Much Ado about Nothing? ; TEACHING METHODS ++ Can Shakespeare Really Be a Useful Management Tool? Two New Courses Take Very Different Approaches. Peter Brown Investigates
Brown, Peter, The Independent (London, England)
Last term an imaginative new management programme called Politics, Power and the Art of Influence was launched at the Sad Business School, Oxford. Designed for experienced executives, it combines Shakespeare's history play, Julius Caesar, role play and modern management theory. Similar courses have been taught at other schools, including the Cranfield MBA course.
Shakespeare, in fact, is surprisingly popular among management teachers seeking the long view, particularly in the US. James O'Toole, a prominent critic of business school curricula, uses Shakespeare in his classes at the Aspen Institute. "It reaches these practical business people at a much deeper level than a mathematical formula does," he told Business Week. At New York's Stern School of Business, Professor Les Levi, with 20 years' experience as a Wall Street hedge fund manager, uses Henry V in his Managerial Ethics: Lessons from Literature and Film. "The idea is to let students see how literature and film connect with their experiences in real life," he says.
O'Toole's latest book Creating the Good Life: Aristotle's Guide to Getting It Right joins a large canon of management books yoking philosophers, authors, playwrights and even religious leaders to the cause of better business. Shakespeare on Management: Wise Business Counsel from the Bard (1992) by Jay M. Shafritz and Shakespeare in Charge (1999) by Norman Augustine and Kenneth Adelman are two examples.
There are those, however, who do not agree that using drama - and particularly the Bard - as a business application is always helpful. Among their number is Dr Thomas McGrath, who this term will teach a module on "Shakespeare and Management" as an MBA elective at Leicester School of Management.
Dr McGrath recently completed a PhD in the English Department at Leicester looking at the ways in which Shakespeare is used in management and leadership training. His module "examines the ways in which the work of Shakespeare has been used and may be used to "educate" and "develop" managers. It will allow students to critically assess traditional approaches and develop a greater understanding of how literary texts may enhance our understanding of management.
"Concepts such as the use of celebrity in marketing management ideas, as well as the implications involved in misappropriating and exploiting iconic figures, will be examined," the literature says.
Misappropriating? Exploiting? One might describe this as an unkind cut, but Mc-Grath, 41, a freelance management consultant, is unrepentant. "People think that if Shakespeare knows so much about life and human nature, surely he must be able to teach us about management and leadership. But Shakespeare wasn't writing about real people, he was writing about fictitious characters," he says.
McGrath is particularly scornful about management writers who say they can transpose ideas about fictional characters into modern management techniques. "There are clear problems there," he says. "They are literary constructs. It's impoverishing management and it's impoverishing Shakespeare.
"The other thing is that Shakespeare was talking about a different type of management from what we have now - kings and queens, dukes and empires. We're simplifying Shakespeare. If two people go to see Macbeth tonight they'll come home with …
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Publication information: Article title: Much Ado about Nothing? ; TEACHING METHODS ++ Can Shakespeare Really Be a Useful Management Tool? Two New Courses Take Very Different Approaches. Peter Brown Investigates. Contributors: Brown, Peter - Author. Newspaper title: The Independent (London, England). Publication date: January 18, 2007. Page number: 12. © 2009 The Independent - London. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.
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