Professor James R. Barker, or Jim as he is commonly known around campus, teaches organizational behaviour for the Corporate Residency MBA program, and holds the Lamb Chair in Business Education in the Rowe School of Business at Dalhousie University. His extensive research has focused on the role of strategic behavior in the development of sustainable knowledge, innovation and change initiatives and the consequences of these initiatives on organizational governance systems, markets and practices. Dr. Barker’s teaching and consulting focus on managing the value creation process across organizations and market levels and emphasize strategic leadership (both planning and implementation), stakeholder relationship management, sustainable enterprise management and strategic change and innovation management. Most recently, Jim and a group of five CRMBA students created Ethics in Action, an initiative that builds on the Dalhousie Business Ethics Case Competition (DBECC). With the support of a $1.5 million donation by Scotiabank, the group will turn the case competition into a conference held every November that focuses specifically on ethics in business. Jordan caught up with Jim and a few of the CRMBA students involved in this initiative to get their perspective on the conference, and business ethics in general.
Why do you think this initiative is important for the Dalhousie MBA program?
I believe this initiative is important because Scotiabank is offering us a very high platform to showcase the MBA students in our program here at Dalhousie. Also, we are offered a mechanism for anchoring our philosophy of the CRMBA program, that is, values-based management and our focus on ethics. It is great to have Scotiabank sponsoring our event.
What drove you to get involved with this initiative?
With my professorship in organizational behaviour, I hold a degree of responsibility. This is my area of expertise so it is important that I get involved. I find this initiative very attractive and believe that it can be the flagship event for the Dal CRMBA program.
Why do you believe it is important for MBA students to be taught ethics?
The expectations for ethical action are increasing; companies have high expectations for employees even outside work hours. Since MBA students are so highly scrutinized, it is important that we prepare students to survive in that environment. The faculty is in charge of making sure the students behave ethically in complex organizations, and this initiative is really going to help us achieve that.
What do you see in the future for the Ethics in Action event?
I am hoping this becomes the flagship event for the Dal CRMBA program. I want this to be the event that people are talking about, the event that has a buzz, the central brand of our CRMBA program over the next 5 to 10 years.
I really want to thank Scotiabank, we appreciate their donation and now we’re going to execute. This is a very exciting opportunity and we are going to make it work!
We also asked three CRMBA students directly involved in the planning of Ethics in Action—Emma, Laura and Becky—why they got involved in this initiative and why it is important.
Ethics is such an important pillar in business and it’s an interesting topic that is rarely mastered. Developing an ethical-based mind in business is no easy feat, and being part of something that encourages students from all areas of business to challenge their perspectives and build a framework and foundation that will make them better business leaders tomorrow is something that really excites me.
Dalhousie, the Rowe School of Business and our surrounding community is truly privileged to host such an innovative event. Ethics challenges the way people do business and live their lives. This conference gives MBA students the chance to reflect on and react to ethics, amplifying and ingraining these principles into their skill sets.
I got involved in Ethics in Action because I share the belief that leaders must not only have strong ethical values, but also focus the attention of the organization on ethics. This initiative is an opportunity to start the dialogue, challenge assumptions and learn more about ethical behaviour. Bringing together students around the topic of ethics will lead to good business.
I truly believe that the Rowe School of Business is helping to develop the leaders of tomorrow and, in doing so, Dal needs to ingrain in each of us the ability to make ethical decisions. The school is focused on values-based management, which is well aligned to the goals of Ethics in Action. By supporting this initiative, Dal is putting words into action.
I was first attracted to Ethics in Action because of the topic of ethical leadership. I have always believed that the foundation of good business is a strong sense of ethics and ethical behaviour, and I was very excited by the chance to develop and promote this way of thinking. Also, this is a completely student-run initiative and I was interested in gaining some experience in project management.
The Ethics in Action initiative is so important to me because it gives students a chance to really highlight the importance of ethics in business. Ethics in Action provides a chance to explore some of the difficult ethical dilemmas that come up in business in a safe environment where students can learn from others and test their ideas. It will also give students a chance to emphasize their commitment to acting ethically in their careers.
Ethics in Action is going to be one more thing that helps set the Dalhousie MBA program apart from other B-schools. Acting ethically in business is starting to become a very popular topic, evidenced by Scotiabank’s commitment and gift. Employers are becoming more and more interested in graduates who have a strong ethical foundation, and Ethics in Action is going to be one tool that helps develop this foundation. It adds value to each MBA degree earned at the Rowe School of Business.