Managerial Anthropology – Lagos Business School

IMG-20130910-WA0001Anthropology studies the social environment in which people live and the impact that this social environment has on our attitudes and behaviours. Managerial Anthropology explores how to better understand human nature in order to become better managers and employees. The concept, coined by Prof. Kemi Ogunyemi from Lagos Business School, has been turned into both a textbook and a successful course within the MBA programme. It has also been taught as executive education seminars. I recently had the chance to speak with Prof. Ogunyemi about this topic.

 1.    Briefly describe Lagos Business School’s approach to responsible leadership and sustainability.

The mission statement of Lagos Business School entails a commitment to promoting responsible leadership and sustainability. Therefore, both values are featured in the curriculum in the form of standalone modules or courses and, simultaneously, embedded in all disciplines. In order to achieve this, an Ethics Unit is responsible for teaching compulsory business ethics courses and modules in all programmes, and a Corporate Responsibility Centre handles CSR modules, while faculty in all other disciplines work to provoke ethical reflection and awaken the concern for sustainability within their own courses. Students are encouraged to carry out personal responsibility projects and usually get engaged in social initiatives. Very recently, a Centre for Responsible Leadership and Ethics (CRLE) has been set up to further promote research and training in these areas.

2.    What is Managerial Anthropology? 

Managerial Anthropology is the knowledge of human nature required by those who work with other people in order to function optimally and ethically. It is the study of how to lead oneself and to lead others through a deepened understanding of what humans beings are. Thus, it is different from the more traditional fields of anthropology – sociocultural, linguistic, archaeological, biological, etc. Concepts include the education of emotions, senses, and intellectual appetite, freedom, and responsibility, development as a person, intrinsic, and extrinsic goods, fulfilment, etc. It is a subject particularly needed to provide business students with a more holistic vision of the human being than is embedded in many of the courses they study – courses which often adopt a reductionist notion of human nature in order to build their models. It thus affords us with a much-needed and more sustainable basis on which to establish and to direct human enterprise. A simple text on managerial anthropology is ‘Responsible Management – Understanding Human Nature, Ethics and Sustainability.’

3.    Why did you create a course around Managerial Anthropology?

The programme on Managerial Anthropology was created to fill the gap in the vision of man that has been left by the economic model of man as a selfish ‘utility maximizer,’ with all of the consequences of that incomplete approach to understanding human nature. It thus serves as a foundation for beginning the MBA with a more holistic vision. This deepened understanding of human nature helps students to be better able to lead and relate to selves and others. It emphasises the importance of fostering human dignity and human flourishing and enables responsible use of freedom. In the process, it empowers the students to be true leaders, whether informally or formally, in their future careers. Using the words of its creator, Juan Elegido, one cannot but see “how important it is for managers to have an accurate view of human nature. The decisions they will make in many important issues will ultimately depend on that view.”

4.     How is the course organised and how has it been received?

The course, which usually has 12-18 sessions and is titled ‘Nature of Human Beings,’ is imparted through an exciting mix of experiential learning, short cases, discussion, games, personal study, presentations, videos, assignments, and role play. It has been taught successfully to MBA students and to employees in an in-company programme setting. So far, the students love it. Some responses from our students include:

  • I now know I am responsible for the use of my freedom, so I should make decisions with the knowledge that I’ll be held accountable for my actions.
  • I’m very careful with respect to making daily choices now. I want my choices to shape the identity I aspire to portray, which is a person of integrity.
  • This course has heightened my sense of self-awareness. I now examine my actions, whether privately or in a group, to see if they are social or egoistic

5.     What advice would you have for other schools that are thinking of putting something similar into place, and what are your next steps?

I would advise them to go for it and, if possible, allow up to 18 sessions (12 is actually too few). It is a course that cuts across disciplines and should be part of every graduate programme (both MBA and Executive MBA). My book, Responsible Management: Understanding Human Nature, Ethics and Sustainability, should prove helpful.

Going forward, I intend to write more about this exciting topic, do research around it support schools that want to put something similar in place, and explore opportunities to teach it in a different environmental context. I would also like to find a way to connect with alumni who have benefited from the course in order to gain more insights into it. It might also be interesting to explore the possibility of developing an online open enrolment course.


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