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Respect for a diversity of perspectives has never been more important

MinnPost photo by Peter Callaghan
The retirement of baby boomers from management and executive positions will create leadership needs in Minnesota businesses.

As a business professor, it is important for me to remember that while my primary audience is my students, owners and managers of Minnesota businesses are key stakeholders I should keep in mind when providing a business education. And while business leaders are certainly looking for candidates who look good on paper, what they ultimately need are future leaders whose skills might be less tangible. While business students in universities strive to learn new sets of specialized skills in accounting, project management, or data analytics, the development of a critical mind that can holistically analyze and understand complex issues is still the foundational deliverable we strive to foster.

Businesses are juggling the demands of a global economy and the consequences of increasing populist political movements. To prepare students for this environment, we encourage students to think critically and to expose themselves to diversity of thought, and show them the value of working with those who think differently from the way they do. I am fortunate as a teacher; I work with doctoral students from throughout Minnesota and the world, many of whom are first-generation students or direct immigrants from Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia. Our Twin Cities campus is located in the Phillips Neighborhood, a neighborhood that has seen its share of challenges (drug activity, violence, underemployment) as well as renewal spurred by neighborhood improvement and community-building initiatives. It is within this unique cultural tapestry that graduate students exchange ideas, challenge strategy, and form networks that will serve them well in Minnesota’s business community and elsewhere.

Different lenses, ‘good thinking’ from all

This importance of respecting a diversity of ideas is not new, nor does it exist exclusively within the realm of a far-left academe. For my part, I am a business faculty member and an advocate of free trade, who made my “business bones” serving as a corporate trainer for a largely pharmaceutical, automotive, and military clientele. During a short course I was teaching at a Marine Corps base in North Carolina, an attentive gunnery sergeant offered the following advice to my class as the students worked with a complex set of analytical tasks: “Black or white, male or female, rich or poor, whatever lenses you bring here are part of the class, but most importantly what I need from all of you is good thinking.”

Good thinking, yes, I can definitely say I support this. The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) is predicting shortages in business analytic professionals, and well as a shortage of business faculty. The retirement of baby boomers from management and executive positions will also create leadership needs in Minnesota businesses. All of these factors are contributing to the need for a workforce skilled in critical and holistic thinking.

Matthew Nowakowski
Matthew Nowakowski

How can we best support “good thinking” in our business classrooms? In the era of Brexit and increasingly populist political movements across the globe, there has never been a time when respect for a diversity of perspectives was more important. Zanny Minton Beddoes, first female editor-in-chief of The Economist, suggested, “Technology is forging global connections, whatever the backlash against migration or trade. Students study at foreign universities via online courses; small businesses export via online markets; people chat and share news on global social-media platforms.”

Drivers of economic change

In other words, although we may venture into periods of national isolationism or introversion, ultimately the globalization of business relationships and the interdependence of economies will help to normalize and support business growth. Beddoes will discuss the interplay of democracy, demography, technology, energy, and government policies as the ultimate drivers of economic change as part of the Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota 10th annual Hendrickson Forum on Tuesday, April 25, at 11:30 a.m.

In commenting on Jacksonian Populism, visiting 19th-century French diplomat Alexis de Tocqueville noted, “I cannot help fearing that men may reach a point where they look on every new theory as a danger, every innovation as a toilsome trouble, every social advance as a first step toward revolution, and that they may absolutely refuse to move at all.” Let us hope that in our efforts in Minnesota’s business community, and in our role as educators, we offer respect for a diversity of ideas that support economic growth and embrace innovation and advancement with courage.

Matthew Nowakowski, who holds a doctorate in business administration, is an associate professor of business at Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota.


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Comments (5)

  1. Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 04/07/2017 - 09:34 pm.

    Real diversity

    Not only diversity of perspectives and thoughts is important; it is actually the only diversity that matters. And that diversity definitely includes a conservative perspective, a thought that may be difficult to accept for some people. So I hope the author follows his advice and lets conservative students of his speak up their minds freely.

    • Submitted by Dennis Litfin on 04/08/2017 - 09:05 am.

      Yes, Ilya….

      an ‘open mike’ which includes conservative ‘progressive’ thinking also …without the regressive, detracting ‘ya but’s’ of the Mitch McConnells which have set the tone for so many conservatives in the past.

  2. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 04/07/2017 - 09:45 pm.

    The “Good Thinking”

    in our current epoch of economic theory has developed a serious case of tunnel vision,…

    i.e. we now make the tragic and very destructive error of holding that the purpose of all economic activity is nothing more nor less than profit,…

    with that “profit” being interpreted only in terms of enriching a very small group of people,…

    with no consideration for society as a whole.

    Indeed, current economic theory has no place on its balance sheets for those left behind by changes brought about by our current set economic incentives,…

    incentives which focus our economic actors exclusively on a perspective that includes only maximizing benefit for the smallest possible group of “I, me, and mine;”

    without consideration of the cost to society as a whole as mechanization and computerization take over more and more of the work that previously needed to be done in our society and economy,…

    and we daily become a society where fewer and fewer of us are necessary to the carrying out of the activities necessary to keep our economy humming along.

    Until economic theory begins to take a more balance approach which includes the well being of the ENTIRE population,…

    rather than just basing itself on an ever-more-creative series of financial and labor reducing get rich quick schemes,…

    with all it’s “good thinking” aimed in supporting the creation of new schemes for the same purposes,…

    it will continue to chip away at the very fabric of our society,…

    and ultimately lead to its destruction.

    For our current crop of economists,…

    those who are no longer needed simply drop off their balance sheets and disappear.

    They don’t disappear, however.

    They’re good people who deserve help, consideration,…

    and the resources necessary to live reasonably happy lives,…

    even if our society, our economists, our business and financial leaders, and our politicians can no longer figure out a way to put them to work.

  3. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 04/10/2017 - 06:10 am.


    Can we decide to respect someone? I think the problem we have as a nation is that we are now led by someone who isn’t worthy of respect, something without a lot of precedent in our history. How, exactly, do we go about managing that? What do the academics have to say about managing a situation where respect is absent?

    • Submitted by Emily Sojourn on 04/12/2017 - 01:37 pm.

      R-E-S-P-E-CT (Sock it to me)

      “What do the academics have to say about managing a situation where respect is absent?”

      Quite a lot, actually. I encourage you to do a little research on the subject. You’ll find many things written by academics, theologians, philosophers and just plain ol’ “folks.”

      As for the country being run by someone not worthy of respect being “without a lot of precedent”, I’d again encourage you to do a little history reading. The times we live in might seen to be anomalous, but they’re not.

      ‘Twas always thus, and always thus will be.’

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