Recently, I overheard two young gentlemen at Mumbai airport talking animatedly about the arrest of a global supply sales manager of Apple Inc. He, it appears, had taken about $1 million kickbacks from Asian suppliers in return of confidential information.
At the pith of their conversation was the idea that the manager was indeed stupid — not because of the deed, but because he was caught! Coming from a Jesuit institution known for its value-based education, I could not help but join in the conversation. I found that these two gentlemen were colleagues — one from a top B-school and well on his way to a very successful career in one of the leading IT firms in India.
When I interjected, the conversation turned into a banter and I kept asking them the reasons for some of the corporate scandals: Satyam, WorldComm and Enron. Surprisingly, neither appreciated the need for moral cognition. Their stance was that it is okay to meander and steer away from the right path, take kickbacks and plunder corporate wealth. But do it in such a way that one does not get caught.
I would not blame them at all. In a world that is surrounded by corruption and lack of punitive action or retribution, we as a society seem to encourage such unadulterated rapaciousness. We brook no kindness to the society that we are a part of.
Moral cognition has to emanate early and should spring forth in schools, family and religion. But, we are weak in all the three sources. Schools prepare students for competition based on marks. Moral science classes are either optional or not part of the syllabus. Families are getting smaller, both the parents are working and they have no time for children.
It is not surprising that we have managers who chose to ignore his cohabitants. While I paint a rather gloomy picture, there are a few B-schools that do care about these aspects. For instance, my own B-school has compulsory core courses in business ethics, corporate governance and corporate social responsibility in the MBA programme. But is this enough? That’s a question the academia must ponder on.