October 21st, 2014
MGSC12 (Narrative and Management) is not your typical management course. It’s based on the now well-recognized idea that telling stories is a fundamental aspect of being human, and that well-told stories can be immensely persuasive, particularly in a management context.
MGSC12 begins by introducing a set of powerful concepts about story-telling, such the structure of archetypal stories about managers, cinematic plot structure, the roles of narrator and protagonist and the relationship between them, and Erikson’s model of the human life cycle. The course then applies these concepts in a number of ways.
We use some superb contemporary movies about managers both as examples of the art of story-telling and as cases in effective or ineffective management. You can think of these movies, and the way we use them, as business cases, with the difference that they employ moving images, and are authored, acted, and produced by people who are the best in the business.
The movies we watch are either up-to-date or classics. Some examples: The Social Network, the story of the origins of Facebook for which Aaron Sorkin won the Academy Award for best screenplay; Wall Street, a classic movie for which Michael Douglas won the Academy Award for best actor; Inside Job, an Academy award winning documentary about the global financial crisis; Margin Call, J.C. Chandor’s high-acclaimed first movie, also dealing with the financial crisis; Zero Dark Thirty; and The Fog of War, an Academy Award winning documentary about the life of former US Secretary of Defense and World Bank President Robert McNamara. He was probably the smartest MBA ever, but his intelligence didn’t prevent him from making some colossal mistakes.
In a typical week, you watch the movie before class and we then discuss it in class. Often we use table work. I divide students into groups, assigning each group a question to discuss for 15 minutes, and then ask a member of the group do a short presentation summarizing their discussion.
I also have two assignments giving you an opportunity to tell your story, one about the significant turning points in your life and the other focusing on your interactions with a particular organization (a Coop placement for example). We’re in the course together, so I’ll tell my story too.
You’ll emerge from MGSC12 with a much better understanding of how to tell persuasive stories in a management setting, and you’ll also watch quite a few thought-provoking and inspiring movies.
I will teach MGSC12 winter semester this year on Wednesdays from 11 to 1 and I look forward to showing you how story-telling and movies can form an essential part of your management education. Maximum enrolment for the course is 35 to facilitate class participation, and there are still some places available.