HBS Professor Joseph Badaracco trains students for the complexities of the business world by examining great works of literature.
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YES! "HBS" is that Harvard Business School." A great article about the value of literary reading focusing upon the work of Joseph Badaracco who has sufficient "distance" from the assumed biases that we who teach literature are too often easily dismissed for having.
Sometimes we who are the flag-bearers for the value of literary reading are not necessarily the best at articulating that value in the language that can be easily appreciated by others.
And when it is those others who are to a large degree responsible for assessing the value of literary reading and/or who are responsible for attempting to develop appropriate assessment structures for the acheivement of that value, there may be well-intended but short-sighted and thereby detrimental rather than beneficial outcomes.
Consider a few excerpts from this article...
"There’s a lot more to leadership than streamlining and spreadsheet analyses, Badaracco says. Running an organization, in his view, is about understanding yourself and being open to the perspectives of others in a way that balances different business and ethical interests."
If the only data we collect is data that can be crunched in spreadsheets, then what data are we not collecting because it can't be easily collected that would shift the entire outcome generated by the data-analysis we CAN do?
Or this passage...
“Literature gives students a much more realistic view of what’s involved in leading” than many business books on leadership, said the professor. “Literature lets you see leaders and others from the inside. You share the sense of what they’re thinking and feeling. In real life, you’re usually at some distance and things are prepared, polished. With literature, you can see the whole messy collection of things that happen inside our heads.”
What are the variables in business leadership that are just too messy and complex to gather and synthesize? How do we account for the messy in spreadsheets? We used to call this the margin of error. But, can we really determine the margin of error if the "whole story" has an infinite number of variables, most of which are not universally applicable in any particular data collection, synthesis, and decision making process?
“Reading in a deep way, and reflecting on the material with others in class, opens students to multiple perspectives on the toughest issues. Badaracco sees literature as a great remedy to a “one-size-fits-all” approach to leading. The multidimensional nature of great works can help leaders enhance self-understanding and open themselves to alternative perspectives and outside-the-box solutions, he says."
" 'Business schools don’t do enough to develop reflection,” says Badaracco, “but it’s really hard to do. Real reflection is hard because you need the time and training to do it.' ”
Essentially, the point I take from this article is that there is more to a well-developed rubric for decision making than "Is it good for the stockholder's portfolios?"
And that business about "Real reflection" being "hard because you need the time and training to do it" is true as far as it goes. Doing hard work well does take time and time is money after all. But, perhaps even harder than doing real reflection and raising overhead by learning to do it well is facing the complex truths discovered once one has risen to the challenge of having actually done "real reflection."
A worthwhile bit of "informational reading."
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