Cheating at Harvard, and in the “Real World”

Source: Harvard Business Review

125 Harvard undergraduates stand charged with academic dishonesty after collaborating on a final exam last spring. There is a certain amount of grim irony in the particulars: the course is “Introduction to Congress.” While Congress is no stranger to dishonesty, academic or otherwise, it does seem increasingly estranged from any semblance of collaboration.

In this, Congress is far from alone — many organizations struggle to get collaboration right. But this is not terribly surprising, given that most of us are trained in school systems that prize individual achievement and discourage, even penalize, collaboration. If working together can be considered a crime for the first 22 years of your life, perhaps it’s not unreasonable to assume that you won’t be very good at it when you graduate. No wonder older workers, further removed from their schooling, are better at it.

“Our education system is a key reason for our lack of skills in collaborating effectively,” Morten Hansen, a professor at UC Berkeley and INSEAD, and author of Collaboration, told me via email. “This is now out of sync with today’s world of work. We do not emphasize collaborative skills and teamwork much in education, from K-12 to high school to college. It is an afterthought, it seems. Learning how to work well with others should be as important as learning math or accounting.”

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