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9 Responses to “Razing the Right Issues”

  1. KC Bruce says:

    Very thoughtful again, Mike. Nohria has written one of my favorite business books: What Really Works. Superb research and simple, easy-to-apply lessons. My kind of business book. Glad to hear he’s taking over HBS.

    I’m not sure I like the idea of business as a profession. Seems like professions–doctors, engineers, etc–erect pretty high barriers to entry like licenses and exams. Some of our best business people would never tolerate that kind of conformity, and I’m pretty sure that we don’t want them to.

    Seems like enforcing that conformity would develop a mindset the opposite of what an entrepreneur needs–that creative destruction. Most professions I know are locked into protecting the way it’s always been done. I shiver at thinking what the communications industry would look like today with a “professionals” running it. Would we still be reading paper newspapers and dialing rotary dial phones?

    Still, I like the idea that a moral compass or conscience needs to be at the heart of a business education. Here the business world could learn from the US Army.

    There, commanders deal with moral dilemmas every day. My personal experience in teaching brigade commanders at Ft Leavenworth the past few months has led me to conclude that their professional education in the art of leadership leaves them much, much better prepared with mental models and practical tools in dealing with tough situations.

    Perhaps we’ll evolve a blended model of some sort–a profession for those leading large organizations where moral issues have bigger impact and a culture of entrepreneurship that keeps us innovative and strong.

  2. Mike Metzger says:


    Yes, thats a terrific way to put. We cannot deny the power of institutions yet have to hold in tension that, by definition, they are boundary defining entities that easily become resistant to innovation. This is why I believe a roundtable is one of the more effective ways of institutionalizing resistance to the status quo. Thank you for your contribution.

  3. Mike Metzger says:

    …. I meant “that’s a terrific way to put it.” Pays to proofread before hitting the “Submit” button!

  4. Chris Harness says:

    I have a hard time thinking of Business as a profession. KCBruce made excellent points and I will only offer one other:

    A Profession has special moral mores that are specific to their job are not shared by the general population.

    Doctors have special rules on how they must treat their patients based on the special powers they train for. They must do no harm.

    God holds Religious leaders to a higher standard…warning more severe judgement if they become “stumbling blocks”

    The Military Profession have special rules with regard to warfare. They must not ruthlessly slaughter everyone on and off the battlefield at any time they please. We don’t allow everyone the power to kill.

    We require businessmen essentially to be honest… a quality we expect in everyone.

  5. Kyle says:


    Interesting that you raise the issue of a business oath similar to the Hippocratic oath. Isn’t it strange that folks who took the hippocratic oath now practice plastic surgery, inject muscle-kiling cocktails into our wrinkles, and carry out operations such as gastric bypass, destroying the troublesome bodies God gave us to get the bodies we hope for? I think these sorts of procedures violate the hippocratic oath, and I don’t think the consciences of these folks actually bothers them much. Could be how their community defines “harm”. Could be they simply have unhealthy consciences.

    Also, interesting that Chris mentions how we “expect” honesty in everyone. Do we need a hippocratic oath of sorts in order to expect honesty of businessman, or will Nohria and the organizations to which these young minds are interned be able to cultivate a conscience in them that will guide them to good character? Let’s hope Nohria’s character and conscience rubs off on these students and the internship coordinators they are entrusted to. In fact, let’s pray for it…

  6. Joe Tye says:

    Another problem with the business school curriculum (says this Stanford grad) is that there is virtually no inclusion of practical values. For example, courage and perseverance (two of the values in the course we teach) are the most vital qualities for entrepreneurial success, yet I don’t know of a business school anywhere that teaches these learnable traits. As another example, every company explicitly or implicitly includes integrity in the statement of values it presents to the public (even Enron did), yet in practical terms many corporate cultures undermine integrity by tolerating gossip and rumor-mongering; again, fostering a culture that is intolerant to toxic emotional negativity is a learnable skill. — Joe Tye

  7. Bill says:


    Thanks for another thought-provoking post.

    Does razing need to be a primary intention, or is it sufficient for it to be an acceptable by-product?

    Using your analogy of the mobile phone, was the primary goal of creating the mobile phone the destruction of the wall phone? Or was the latter just a by-product that was acceptable?

    In raising new ideals does one need to desire the destruction of the old or just be willing to see the old destroyed?

    I hope my question is not mere semantics; it seems to be a question of where your primary focus should be – to raze the old OR focused forward on raising the new, with a willingness to see the old razed in the process.

  8. Mike Metzger says:


    To arrive at a destination requires leaving port. The answer to your (good) question is “both/and.” Destruction is intrinsic to the process of creation, just as “take” preceded “eat” in the (good) Garden. Taking was killing fruit, for example, in order to eat it. Your question is not mere semantics, it is substantive.

  9. Brody Bond says:

    What happens if we do away with corporations – the only-real-on-paper institution that distances us and our behavior from consequences?

    Is that a viable option? A means of shalom?


    P.S. I own an LLC. I’m just curious, not hypocritical.

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