How philosophy is related with business and why we should care about it

Who do you think is able to make more damage - a bad teacher or a bad doctor?

Back in 2003, when I was starting my unfinished business degree, I had philosophy classes. Probably I was one of the few enjoying to listen to things we thought we would never use in our lives. Don’t get me wrong: Philosophy is a very cool topic. The main problem was the mentality we had at that time – We were all aspiring to become executives in some company right after the university. In addition, as far we thought, an executive doesn’t need philosophy.

That was a horrible mistake, but I will get to that later.

One day our professor turned to the class and asked a question which I will never forget. “Who do you think is able to make more damage – a bad teacher or a bad doctor?”. The whole class answered what seemed obvious: The doctor. The professor asked why and we all said that a doctor’s mistake could cost lives while a teacher’s mistake can just make a person not understand some subject.

The right answer is the bad teacher and it’s simple to understand why: While a bad doctor will make the mistake a couple of times before his license will be revoked, a bad teacher can stay in the school for decades teaching badly, damaging the education of hundreds of students. In the end, we would have many uneducated people wandering around the job market. And, in the best case scenario, the bad teacher will have his license revoked only after an entire year of work with, for example, 40 students.

We were all surprised with the explanation and we understood at that moment how important a good education is.

Now, I believe you might be confused about why I mentioned that an executive not needing philosophy is a horrible mistake. Let me explain.

Philosophy is the study of problems related with existence, moral values, knowledge and the mind. The advantage of the philosophical thought is the way the problems are treated. Mostly the philosophical thought is overloaded of logic and rational thought, which differ itself from the religious thought. And what an executive must be in order to succeed?

Logic and rational.

Mostly, in the corporate world, the companies are targeting the “bad doctors” – those professionals who didn’t bring results. For example: Developers who were unable to deliver some project; Designers, who couldn’t finish some art in the way the client wanted; Testers who couldn’t identify some bug in the project. And so on. Firing any of them would be just the easy way to solve the problem but, since we should be logic and rational, there are some points that we should consider. After all, philosophy teaches us how to deal with any situation – personal or professional:

  1. Why were they hired if they lacked knowledge?
  2. How did they get the materials/documentation? And from who?
  3. Was the environment good for them to work?
  4. Does the department have high number of hires and dismissals?

As you can see it’s no easy task to identify the problem. If I would be in this position I’d start to investigate the department itself. In that way I could:

  1. Be sure they really had the knowledge to join the company
  2. Check if the materials/documentation was giving full condition for a good work
  3. Know if the environment was motivating enough for success
  4. Check if the department has a low rate of hires/dismissals

Why? Because it could be a case of “bad teacher”. Or bad management, if you prefer.