Teaching Business Ethics Through Sportsmanship

Dr Tom Vine presented at the Ensors sponsored Quay To Growth Business Breakfast at the University of Suffolk on Thursday 2 March. He discussed some new research taking place in the Suffolk Business School, on teaching Business Ethics using the principles of sportsmanship:

Business Ethics is traditionally taught through philosophy, and is often driven by the same key, Western philosophers: Kant, Aristotle, Marx, Nietzsche, to name a few. The biased is on abstract philosopher, and irrespective of the level of study (undergraduate or postgraduate), teaching falls back on a classical philosophical framework.

But here we have a problem – business students have not enrolled on a philosophy degree, and they can struggle with the material. Students may recognise that there is value to the reading and engagement with the module, but they are often looking for practical nuggets that will help them in their future careers – how can they be a better business person?

Here at the Suffolk Business School, we decided to start exploring alternatives to this traditional method of teaching, and have realised that we can supplement this with a different perspective – the idea of sportsmanship. Solomon (2004) even argues that good sportsmanship and fair play are essential obligations to business ethics, although he makes this statement free from further research or investigation. We decided to delve deeper, to take advantage of the connections between sportsmanship and businessmanship in a pedagogical sense.

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We know that there is a language of sportsmanship in business – considering the ‘ballcourt figure’, or to ‘get the ball rolling’. We ‘keep our eye on the ball’, or we have to ‘take it on the chin’. Clients ‘move the goalposts’, and competitors ‘play hardball’. Where has this linguistic connection between sports and business come from?

As in sports, there are competitors in business; there are rules by which we must play and conduct business; there are parallels in respect to betrayal. There is an sense of ‘fair play’ and behaviour that is driven by a moral reasoning.

So why do we think this approach works? Well, we know that sport has wide appeal – there is an already well established cultural understanding of what it means to be a good sportsman, even if a student does not follow a particular sport or team avidly. This allows our students to engage immediately, with something they can relate to on a fundamental level. Sportsmanship is learned at an early age – unlike philosophy. It is also inherently personal – learning of sportsmanship is experiential, much like how it is to be a good business person. These things make learning business ethics through sportsmanship intellectually accessible to students, who perhaps did not realise they would be embarking on philosophy as part of their business degree.

This is part of an ongoing research project by Dr Tom Vine and Dr Will Thomas. If you are interested in this research, please contact talkbusiness@uos.ac.uk

Make America Great Again: The Excellence Project 35 Years on

By David Collins, Suffolk Business School

On the evening of Thursday 16 February I will offer what my children term ‘a quote-unquote master-class’. This event is one of a series of lectures designed to show-case Suffolk Business School’s unique three location, triple internationally accredited EMBA that is offered in partnership with the University of Maastricht. Since my parenting skills are, patently, nothing to blog about and because you are probably becoming just a little bored of my childhood reminiscences it might be useful to offer a little taste of what I will speak about on Thursday.

In my (ahem) master-class I will talk about Donald Trump. I will use words to talk about Donald Trump. It will be great. I have great words. You will be so proud of my words. My words are great (that’s enough now – editor). In my talk I will discuss Trump’s election; his promises and, more generally, our prospects. And I do mean all of our prospects!

But my presentation is not really about Trump. In truth – if we are still allowed to call upon such quaint things as truth – my talk is really a vehicle prepared to allow me to offer reflections on managerial storytelling. Why do I keep coming back to this? I always find myself back at storytelling because managerial work is essentially about talk. That’s why, as Head of Suffolk Business School, I now spend so much time in meetings!

Why must I spend so much time in meetings? Trust me, I do often ask myself this question! Yet while I grumble about the quantity of meetings I must attend (my calendar has just pinged to remind me to attend another in 15 minutes) the plain truth is that managers need to spend a lot of time talking to colleagues because work requires social co-operation within and across the boundaries that define our organizational arrangements. Talk – orders, commands, requests and exhortations – shape and define the activities that constitute managerial work. But if you really want to do something useful you will need to find a form of talk that goes beyond simply telling people what to do.

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University of Suffolk Waterfront Building, photograph (C) of the University of Suffolk

If you really want people to change; to commit; to do something extraordinary you will need a special form of purposeful talk that a) frames the activities that need to be undertaken and b) explains why these actions are actually useful and commendable. I call this special form of talk, ‘storytelling’.

Keen to learn more about the nature and – crucially- the limits of storytelling within a managerial context? Interested in a postgraduate degree that will prepare you for future leadership and executive roles?

Come along to the University of Suffolk Atrium on Thursday 16 February at 5:30pm and participate in my quote-unquote masterclass.

Jainism and Ethical Finance

The world is reeling with the tsunami of finance – complex, confusing, overpowering and fraudulent. And now we have Trump to add to all this. There is a real shortage of different cultures and perspectives of finance – and nothing about the Jains. Finance is a core subject in thousands of business schools all over the world. Even The Economist recently noted that the Gujaratis and the Jains are the worlds most successful entrepreneurs. Given the unique philosophy of the Jains, and their wide and sustained success in finance, Aidan Rankin and I have written this new book by Routledge to help change the study of finance, and show students all over the world that different cultures of finance exist, are possible and above all, can bring a sustained spirit of contentment and success. It is published by Routledge and comes out in April 2017. It provides radical and timely new theoretical insights into the arid and turgid desert of finance which is highly transactional and exploitative. Here is the Routledge website where you can order it. If you wish to read a summary of the book, then click on this link here.

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The reason we wrote the book was because we are concerned to help the world and heal its wounds, like all of you. The book is nearly 200 pages long and contains Jain perspectives on typical finance subjects like profit, ownership, markets, investments, risk, return, debt, dividends and valuation. It also explains the basics of Jain philosophy and its relevance to the business world. There are stories and examples from true life stories of Jain businesses, current and historic. On this page, we would like to hear your comments and suggestions about how this book can be promoted widely. We are willing to speak about it at educational institutions and also our priority is to get it reviewed widely in blogs and media all over the world. There is a plan to do a UK launch event and one in India and perhaps also USA and Kenya if we can get partner interest. If you wish to review it for your own blogs or websites, or newsletters, then you are most welcome to do so.

 

TESTIMONIALS

This book provides a fascinating and detailed insight into a relatively unknown culture and code of ethics. I am sure it will help inform the corporate governance debate in the West.

Professor Janette Rutterford, Open University

Mere self interest and short termism has proven to be a catastrophic failure in finance. This books shows a very different and wise proven alternative – sustainable and ethical. –
Satish Kanabar, Former Director, Barclays
Jain teachings date back 5000 years to Northern India. Today, these teachings support a non-theistic religion, offer a practical living philosophy, and provide a set of values that inform the lives of some ten million Jains worldwide. Shah and Rankin explain how the Jain values of Anekant (respect for the views of others), Ahimsa (non-violence in action, speech, and thought), and Aparigraha (non-possessiveness) can offer a useful guide to responsible business practices. The authors provide numerous examples drawn from the Jain business community. The examples are offered both as an anecdote to an overly arid and typically incomplete orthodox view of business activity and as a useful supplement to contemporary thought on sustainability and corporate social responsibly. The ideas are interdisciplinary and holistic and should appeal to a wide audience, including sociologists, business ethics scholars, accountants, bankers, economists, and business people generally.

Daniel T. Ostas, J.D., Ph.D., James G. Harlow, Jr. Chair in Business Ethics, Michael F. Price College of Business, University of Oklahoma, USA

Jainism and Ethical Finance represents a groundbreaking divining rod for the 21St century’s most pressing moral imperative: a guide to wise restraint and the simultaneous embrace of compassion in everything that human beings think, intend and do. Atul Shah and Aidan Rankin have written a treatise that clearly elucidates the underpinnings of a moral universe that is at once revolutionary –in the best sense- and crucial to the future of humanity and of all biodiversity on this precious earth.

Michael Charles Tobias, President, Dancing Star Foundation, USA

In the face of widespread public distrust of modern banking and financial services, Shah and Rankin examine the enduring business practices of the Jain community and find hope for the future. Eloquent, timely and packed with wisdom.

John Christensen, Director, Tax Justice Network.

 

Our vision is that in time, Jain Business and Financial Ethics become an important part of business education all over the world. This will help people understand that not all problems require new solutions – some of them have been there in our past, but we have forgotten them today. It will also showcase a practical role model of how business can be performed differently and still bring sustainable success. If anyone would like to help us realise this vision, through events or sponsorship, we would be glad to hear from you.

Please contact Dr. Atul K. Shah if you have any queries about speaker requests or how this book can be read and discussed all over the world by students and business owners and professionals. We are also available to speak about the book at Universities or public events. It would be great if you could post your suggestions below so that the whole world can see what you think about this perspective and its possibles. Perhaps you would like to add your own story about how you apply Jain ethics in your business and professional life?