The New Ethics in B-Schools Pt. 2

A few months ago, I predicted that we would see a re-focus on ethics at MBA programs beginning this year. The NY Times confirmed that in an article today, tied to next week's graduation at HBS. Link

Students there developed an "MBA Oath" confirming their ethical stance in business, which you can read (short and long versions) here. Quite inspiring really. The signers so far are overwhelmingly from HBS, but it is open to anyone, even people that haven't graduated yet judging by the list of signers. (Will applicants include their "membership" on the list in their resumes? Interesting possibility.)

The article makes the interesting point that, while previous "ethics drives" were led by the MBA schools themselves, a lot of the momentum towards "ethical business" this time is student-led, as seen in the Oath. The article also gives a quick summary of the ethics programs at Columbia and Wharton. So in addition to this being the Year of the Re-applicant, I am more confident that this will also be the Year of Ethical Business.

However, instead of MBA programs asking you to explain how you did not do something bad on a particular occasion (a dubious measurement of one's moral composition to say the least), I imagine more of them will ask what lasting good you have done for your community, society, the environment, etc. through both your work and your non-professional activities.  I'll keep following this theme as MBA programs begin releasing their questions.

Oh. I spoke too soon. It seems HBS has released its questions for the class of 2012. Among those questions:

Discuss how you have engaged with a community or organization. Tell us about a time when you made a difficult decision.

The latter is new this year. They can both be interpreted as ethical questions, (see my take on MBA ethical questions) and the inclusion of both is a sign of how strongly HBS is considering ethics, broadly defined. It is also a strong indication that other schools will be doing the same.