Dean’s Message

Bunker Mentality Is a Deal Breaker

Dean Ferrari

“WE SHOULD CHALLENGE OUR STUDENTS – AND OURSELVES AS EDUCATORS – TO STEP OUT OF OUR COMFORT ZONES, LOOK UP FROM OUR MICRODOT LANDSCAPES, AND TAKE IN A BROADER IF NOT A PANORAMIC PERSPECTIVE.”

The Greek playwright Sophocles once wrote, “What people believe prevails over the truth.” I think this statement holds some valuable lessons for the times in which we live. In today’s society, it appears our political, social, and religious arenas are becoming more and more defined by their own isolated points of view. I suspect this extreme polarization of opinions and entrenchment of sentiments could pose challenges for businesses and for the Carey Business School.

In the commercial world, we’re familiar with segments – well-identified groups of customers whom businesses can generally reach with appeals to their varied interests. While not everyone in every segment is going to buy a particular product or service every time, many are at least open to attempts to influence choice.

Today, many of those relatively open, curious customer segments increasingly look like closed units. And within those units, social media networks appear to be the ultimate enablers – creating self-perpetuating echo chambers of perspectives and opinions.

Inspired, or incited, by technology-pushed information, these self-reinforcing camps with their ever-hardening positions insulate themselves from dissent and debate. While one vision of the “truth” may be no more or less valid than another, their biases are their reality. They seem to have retreated into bunkers and fortresses as they prosecute their wars of words, armed with their own viewpoints, their own facts, and their own news.

How, then, do we respond – as businesses, educators, and individuals?

If the assessment I have outlined is correct, I believe each of us will have to evaluate and navigate our own biases carefully. The insularity of interest and peer groups may be comforting to all of us. But I suspect that succumbing chiefly to the parochial views of one group or another threatens the conduct of business in an increasingly smaller world – a world in which globalization demands that diverse communities and stakeholder groups become more and not less porous with respect to ideas, technology, and talent.

I believe businesses and individuals should always question the limits of their own certitude. Are there other opinions or approaches to consider? Are there implications of our decisions we are overlooking? While businesses must continue to understand and challenge the views of their potential customer segments, I submit that the Carey Business School may need to do the same for its students. We should challenge our students – and ourselves as educators – to step out of our comfort zones, look up from our microdot landscapes, and take in a broader if not a panoramic perspective.

At the Carey Business School, our aim is to guide our students, and the organizations and societies they will eventually serve, to a better place. As educators of future business leaders, our school should strive to inspire others and to look beyond the strictures of precedent, disciplines, and personal views that may limit our creativity.

Ensuring the highest quality of instruction is a core element of the Carey Business School’s mission. Specifically, we’re always considering how to weave business character throughout the curriculum, and how to do so for a highly diverse student body. I’m pleased with our school’s progress on this issue and many others, as evidenced by our recent accreditation by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business. But if we want to claim to be one of the best schools in educating and preparing business leaders for the world we will live in, we must continue to up our game. And how we deal with entrenched opinion will have to be part of the process.

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Bernard T. Ferrari, Dean