Ethics.

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The Financial Times has just announced its list of the world’s top ranked Business Schools and it is a matter of great pride for me that my alma mater the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad has ranked 11th in that list. Yes, I am an alumnus of that excellent institution and owe a lot to it for what it made out of a hustling salesman.

Apart from enabling me to make a career in Management, it taught me to learn and be curious. My interest in reading all kinds of material was instilled in me there and some of the best friendships that I value till today were also formed there.

My writing skills, for what they are worth, were also developed there, under the very careful and effective eyes of a couple of excellent teachers in a course called WAC. Yes, I am serious. That acronym stands for Written Analysis of Cases. The Institute follows the Case Method of study inherited from the Harvard Business School, with which it collaborated in its formative years, when I studied there. The real life business cases that we studied and analysed had to be presented in written form and that proved to be invaluable in later years, when I spent more time writing/reading reports than managing! That ability finally came to my rescue in my retirement into becoming a fairly regular blogger.

The purpose of this post however is not to eulogize that Institute. More competent people have been doing that by their sheer brilliance. Some illustrious alumni include C K Prahlad and Raghuram Rajan

The purpose of this post is to talk about another matter altogether. Immediately after the 2008/9 melt down all MBAs came under attack for what they had achieved, not only in the financial markets but also for what had happened to Enron, WorldCom etc. The MBAs and bankers were suddenly the villains. It was not the case in India, where there was no melt down and till date, our finances have remained stable though we did have a couple of major corporate scandals, not attributed to MBAs but to greedy entrepreneurs. The Indian MBAs continued to attract global interest for recruitment, particularly if prior to their acquiring their MBA degree, they had been to any one of the Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT).

Post melt down therefore, faculty in many Business Schools thought it prudent to include a course in Ethics in the MBA curriculum.

I for one am very happy that this has happened, but I wonder if the kind of ethics that would work can be taught to students who go to Business Schools. For this doubt, let me take another premier Indian institution the National Defence Academy of India (NDA).

The selection process for the IIMs and IITs of India and the NDA is about as tough as it can get. The people who select the former two will be motivated by something totally different than the motivation for the last. While broadly speaking, the former will be motivated by making a lot of money, the latter, hopefully by patriotism. One would therefore expect the latter to be more ethical than the former.

Unfortunately, recently, that elite group of NDA alumni have also been beset by scandals of grubby money making and bending rules.

Or let us take another glorious profession, that of medicine. Doctors and hospitals run by them today, seem more to be interested in making money than their avowed original purpose of treating the ill and the infirm.

I can go on listing other professions that the young can follow where even the thought of ethics does not enter into the picture. Leaving aside the notorious one of law, the Indian Bureaucracy, Politics etc also do not seem to attract Ethics in their vocabulary.

From the various blogs that I read written by people from various countries, it is obvious that this is a global phenomenon and not restricted to India.

What is wrong or right with humanity that its elite shun ethics? Is it just that we are now evolving into a species without any consideration other than making money by hook or crook?

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