The Role of Business: Positive Lens vs. Profit Maximizing

by: Paul Clyde, Robert Quinn, Aneel Karnani, Anjan Thakor, Venky Nagar, M.P. Narayanan

Publication Date: November 8, 2017
Length: 11 pages
Product ID#: 8-570-898

Core Disciplines: Economics, Ethics, Social Impact, Strategy & Management

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Within the Ross School of Business, a debate took place a few years back that continues today regarding the role of business. It was sparked by discussion surrounding a “Positive” Pillar as a part of the school strategy. More of the background can be found in the case, “Emphasizing the Positive: Forming a Strategic Identity for the Ross School of Business”.  As the case points out, this pillar was distinct from a new field of study, started at Ross, on Positive Organizational Scholarship; however, a positive lens informs one part of the debate in an important way. The debate centered around the following question: What does “Positive” mean and does it differ from the more traditional view of profit, or in modern parlance, shareholder value maximization?

In this document, you will see two separate responses to the question of the role of business. One will discuss the merits of the positive lens approach to business and one will discuss the merits of focusing on shareholder value maximization in business. These are followed by an article in which all of the authors agree on the similarities and the differences.