Watch Great Movies. Tell your Story. Learn Management. (MGSC12)

MGSC12 (Narrative and Management) is not your typical management course. It’s based on the now well-recognized idea that telling stories is fundamental aspect of being human, and that well-told stories can be immensely persuasive, particularly in a management context.

MGSC12 begins by introducing some fundamental ideas about story-telling, such as the roles of protagonist and narrator and the relationship between them, as well as the structure of archetypal stories about managers. The course then applies these ideas 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 management 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 all up-to-date or classics. Some examples:

  • The Social Network, about the origins of Facebook;
  • Inside Job, an Academy award winning documentary about the global financial crisis;
  • The Big Short, about the quirky hedge fund investors who shorted mortgage-backed securities during the Great Recession of 2008;
  • Spotlight, about investigative journalists at The Boston Globe who discovered widespread sexual harassment of children in the Catholic Church;
  • Eye in the Sky, about life-and-death decisions to engage a drone strike against a suicide bomber;
  • Hidden Figures, about African-American women who played an important, but largely unrecognized, role in the early days of the American space program.

In a typical week, you watch the movie before class and we then discuss it in class. Often we use table work (which is facilitated by using IC 300, a “skills room” as our classroom). 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’m proud to say that MGSC12 has had superb student reviews. The numerical questions were between 4.5 and 5, far above both the departmental and UTSC averages. Student comments were also excellent and here are two examples: “Professor Borins has created the best atmosphere for learning that I’ve ever had in university. Students are getting involved and discussing intellectual opinions rather than just regurgitating facts. The professor knows the names of every student in the class, and we feel motivated to participate” and “Outside of the classroom, Professor Borins was very quick to reply. He gave thoughtful feedback on assignments, and ensured that the criteria for marking were clear. Inside the classroom, he questioned our responses, and made us reflect on our thinking.”

I will be teaching MGSC12 fall semester on Mondays from 11 to 1. I look forward to showing you how story-telling and movies can form an essential part of your management education.

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