Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Another Take on Business with Humanity in Mind

This phrase is the line that describes what we intend to teach at the Johns Hopkins Carey Business School.  It is fascinating that each faculty member and each student seems to (and, in fact, is encouraged to) have her own interpretation of what this means.  The Dean likes to interpret it as thinking of stakeholders beyond he owners (be it a privately held business interest or a shareholder held corporation).  The stakeholders can include customers, employees, and the community in which the business exists, just to name a few.

Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to meet with colleagues from Shenandoah University.  We had a fascinating conversation about the two schools, about a joint research opportunity focusing on the economics of breastfeeding for low income mothers and families, and about a possible collaborative symposium.  As we discussed the symposium we talked about the interesting overlap of interests between the faculty and community at the two universities and how they would compare and contrast. 

When I was speaking with a colleague at Carey after the conversation with the colleagues from our sister university, I was talking about the interesting issues faced by our colleagues in Virginia.  Specifically, my colleagues had told me about the city of Winchester in which there is some “old money” with grand houses, some multigenerational poverty, and some housing in which mostly recent immigrants live.  My colleague thought that alone would make an interesting basis for a discussion of business with humanity in mind—seeing the fascinating cross section of humanity that any business—health care (where the conversation with our colleagues from Shenandoah began) or otherwise—would have to keep in mind when planning around stakeholders.  What is even more interesting is that Baltimore has the same.  Both near the main university campus in the Homewood area of the city and near the business school.  Not so much “old money” in Harbor East, but certainly a lot of money.

Any business that has to keep in mind populations that include high income, multi-generation poverty, and brand new immigrants will face many challenges as the potential effects of business decisions on these different populations vary in complex ways.  Some businesses will cater to one or the other.  Other service organizations, e.g., health care, will have to consider staffing and resource allocation and outreach that touch each population in different ways.  One goal of an education at Carey is to have our graduates thinking about the many, varying effects and bringing that thinking to the decision making process in the organizations in which they will some day become leaders. 

I look forward to seeing how we can bring our faculty, students, and communities together to struggle with these issues and to help all of both schools’ stakeholders to understand better how to conduct business with humanity in mind across a wide variation of settings. 


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