The purpose of Business School: Achievement or Contribution?

The purpose of Business School: Achievement or Contribution?
Business schools all over the country are filled with people investing in their own future, seeking to reap the rewards of time, effort and tuition money put towards their education. And there’s nothing wrong with this – it is part of the spirit of capitalism that makes our economy tick.

The fact that I feel that I can get up off the couch, apply myself to learning something new, and then personally benefit from the endeavor is what unlocks my discretionary productivity. A whole nation of likewise-minded individuals creates a thriving economy.

The 20th century taught us that this is the superior economic system.

Roses have thorns
But the opening act of the 21st century taught us that there is a catch to capitalism. Freedom to realize personal gain does not come without its own thorns. The excessive greed of corporate America as witnessed in the collapse of Enron, Bear Stearns, and others showed that a singular focus on financial gain unchecked by sound ethical principles can bring ruin.

Business school students and grads alike would do well to take careful notice. Our ability to avoid repeating these sins will affect the reputation of the MBA for the coming generation.

Thorns can be removed
I believe the answer lies not in hand-wringing over past abuses, nor even in creating a system of accounting oversight to catch future abuses, but rather in a renewed emphasis on what I will call the “currency of contribution”.

What is the “Currency of Contribution”?
The “currency of contribution” is the dividends that are realized as a result of putting the needs of others in society in the forefront. What if instead of focusing exclusively, or even primarily, on personal career advancement, business school students asked themselves the following, simple question:

“How can I learn something that will bring growth and prosperity for others?”

And I’m talking about honest growth that does not come at the expense of others. There’s no good “robbing Peter to pay Paul” when it comes to this type of currency. That’s easier said than done when helping one business often means hurting another.

In the next few posts, we will take a look at CLU MBA grads that are finding meaningful ways to make positive contributions with their newly acquired skills.

On the lookout for “Contribution Motivated” MBAs
As a hiring manager in the local area, I prefer that applicants have an MBA, without a doubt. I just don’t want it to come along with a spirit of entitlement. It’s refreshing to come across someone who wants to contribute first, and achieve second. They make good teammates. They come up with good ideas. They make things happen. I want them on my team because I want them to rub off on me to some degree.

But can a spirit of contribution really take the driver’s seat? Some may call this naïve, but I don’t think so. I’ve seen it work.

The views expressed in this article are solely those of author, a CLU graduate student.


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