The Social Contract with Business: Implications for the MBA

Jopie Coetzee

Jopie Coetzee holds a doctorate in business leadership. His research and writings on the social contract with business are pro led in his blog:
http://coetzeejopie.authorsxpress.com

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Jopie Coetzee outlines his ideas for what an MBA could look like in the future.

In 1987 Peter Drucker said that business scholars and business leaders will take 50 years to figure out the meaning of business as an organ of society.

Taking up Drucker’s challenge was an eight-year safari of research, reflection and writing, drawing on the thoughts and speeches of today’s finest leaders and thinkers around the world. From them emerged their answers to a series of Socratic questions:

What kind of future does humanity want? What kind of society will be able to deliver and sustain such a kind of future? What kind of business is suitable for such a society? What kind of business leader is needed for such a business? What kind of education does such a business leader need?

There emerged a research-based understanding of the purpose, nature and dynamics of business as an organ of society, crystallised into what I have called the new Social Contract with Business as a business case with eight business leadership responsibilities:

  • directed towards itself – to be an organ of society
  • towards its direct stakeholders – to be sustainable
  • towards the earth – its alignment with the earth’s finite nature
  • towards the global commons – to be a co-custodian
  • towards society – to be a co-architect of a healthy society
  • towards democracy – to protect its own operating space
  • towards government – alignment with government priorities
  • towards transnational crime – to eliminate its role and influence

The rest of this essay focuses on the answer to the last question: What kind of education does such a business leader need?

The current MBA applies one of the following educational paradigms:

  • Functions of business: where the curriculum mimics the various functions of business
  • Input-output: where the curriculum is populated by many ad hoc and unrelated subjects
  • Character development: where the curriculum focuses mainly on leadership competences

The challenge for business educators today is to soften the 1950s context of the above models with subjects such as ethics and social responsibility.

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