A book on philosophy led me to few google searches. This is its after-effect… Philosophy begins in wonder!
At first glance, philosophy has very little to do with an MBA. Most of us feel that philosophy is too high-fi or boring. It may not be super exciting but in a calmer, contemplative sort of way, it is enjoyable. Anyway, does it have anything valuable to offer for an MBA student?
Philosophy as a subject has a lot to offer to the business world and to business leaders. I came across this article on how philosophy can be of use in Business. Here is a list of business leaders with a philosophy degree.
To succeed in business or create value, we need to make sense of how the world operates and organise our experiences and observations into a world view. When we are solving a business problem, we are drawing on this world view to come up with solutions. Be it finding the optimal way of delivering goods or dealing with a threat of a bigger company entering the market, decision makers go through a process. What are the assumptions that we can question? If we do this, what changes? Who gets affected? Will this strategy work?
In most of the decisions that we take, personal or professional, we do not have a complete set of information to make the choice. We bank on intuition. And intuition is our drawing on our world view. The more structured that we are (like in a case study!) in our world view, better it is. It enhances the chances of a better choice. That’s where philosophy comes in. It is about understanding the less objective world around us. It does not limit itself to that it is also an exploration of how it ought to be. The principal skill required is presenting a logical argument, challenging assumptions etc. More or less what all of us need! In a way all the frameworks that we learn are heuristics (even porter's five forces), applying them require a lot of judgement and sometimes going beyond them is also necessary.
Conducting oneself ethically and corporate governance is another area where philosophy can be of use. It nudges to ponder upon things like a company’s existence, our duties to society, shareholders etc. Justice and ethics are topics that a manager should have an idea about especially dealing with team members.
Putting things in perspective is always valuable skill. Philosophy offers different views on one’s role in the world among other things. Seeing the big picture or not missing the wood for trees. It may be of help in dealing with a new teammate who is not performing or dealing with a missed promotion opportunity. Or in a b-school, how one deals with grades below expectations or missing opportunity to go on student exchange program.
Even if philosophy is not part of the curriculum in b-schools, a bit of reading on the subject would be a great investment for life. There are some wonderful sources online; Allain De Botton’s Youtube channel is pretty interesting. Reading philosophy, initially, might be tricky and some of the books are very heavy reading! But there are easier works. ‘The Story of philosophy’ is one such book. Happy reading!