect from the head of a business school, but in the context of ongoing economic turmoil, values are the only sure foundation to build on.
In December 2008, around 300 management educators (deans, directors, professors) met in the UN headquarters in New York for the First Global Forum for Responsible Management Education.
The consensus at the Global Forum was that sustainable principles in management should address a number of domains: the spiritual, the biosphere, the social, the economic and the material (materials, energy), and this in a systemic way.
What in effect is called for is a “systems thinking” approach in management education that imbues students with an understanding of the complex, interconnected world around them and the impact of their decisions on this world, as well an understanding that their own success is linked to the success of those around them.
Consistent with the demand for a systemic approach to a new paradigm of business, current and future managers need to learn new competencies and an appreciation that they cannot serve only the shareholder and hope that this is best for all stakeholders.
At the UCT Graduate School of Business, the foundation for a new type of business school is already being laid. The School has a set of values developed hand-in-hand with its community and has as one of its strengths a focus on systems thinking and action learning that very few business schools internationally can match.
The UCT GSB is also focusing its energies on becoming a business school based on the paradigm of the “emergent” economy. An emergent economy means economies with high degrees of uncertainty, high degrees of complexity and, unfortunately, often high degrees of inequality, that call for societal responsibility