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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.
In Donham’s writing and correspondence, Todd Bridgman, a management professor at Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand and lead author of “Restating The Case: How Revisiting the Development of the Case Method Can Help Us Think Differently About the Future of the Business School,” finds evidence that years after installing the case method, Donham sincerely believed it was too indifferent to larger societal ills, too insensitive to the labor market, and thus to economic prosperity and equality among workers.
During the Great Depression, “broad questions were suddenly being raised about the very future of capitalism,” says Bridgman.
As the case method ramped up at Harvard, so too did the US economy and its corporate powers—until 1929.
Following the stock market crash of that year, amid mass unemployment, falling prices, and economic instability, public opinion of corporations and their profit-seeking motives naturally soured.
In the upheaval, he says, Donham saw the limits of the approach he had championed.
Strangely, Donham’s apparent change of heart is not recognized in conventional histories of HBS and its iconic case method, according to Bridgman and his co-authors, management professors Stephen Cummings, a fellow professor at Victoria University, and Colm Mc Laughlin of the University College Dublin. He and his colleagues, whose work was published in the Academy of Management, propose that the case study, now central to the HBS brand and its revenue, has been given a convenient origin story that created a new, accepted truth.His support of hands-on training thus bolstered Donham’s approach to teaching business at a time when the academic community was questioning whether the school even belonged on its campus.However, the great thinker also worried about the era’s preoccupation with capital and material goods. 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. In the book (Mac Millan, 1925), Whitehead advocates for “concrete appreciation of the individual facts in their full interplay of emergent values,” in any discussion of how societies should be organized.The modern world had developed “a creed of competitive business morality,” he wrote.In slim booklets, the cases, of which there are tens of thousands, lay out the strategic questions facing a major corporation, like Amazon, GE, or Pepsi.The scenarios they describe are real, all ripped from the business pages.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.