We’ve passed the halfway point in my six part MBA reflections! If you missed it, here are the links to Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3. I am full time working on my heritage travel startup Radici Travel as part of the 2015 Soaring Startup Circle so the final three installments will likely come once a week.
First Year: Fourth Quarter
Global Capitalism, Culture, and Ethics
This class was case-based and examined a number of ethical issues related to globalization. Because of the way scheduling worked, everyone had to take this class but the two sections were essentially divided into marketing people and finance people. A couple of times I had to go to the alternate section for one reason or another and the general sentiment was often markedly different. For me, there are a couple of lasting impressions:
- The banana industry is brutal! We must have read 3 or 4 cases about it, including the aptly titled Blood Bananas, and the issues ranged from spurious propaganda, to inciting military coups, to tax fraud, to human rights abuses. Chiquita has actually changed its name multiple times to try to hide its own brutal past.
- Most people are afraid to take a stand- One thing that really surprised me was how unwilling many people were to take a firm stand on an issue, both the actors within the cases but also students in the class. It often seemed like people would make serious leaps to attempt to provide a justifiable reason for something in the case because of the economic upside. After what we have seen, however, this kind of bending and stretching can lead to ruin and good ethical business tends to pay dividends in the long run. If you are looking for a simple, doable way to set yourself apart in the business world, take a stand on ethics…you’ll be glad you did!
- Unintended consequences are always there- Understanding this allows you to anticipate and mitigate some of them, but more importantly, you need to equip your people with a framework for dealing with the unknown when it inevitably comes. This framework should include your company’s ethical code and a chain of command for making these calls.