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Opus Dei and IESE, a Nontraditional MBA, and Ethics

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IESE Business SchoolAs I’m now in the final two weeks of my graduate studies, I’ll be writing more in reflection about my time earning an MBA with the University of Phoenix Online.

What caught my eye tonight was the description in Business 2.0 Magazine of a European business school that is bucking the worldwide trend set by American curricula, the IESE Business School at the University of Navarra, in Barcelona and Madrid, Spain.

Besides the fact that the private college is run by Opus Dei, a Catholic group that gained popularity following the publication of The Da Vinci Code, I’ve noticed some differences between the description of IESE, the European institute of higher learning, and the experiences with my graduate program.

Emphasizing the long term, the school is interested in the personal transformation of its students and building closer relationships with them, and is willing to make the difficult economic trade-offs to convert noble sentiments into reality…

The author of the article shares an anecdote about his wife’s sudden medical needs that shows how the school and its people emphasize caring, creating community, and strong ethics much more than traditional American-style business schools.

There are big lessons in this for U.S. companies, which have long resisted allowing more of their workers’ lives inside their boundaries. Our CEOs pay lip service to the importance of both customer and employee loyalty, but they frequently overlook the importance of personal relationships and connections, and rarely consider the idea of doing more for people than what is formally expected.

This philosophy of a real culture surrounding a corporation is mostly foreign to companies within the United States. I get the impression that some companies, where being employeed is like being a member of a cult (Google and Apple come to mind), try to emulate this style. However, I feel these corporate culture manifestations aren’t quite authentic. Rather than being built around helpful benefits for families in the spirit of caring, perhaps the culture is based on free lunch.

Read the Business 2.0 article to get a feel for what an authentic caring corporate culture might be like, no offense to Google.

(One important feature of a cult is that its members will irrationally defend the culture with the typical, “You can’t understand because you’re not one of us” response.)

If you’re thinking about matriculating at IESE, you might find it somewhat difficult to get accepted. According to BusinessWeek’s profile of the school, they are rather selective.

895 people applied to the full-time MBA program in 2005. The school accepted 36% (selectivity) of those applicants, and 69% of admitted applicants (yield) enrolled in the program.

At the University of Phoenix, we touched on ethics within the “Legal Environment of Business” course. We did spend significant time on the topic, but it was not an overriding theme of the entire curriculum. Even in the “Cases in Decision Making” course, ethics is only a sidebar. None of the cases dealt with ethical problems, which is surprising considering the prevalence of ethical issues in the business world, popularized and ingrained into our heads by the media.

Updated June 17, 2014 and originally published August 16, 2006.

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About the author

Luke Landes is the founder of Consumerism Commentary. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about Luke Landes and follow him on Twitter. View all articles by .

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