World Issues Focus on Integrity Innovation (WIFII)

Submitted by: Mariana Lebron (US), Syracuse University

Summary: By bringing business leaders, faculty, and students together, World Issues Focus on Integrity Innovation (WIFII) makes integrity a core foundation of innovative success. An interdisciplinary course, WIFII focuses on world issues and their business and societal impact, such as the Financial Crisis 2007-2010; Environment (e.g., Katrina 2005, Haiti 2010); Water/Food shortages; War; Technology; Health/Wellness (disease; nationalized health care); and, Corruption. WIFII makes business education real.

Full Description: How do managers succeed in a world-wide economy focused on capitalist principles, be profitable and not destroy our environment and society? Through an interdisciplinary course focused on world issues illustrating our financial success exists interdependently with human success across continents. Through this World Issues Focus on Integrity Innovation (WIFII) course, students, business leaders and faculty analyze and create solutions to real-world problems by discussing business decisions and consequences. A faculty team, which can also include business leaders, teaches this course with each issue as a module, which is analyzed through the business practices and conceptual lens of each discipline participating in the course. Modules can include: Financial Crisis 2007-2010 (recession, homelessness, government intervention, societal impact, student attrition); Environment (e.g., Katrina 2005, Haiti 2010, Tsunami, 2004); Water/Food shortages (Global Food Crisis 2008); war (9/11; Iraq War); technology; Health/Wellness (disease and stress; nationalized health care); corruption (Enron, Anderson Consulting). The key is that course is issue-based like real-world, not a particular discipline-base. Success can be evaluated using a final real world consulting project and analyzes an issue facing the local community –identifying the issue, business and societal impact, and recommendations. The final analysis is presented to a community leader panel, teaching team leadership skills.

WIFII impacts globally because it teaches in word and action an interdisciplinary way of thinking and problem –solving by examining decisions and global consequences. The course can demonstrate how we need to work together for businesses to survive without causing harm and how we cause harm by not thinking and acting interdisciplinary. WIFII makes real-world issues relevant and clear. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate is 9.6% with 14.8 million (www.bls.gov). The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization estimated 1.02 billion people were undernourished world-wide in Oct 2009 (www.worldhunger.org). The U.S. Census reported that the poverty rate was 14.6% in the U.S. (www.money.cnn.com). Hundreds of thousands of people in many countries have died or been injured in the Iraq war. We need to ask how has war impacted business, and vice-versa? What about poverty/health? Training that is needed to implement this course is logistical training (examples of 6 or 9-hour credit courses and how they were structured/scheduled logistically); finding an interested interdisciplinary faculty team and a team of community leaders and academicians. Faculty and business leaders can share their expertise with each other. Studying world issues illustrates that self-interest can have severe negative repercussions as it spreads quickly through an economic system that rewarded the individual success at severe societal costs, but through innovation we can prosper.

WIFII can be a year-long 12-hour course with 6 hours/semester; however it can be adapted. The class is taught by an interdisciplinary team of faculty from disciplines (e.g., business, sociology, economics, social sciences, finance, etc.) Each faculty teaches a class lesson for that module. For example, the environment can be Module 1 for 4 weeks with each of these world-wide crisis issues a focus for 5 class lessons –A) BP Oil Crisis 2010, B) Katrina 2005, C) Tsunami 2004, and D) Haiti 2010. A strategy-sociology-accounting- economics-finance faculty team examines the issue from their discipline and teaches one class lesson for BP. The strategy professor examines strategies and strategic alliances of BP and other companies impacted by the crisis, while the accounting professor highlights financial statements pre and post Oil crisis. The sociology professor highlights societal impact, the economics professor highlights world-wide economic impact, and the finance professor highlights investor impact. Business leaders can speak about how crisis impacted them. The written exam has students analyze a current world-wide event. The course can include students as discussion leaders with one session offered at the end of each module. By passing on the knowledge, the students are learning how to communicate interdisciplinary thinking needed in the business world, and learning how to ask questions and listen to different perspectives, which is core to innovation.