b-school, History, Management, MBA, Thoughts

Tracing back to the ideas that (maybe) made management possible

Reading Mintzberg’s 1971 definition was quite interesting, but management didn’t start there. The word comes from Latin, manus-mani, and means “hand”.

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Not the hand that rocks the cradle but the hand that handles, that is manages, horses. And from horses, a basic aptitude to be mastered by humans a couple of millenia ago, to managing everything else. The basic idea can be traced back to the ideas of organising and controlling.

Even further, management, just like science, couldn’t exist without experience and reasoning. The antique civilisations had little of that and a lot of stories and myths. Eastern and western, they all had tried to explain the world with stories. Those stories didn’t really care about reality. They carried messages and that was enough. Great civilisations came and vanished. Management just wasn’t ready to be born.

It was on the west that things changed. Five centuries BCE. The Greek and Macedonian civilisations were thriving and pushing the Persian Empire back each day. Civilisations that focused on big independent cities (just like the ones that the libertarian Nozick thought to be the perfect form of government, as I wrote yesterday).

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It was them who put aside their gods and decided to care about reasoning, about thinking, about the nature of things, about philosophy (the ultimate love for knowledge, but not just knowledge but deep and reflected knowledge, the one that makes you grow, the quest for self development… again :).

Reasoning had begun. And with it the idea of finding the individual’s place in society, as well as moral issues.

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Plato and Aristotle are supposed to be in the center of this painting, by Raphael (Raffaello Sanzio).

Too bad all those thoughts would simply be forgotten. Saint Thomas Aquinas would recover part of Aristotle’s.

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Another big share would go to Averroes, also known as Ibn Rushd. Islamic, he wrote a lot of books on logic and theology and greatly influenced European thought. He was the one that ultimately rediscovered Aristotle. Averroes also appears on Raphael’s painting.

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The painting, as well as being one of the highlights of the Renaissance (which by the way means rebirth, and it’s a revival of the reasoned thinking) and Raphael’s masterpiece, is a tribute to the Athenian school of thought, where European thought was ultimately shaped. Management needed the Athenian school of thought to start existing, along with the Athenian philosophers that taught there, at the Academia: the Socratics.

With them, the first methodology: asking questions (the Socratic method), listening to the answers, examining ideas from different perspectives, reasoning, measuring things relative to man, deciding what whas good and what was not, tackling with moral issues, with consequences, seeking equilibrium. The first case studies.

Leaders had to be philosophers, philosophers had to be leaders.

An Academia that would last for five hundred years, until dark ages engulfed it all…

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