603-068 (Boston: Harvard Business School Publishing, 2002), accessed October 2012.
Feldman, “Group Process in the Challenger Launch Decision (A),” HBS No. “Group Process in the Challenger Launch Decision (A).” HBS No.
Values, he observed, were being “politely bowed to, and then handed over to the clergy to be kept for Sundays.’”Whitehead wanted Harvard, and its business students, to develop an alternative perspective, studying societal change as part of their educational development.
In a lecture he presented in 1931, which later became a book, he cautioned against the “the fallacy of thinking of the business world in abstraction from the rest of the community.”He’s recognized for giving Donham and the case method some intellectual gravitas.
Referencing the French philosopher Michel Foucault, they suggest that in such cases, the “truth” about a historical event is actually driven by present-day concerns, but that it becomes, as Foucault wrote, “the sort of error that cannot be refuted because it [has been] hardened into an unalterable form in the long baking process of history.”Bridgman and his colleagues’ intriguing counter-history of HBS begins when Donham arrives in 1919, becoming its second dean.
The school was only 11 years old then, but it was already using what it called “problem solving” as a method for learning—to a degree.Whitehead is now best known as the originator of “process philosophy,” which, put most simply, posits that reality is comprised of a series of interconnected events, or becomings, rather than fixed “matter.” Among other issues, this worldview is concerned with “the relationship between mind and world, and the realization of values in action,” according to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy Whiteheld held strong convictions about what education should be.Specifically, he “rejected any distinction between abstract and practical knowledge,” Bridgman and his fellow researchers note.But, Bridgman writes, “curiously absent [in historical accounts] are other, relevant aspects of both his thinking and his relationship with Donham.”In snippets of Donham’s writing, we see how his opinions overlapped with Whitehead, with whom he met for long Saturday afternoon discussions.Consider Donham’s call to action in “Our present situation both here and in all the great industrial nations of the world is a major breakdown of capitalism. I believe so, but not without leadership which thinks in terms of broad social problems instead of in terms of particular companies.”A year later, in an article titled “The Failure of Business Leadership and the Responsibilities of the Universities,” published in Harvard Business Review, Donham wrote, “We need in business and politics administrators who are able not only to handle their specialized problems well, but also to see things in wide relations and do their part in maintaining society’s stability and equilibrium.”Donham had once asked to publish one of Whitehead’s essays on schooling business leaders, in a program being printed to celebrate the opening of a new building on campus.(Whitehead instead offered his piece to magazine.) The dean also suggested that a third year be added to Harvard’s graduate program, a doctoral level year focused on the relationship between business and civilization.But the tragedy of the Great Depression, while demonstrating the need for just this type of reflection, also meant Donham couldn’t secure financing for that third year.Rather than lecture, the professor facilitates a class-wide debate, cold calling on students to answer tough questions.Before graduating, Harvard Business School (HBS) students complete 500 of these “decision-forcing” exercises, which are thought to be superior tools for training future corporate leaders, compared with discussing skills and theory in the abstract. “Daewoo and the Korean Chaebol.” University of Hong Kong case no. HKU143 (University of Hong Kong, August 2001), via Harvard Business Publishing, accessed March 2007.