Systems Thinking as a Tool for Teaching Undergraduate Business Students Humanistic Management

Abstract

In growing recognition that the business community must play a key role in the global issues encapsulated by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, Babson College, which has a business-focused curriculum, has striven first to reinvent its teaching of ethics and then, particularly over the past decade, to enhance its focus on sustainability, social responsibility, and social entrepreneurship. As previous initiatives did not build sufficient linkages between the liberal arts, natural sciences, and business curriculum, the College is now engaged in a far more comprehensive effort to educate our undergraduate business students in “integrated sustainability,” which it defines as “systems thinking that integrates ecological integrity, social responsibility, and value creation simultaneously.” By examining the meaning, skills, and pedagogical opportunities in systems thinking within the context of larger discussions on humanistic management, this article shows how systems thinking is a particularly fruitful way to ground business students in the natural sciences and the liberal arts, develop their complex problem-solving skills, and thereby reinvigorate management education in ways that prepares students to “render service to humanity.” Our hope is that sharing Babson College’s experience in this regard – both our successes and challenges - may provide useful insights to other faculty and academic leaders seeking to enhance humanistic management within their own higher education institutions.

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The authors gratefully acknowledge the support of the Babson Faculty Research Fund.

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Correspondence to Stephen Deets.

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Deets, S., Rodgers, V., Erzurumlu, S. et al. Systems Thinking as a Tool for Teaching Undergraduate Business Students Humanistic Management. Humanist Manag J (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s41463-020-00091-w

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Keywords

  • Undergraduate education
  • Systems thinking
  • Sustainability
  • Corporate social responsibility