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Episode 30 – Monetization of the Physician Imagination


This episode is a continuation of my animated conversation with Professor J.-C. Spender, a nuclear engineer-turned-business school professor, author, expert on the history of business education, and former executive and business school dean.

At the onset of episode #30 I asked Dr. Spender if getting an MBA degree would provide what’s needed if someone wanted to efficiently manage a healthcare organization.

His response was YES. But he added “that’s a kind of modified and slightly tangled yes.”   

What I heard was “No.” Take a listen and see what you think.

Professor Spender’s contrarian penchant is delightful and provocative.  He offers no instant gratification: no conversational closure rewarding me with a satisfying hit of dopamine. No schmoozy cooperation providing a squirt of oxytocin. The effect of this professor’s conversational style is attention—what IS he saying? How does this comment jive with that last one? Where are we headed?!

He paints a bleak picture when it comes to the management training or even the management potential of someone who has been awarded an MBA degree. Non-partisan in his criticism, he also deemed my assertion that physicians must lead healthcare as “a misdiagnosis.” And what did I hear with that?  I heard that Dr. Spender’s primary interest is spotlighting the “multiplicity, the plurality of conversations, that is the fundamental challenge for leadership.” Agreed.

When it comes to leadership and management he would have us attend to:

  • The history of business education–from whence the “bullshit” came
  • Practice (experience) vs. principles (rules)—and the true crucible of leadership when principles don’t serve us
  • Uncertainty as the state which drives the engine of business
  • The fundamental ethical problem of business: monetizing someone else’s imagination to serve oneself
  • The lack of conversation in business school about human beings’ capacity for imagination—yet it is imagination which produces an organization’s value

In this episode:

  • The balanced scorecard—developed as a remedy to the dominance of finance during board-level strategic conversations
  • Business geniuses are those who flourish in business as an “artistic medium”
  • The demise in popularity of managerial accounting and the ascendancy of financial accounting
  • Clouding true intentions by invoking “trust” when monetization to satisfy shareholder demands is the business objective
  • Economic discourse as an arena that is incapable of creating new economic value
  • Tacit knowledge is knowledge derived more from practice than from principle
  • Racism and oppression as actions to silence the language of entire communities

Meet J.-C. Spender, PhD

Dr. Spender is a Research Professor at Kozminski University, Warsaw; an Emeritus Research Fellow, Rutgers Institute for Ethical Leadership; and a Visiting Scholar with Fordham Center for Humanistic Management.  He served in the Royal Navy Submarine Service and he worked with Rolls-Royce on nuclear propulsion, IBM on financial computing, and as an investment banker before earning a PhD at the Manchester Business School (UK). He retired in 2003 as Dean of the School of Business & Technology at FIT/SUNY (New York).

He has published eight books, and over 100 journal articles and book chapters. His most recent book is Business Strategy: Managing Uncertainty, Opportunity, and Enterprise (Oxford UP 2014) which is his dissident view of strategy as a practice that includes the need to manage a business’s creative responses to uncertainty.  He also writes about the theory and ethics of the firm, business strategy, and the history of management education.

In 2014 he was awarded an honorary doctorate in economics by the Lund University School of Economics & Management.   He is also Commissioning Editor for the Cambridge University Press Elements in Business Strategy.

For details of his current work, broader interests, and a detailed resume go to:  https://jcspender.com/

For a Glossary of Sorts (aka Spenderisms) in this episode, read the 11/9/21 Licensed to Lead newsletter (and for heaven’s sake: subscribe!):  https://bit.ly/LTLmoreinfo