Thursday, November 30, 2006

How far can un-PC go?

This week is the Heart of Europe Week. A great event, as you can guess superbly organised by German, Swiss, and Austrian participants.

On Monday, a late version of OktoberFest took place at the cafet. It was not a toned down version of it, with real 1 litre mass glasses and all-you-can-drink beer (they run out of beer). Yesterday was the excellent Raclette party. Tonight is the Movie night, with films as great as BBC show "Allo Allo", German indie hit "Run Lola Run", and the well known Al Gore promoted Earth in Danger movie. Beer on campus, national stereotypes jokes, but still seriousness, all at once...

Yesterday, a German speaker came to a marketing session. 50+ years old, old generation European Manager (very typical, to my mind), top executive from a big family group in Germany, 55 slide presentation with a strong German accent. It could have been boring, for sure. Yet, the guest speaker made it bearable by being so effortlessly himself: quite a few sexist jokes, a certain male chauvinism, but nothing outrageous or surreal. Very "trucker's calendar" type, and again quite ok because so genuine to the speaker's personality. I'll be non-PC and totally honest: many times that guy was even funny!

I mean, like it or not, that generation of top managers in Europe is just like this. Some girls did leave the Amphi, presumably offended by some jokes.

This morning, we received an email from the Marketing Prof. who organised the conference, and the Dean, excusing themselves from offending some people and emphasing that the spirit of INSEAD was about tolerance of all kinds (genders, nationalities bla bla bla). I actually was shocked by that email. It seems to me that they mistake what INSEAD really is: from what I gathered, it was about expressing opinions, and accepting differing opinions. Putting your views forward, while being humble enough to recognise other standpoints, and correct your views accordingly. It should not be about being as neutral as possible so as not to shock anyone. It reminds me of a previous attempt from some people to have the CV book gender, ID pic, and age free. Or when some people got offended from some School's traditions. If the Dean really thought that the Guest Speaker had been so rude that he should tone down his presentation, then he should have accepted the anonymous CV book, and curb School's traditions. Or put under scrutiny some Professors who definitely are not politically correct (but that is why we love them).

Will INSEAD succumb to political correctness as well? With the influence of the new big boss, and as the School tries to get more and more North American students, it is a foreseeable outcome. Should this happen? I hope not. I love my North American classmates, truly great people. Yet it doesn't make sense to get all these people from all around the World with supposed differences if the first thing you want to do is hit on every big-mouthed person. In effect, imagine what the speaker was told: could you please not be yourself -you the highly successful/hard worker/old generation European manager- and take out your jokes because some of our MBA participants -1, 2, 5 girls? with fewer experience than yours combined- did not like it, and felt offended. How arrogant is that? Please, fellow participants, be more humble, and discriminate between some people's genuine humour (like it or not) and some deliberately offensive comments.

As to the Marketing Professor, and the Dean to cave in, very disappointing as well... After all, in Guest Speaker, there is "guest".

So the guest speaker, as a result of complaints, had to take out all his jokes from his presentation for the other sections sessions. I'm glad I wasn't there, because in that case, I would have left the amphi out of boredom...

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At 8:52 AM , Anonymous fanny said...

Oktoberfest, Raclette party and "Run Lola Run". Wow! I'd suffer through some sexist jokes after that! But only if they're not too sexist.

At 10:52 AM , Blogger DomoDomo@INSEAD said...

Ok I guess some examples are needed: "We failed our launch in India because women, 70% of our customers, wear sahri over there...", or "N.1 buy is for them, women's fashion. Then it's lingerie to seduce the husband, then baby wear when lingerie made its effect, then menswear because they feel guilty..." Nothing really offensive I believe. Just funny as so picturesque...


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