Mental Weight Lifting for Business Students

greg westfall. (CC BY 2.0)

If you’ve read the news this week about declining MBA applications, you’ll likely welcome a fresh perspective on business education. Dr. Jennifer Kohn of Drew University, in a new article and corresponding podcast in the Journal of Management Education, draws from a centuries-old text—James Madison’s Federalist #10, a seminal work in political theory—to deliver specific practical lessons for managers. The result is what Dr. Kohn calls “mental weight lifting” for students training for success in today’s competitive business world:

Madison’s first lesson is that in order to identify factions, managers must first determine their organizational objective. This is often easier said than done, both for big picture corporate strategy as well as daily meeting agendas. Second, Madison provides a cogent argument that it is better to manage the effects of factions than to try to prevent their causes. Madison argues that the causes of factions are rooted in the very human nature and freedom that fuels the dynamics of society and business. In other words, hiring “yes men” and severely limiting what employees can do would be like a dictator extinguishing liberty, “. . . a remedy worse than the disease” (p. 55). Madison’s third critical lesson is that managers are not immune to developing adverse interests of their own. So what is a manager to do?

Click here to listen to the interview with Dr. Kohn and here to read the article, “Federalist #10 in Management #101: What Madison Has To Teach Managers,” published on September 17, 2012 in JME. You can also subscribe to the podcast on iTunes.

Jennifer L. Kohn is an Assistant Professor at Drew University.  She brings a combination of business, government and academic experience to her teaching and research.  She is a strong advocate of the Liberal Arts having applied her undergraduate philosophy degree from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst to jobs ranging from campaign manager to consumer advocate to senior administrator for the Division of Cardiology at New York Hospital-Weil Cornell Medical Center.  Jennifer found the philosophy in math earning an MBA in Finance and Statistics from the New York University Stern School of Business and her Ph.D. in Finance and Economics from the Rutgers Business School.  Her research is in applied microeconomics in the fields of health care, risk management and econometrics.

Gordon Meyer is Associate Professor of Management and Chair of the Department of Management and Marketing at Canisius College in Buffalo, NY. He has a masters degree in organizational behavior from Brigham Young University and a Ph.D. from the New York State School of Industrial and Labor Relations at Cornell University. His research interests include management education and pedagogy, and he is an Associate Editor of the Journal of Management Education.

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