Business Week reports on two interesting new studies presented at the Academy of Management Annual Conference in Montreal earlier this month. The first study examines the extent to which business school students are more or less narcissistic than other folks. Scholars Jim Westerman, Jacqueline Bergman, Shawn Bergman, and Joseph Daly used an instrument called the Narcissistic Personality Inventory to evaluate a group of business school students and to compare them to a group of psychology students. The business school students had an average score of 17.67 as compared to 15.19 for the psychology students. The scholars also found that the students today scored higher on the narcissism scale than students in the past (when studies were conducted in 1987 and 1992). Of course, the study does not determine whether business schools are simply attracting narcissists, creating narcissists, or perhaps doing a bit of both. Westerman and his colleagues worry about high levels of narcissism, as it may lead to riskier decision-making, among other dangers.
A second study, however, suggests that narcissism might not be all bad. Several Stanford faculty members confirm that a narcissist can undermine team performance. However, they find that a team with two narcissists may actually benefit from the fact that competition between these two individuals may lead to the uncovering of multiple new alternatives.
I'm quite intrigued by the studies. I'm particularly interested in the question of whether business schools are actually enhancing the narcissistic tendencies of their students. I actually think we might be, and that is worrisome. In what ways do you think business schools may be creating narcissists? Please share your views by leaving a comment!