In my final Ethics class I raised the question of whether anyone would sign up for the MBA Oath. I added that I had just read a media report saying that even students from even INSEAD have signed up. Curious, I went to the website and found one INSEAD signatory*, from a much earlier promotion. Would the rest of us sign it?
My question brought mixed responses. Some would sign it, and felt that most of our cohort would, too. Others said there was no need to sign it, and just because some signed it and others didn’t, doesn’t mean that the non-signers were unethical. A good point raised by a classmate was that, in contrast to other Oaths like the Hippocratic one for doctors, how can this MBA Oath be enforced?
While surfing around for opinions on the MBA Oath I read a comment from another b-school student that signing the Oath may imply that his school’s curriculum is lacking in an ethics focus, i.e. it would backfire.
Our professor threw a question back at me - Should there be an INSEAD Oath? I said, on its own merit that was feasible, but now, why have an INSEAD Oath when the Harvard Oath has already gained so much publicity? Launching our own INSEAD Oath may imply that the Harvard version is lacking somewhere. (And wouldn’t it look like a ‘me-too’ reaction?)
Finally, another classmate said that we should re-iterate INSEAD’s existing values and that should cover it. There’s no need for a separate Oath. I think most of us agreed with that.
Personally, I am curious to see if, many years down the road, any signatories from this oath are able to stand by what they’ve sworn. Their names are on the website and the media can hold them accountable. Many are Harvard MBAs, likely to become top executives of major companies. Hopefully the Oath will reduce the chances of another Enron. But a once-off signing with no follow-ups and no enforceability would make it less effective.
Another cynical comment I read online said that this Oath was cleverly set up to help MBA grads look better as they search for jobs in a difficult climate. I disagree because many employers won’t necessarily prefer someone who signed it as opposed to someone who hasn’t. There are so many other qualities; no MBA grad, even from the same school, is exactly alike.
So the conclusion is, if you want to sign it, by all means, go ahead! It may improve the way we do business, or it may not. But if you don’t sign it, it doesn’t mean you are unethical either. Nobody is perfect and even those signing it may one day be forced to make an uncomfortable decision.
In the meantime, I am following the MBA Oath on Facebook and Twitter to observe it.
[ Update: 3 INSEAD alumni have signed the Oath ]