Tuesday, January 28, 2020
I promised to check back in after negotiating The House on Elm Street (here). I’m checking in! We negotiated this exercise – which contains both legal and ethical issues – in my MBA Business Ethics/Legal course this evening. It proved to be a great learning experience. My previous post mentioned that Professor Siedel had made its use easy by creating thorough teaching notes. And as I suspected, while it might be ideal to have students read a negotiation text or have a full 75 minutes to debrief the exercise, neither proved essential to a valuable learning experience. It also provided a great segue into agency law, another of tonight’s topics.
During our discussion of ethical issues, I mentioned Professor Clayton M. Christensen's How Will You Measure Your Life? This past week, this question became particularly poignant. Christensen, one of Harvard Business School’s leading lights, passed away at the age of 67. Several years ago, BYU Law School Dean Professor Gordon Smith and I started “The Business Ethics Book Club for Law Professors.” The wonders of technology enabled several of us business law professors from all over the country to gather virtually about once a semester for a few years to read books on ethics, including Christensen’s book, which were generally written by business school professors. It’s a short, but powerful read. I highly recommend it to all BLPB readers. My recollection is that it was a popular book club selection too!
In this book, Christensen (and coauthors) seek to answer three simple questions: “How can I be sure that”: 1) “I will be successful and happy in my career?”, 2) “My relationships with my spouse, my children, and my extended family and close friends become an enduring source of happiness?,” and 3) “I live a life of integrity – and stay out of jail?” (p.6) Christensen wasn’t a business ethics professor. Rather, the book’s prologue explains that one of Christensen’s courses was Building and Sustaining a Successful Enterprise, in which “we study theories regarding the various dimensions of the job of general managers. These theories are statements of what cause things to happen – and why.” (5) On the last day of the course, instead of using these theories to examine organizations, the class used these theories to study themselves: “We are there to explore not what we hope will happen to us but rather what the theories predict will happen to us, as a result of different decisions and actions…Year after year I have been stunned at how the theories of the course illuminate issues in our personal lives as they do in the companies we’ve studied” (p.6) According to Amazon, this is “the only business book that Apple’s Steve Jobs said “deeply influenced” him.” And it’s not the only time Christensen’s work has been widely praised. His breakout work, The Innovator’s Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail, was heralded by some as "one of the six most important business books ever written." Without doubt, both books are great, worthwhile reads.