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by Vault Education Editors | June 30, 2011


How many courses on ethics does it take for MBAs to change their selfish ways? Two, maybe three? Four? More than four?  

“If Wharton graduates – MBAs who care only about making a quick fortune – are given 10 ethics courses, it will have no effect. It’s a matter not of ethics, but of what they care about,” [says Martin Seligman, the leading guru of the popular but controversial positive psychology movement, UPenn professor and author of Flourish.]

Seligman’s “learned optimism" focuses not on mental illness but on well-being and happiness, or human flourishing. Rather than focus on what harms, positive psychology looks at what nurtures, to put it crudely.

A certain type of MBA—the kind that contributed to the financial crisis—must be taught that happiness and well-being don’t come only from piling up accomplishments, says Seligman. And he believes no amount of ethics courses will teach this; positive psychology, focusing on five elements of well-being, on the other hand, can.

“We must teach that the positive corporation and the individuals therein must cultivate meaning, engagement, positive emotion, and positive relations as well as tending to profit,” he stresses.

If b-schools did start teaching positive psychology, as Seligman suggests they do, will consoling your inner emptiness with giant piles of cash no longer be necessary?

[Globe and Mail]

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