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Critical Perspectives on Management

IE Business School via Coursera


This course is designed for students of all backgrounds who have an interest in how firms are governed, the forces that have helped define modern management practice, and the outcomes of that practice not only for the firm itself, but also for the societies in which they operate. For students who are thinking of a career in management, it may also prove useful as a basic introduction to some of the conceptual vocabulary and ideas behind modern theories of management.

Using a wide disciplinary approach - from economics and history to social theory and even a smattering of biblical criticism - the course will invite students to consider several core management strategies and priorities from often unexpected perspectives in order to judge their success or failure. The key objective of the course is to bring into critical focus how we think about the function and culture of management, how managers understand their role within a firm, how they take decisions, set priorities and benchmark success and failure.

Topics include: the function of the firm; the role of incentive; the ways in which narrative forces shape decision making, and how market relationships define the managerial culture in ways that can lead to sub-optimal outcomes.


  • The Lessons from Rome Part I
    • In Ancient Rome, merchant organisations very similar to modern firms were critical to capitalising key markets and to solving serious logistical problems to enable a vibrant trading network across the Mediterranean, including, critically, supplying the city of Rome itself with the food its citizens needed to survive. We will examine the Roman grain market and the organisations that operated within that market to ask: what, exactly, is a firm? What led to the firm's evolution? And what is the issue of agency that a firm inevitably entails?
  • The Lessons from Rome Part II
    • This lecture expands upon the first discussion, drawing from the insights gained about firm organisation in the Ancient world to ask about the effectiveness of the Forced Distribution Ranking Scheme (also known as "stack and rank", "up and out", etc...) to evaluate and promote or terminate employees, widely used by many of today's leading corporations.
  • What is Innovation?
    • We live in the innovation economy. Firms have chief innovation officers. Innovation is, so we are told, the key to securing the future. And there are quite literally millions of books on the subject of innovation. So, what does it mean? And is it a useful idea for management? We'll consider both questions.
  • The Power of Narrative
    • What do Hollywood movies, the Synoptic gospels, housing bubbles, Alan Greenspan's monetary policy, and the world's worst merger have in common? This week's lecture will develop a reading of narrative in order to explore a common pitfall that affects many managerial decisions.
  • Is Shareholder Value a Good Idea?
    • Perhaps the most important lecture of the course. Almost all publicly traded firms are beholden, either explicitly or implicitly, to the principle of creating shareholder value. This week, we look at the history of this idea, how it has become widespread as a principle of corporate governance and how it has changed fundamentally the nature of the firm over the last 40 years. We will look at who the shareholders are, where their interests lie and what they have gained from this development. We will consider the wider and long-term consequences both for the firm and society. And we will ask - is this the kind of capitalism we really want?
  • Case Studies
    • We look at the examples of two companies whose experiences encapsulate many of the core ideas of the course. The first is Apple, which, in the context of reporting their quarterly earnings in the Spring of 2013, committed an unprecedented amount of its capital reserves to a share repurchase scheme and dividend increase. We will look at the motivation and logic for this move. The second is Nokia (which has subsequently sold off its mobile phone business to Microsoft). We will look at how the company rose - and then dramatically fell - from its position as market leader in mobile communications.

Taught by

Rolf Strom-Olsen


4.6 rating, based on 32 Class Central reviews

4.8 rating at Coursera based on 305 ratings

Start your review of Critical Perspectives on Management

  • Ericdo1810

    Ericdo1810 completed this course, spending 4 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be medium.

    This course is one of a kind. Never have I seen and experienced such a beautiful blend of history, economics, finance and social sciences so elegantly delivered. I've done business, economics and finance courses before, both in traditional universities...
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous is taking this course right now, spending 2 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be medium.

    It is interesting management course taught by a historian. It is not demanding time-wise and the video lectures are engaging and thought-provoking. The accompanying materials are good (basically no need to purchase textbook). The assessment tasks are manageable time-wise (just multiple choice) but good at testing how well you understood what was taught. It's sometimes difficult to know where you went wrong with your answers, though, except for re-watching and re-reading the materials all over again.
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    Things that make this course great :

    - Use of real life scenarios to work on.

    - Engaging professor with great sense of humor delivers material with passion and keeps learners interested and motivated.

    - Suitable for majority of people.

    - Gives a perspective on evolution of firms, innovation, and principles of corporate governance


    -Val Lipinsky
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    A different kind of MOOC, one of the best around. A must take, even if the subject or the opinions of the instructor is not for you, you will still get a lot out of it.
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    Excellent course, examines world and economics, from ancient Rome to Nokia, with a critical point of view, and great insight on management issues. A common thread could be "Adapt or die".
  • Profile image for TouhidurRahman Mamun
    TouhidurRahman Mamun

    TouhidurRahman Mamun completed this course.

    I think it's a helpful course for me to built a strong career. It teach me who can I manage my institute strongly.
  • Mustafa Doruk Mutlu

    Mustafa Doruk Mutlu completed this course.

    I really satisfied with the course. Interesting ideas and critical approaches to management are introduced and eloborated by the lecturer. The clases are real you feel you are in the class. I never get bored while I was watching the videos in fact they were really interesting and lead you to follow and continue.
  • Profile image for Michelle Marie Branigan
    Michelle Marie Branigan

    Michelle Marie Branigan completed this course.

    I've taken many MOOCs, and this was far and away among the very best of them. Teacher was articulate, always prepared, and always pushed to think. It has influenced my thinking and helped me to ask questions in a new and beneficial way. It doesn't get any better.
  • LauraChurcher

    LauraChurcher completed this course, spending 2 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be medium.

    This was a great course by a very engaging lecturer. The perspective is indeed very different from the standard business school take on management practices and a great way to engage with some fascinating case studies from a different perspective. Loved it.
  • Lund Sparks

    Lund Sparks completed this course.

    Wonderful course with exceptional instructor. Kudos to Rolf. Extremely interesting subject taught by a master teacher. His background in history enables him to provide interesting examples of management principles. A++++
  • Juanra completed this course, spending 2 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be medium.

    A different point of view about management, as emphasizing on questioning about the "golden rules" taught in MBA, and on thinking about how unreasonable some of them are. Smart and very interesting!!
  • Hayatullah Dadkhah

    Hayatullah Dadkhah is taking this course right now, spending 4 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be medium.

    It is very helpful for me because i am working in an international company. I was looking for this course and finally got it. I want to develop my career by such course.
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    Outstanding course in every way! Highly, highly, highly recommended! Rolf is a wonderful, interesting professor making the subject come to life.
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    Very good instructor, interesting methodology, but content is a bit weak.
  • Cristian Artoni

    Cristian Artoni completed this course, spending 20 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be hard.

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    Guy Fogel

    Guy Fogel is taking this course right now.

  • Jonathan Golland completed this course.

  • Matteo Ferrara completed this course, spending 6 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be easy.

  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

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