Balancing the “Fluff” with the “Tough”


The Wall Street Journal had a story today about a course offered at Columbia Business School that features Dr. Deepak Chopra as a co-instructor.

The course is titled “Just Capital & Cause-Driven Marketing”, and is a three day course hopes to teach the M.B.A.s how to design and market ventures that both make money and do good somehow.

I will admit that I know little about Dr. Chopra’s work, and as the article points out, the three day seminar is nothing like an Intro to Accounting course (why does Accounting always get picked on??).

And personally I’m fine with that, and it seems as if the students are as well, given that there has been a substantial waitlist for the course each year.

While some might consider Chopra’s course to be “fluff” (just read the Comments after the WSJ article), since he uses phrases such as “slip into you inner being” and “bring your awareness into your heart”, as well as having the students diagram their “soul profile”, I think there is benefit to learning such material.

Research has shown the power of meditation and mindfulness for making people more productive and satisfied, and what business wouldn’t want employees with those characteristics?

Accounting and finance are important, and may be considered “tough” courses for many students. But not everything that leads to success in the business world needs to be, or can be, quantified. There’s a lot to be said for developing a person’s “soft” skills, and it sounds like this is what the Columbia course is attempting to do.

So I applaud Columbia, and Dr. Chopra, for offering such a course.

I think what we all need is a little fluff to go with the tough.

(By the way, I’ve often noticed many of my students entering into a deep meditative state during my accounting classes. I guess I was ahead of the curve on this mindfulness stuff.)

N.B. While some may find Chopra’s statements about purpose, soul, and heart to be a little odd, I found a couple other statements about him in the story much stranger.

  • He claims to have never looked at a bank statement. (he’s worth an estimated $80 million, and he’s never looked at his bank statement? If I had that kind of money, that’s all I would do all day.)
  • He meditates two hours a day.
  • He rarely knows his schedule more than a day 0r two in advance. (there’s no way I could survive with such a short planning horizon).
  • He thinks students should ditch the old school model of philanthropy of amassing wealth first , then giving back (Bill Gates is the poster boy for such an approach). Instead, he suggests that students include a social cause directly into their business from the start. It’s hard to argue with the impact, and success, that Gates has had as a philanthropist, and I don’t think he would have had such an impact if he had included goals such as the elimination of malaria into Microsoft’s mission.

*photo by Claudio Papapietro of the Wall Street Journal

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