Archive: The Circle Way in business school

By Jude Rathburn, PhD
January 2015

This post has been moved from its original location at and archived here, so you can continue to access it.

This month's Circle Tale is written by The Circle Way colleague Jude Rathburn, PhD. Jude is a Wisconsin Teaching Scholar, award winning teacher and tenured faculty member in the Organizations and Strategic Management Area of the Sheldon B. Lubar School of Business at UW-Milwaukee. She is dedicating the rest of her career to finding ways to bring The Circle Way more fully into management education.

Note: As part of this process, Jude and some of her students have developed a short survey (the link is included below). We encourage you to participate - briefly sharing something of how The Circle Way has influenced you - either in your personal life, and/or in your professional life. -- Christina, Ann & Debbie

Recently, I used The Circle Way as a required text in my business honors course on human behavior in organizations. There were fourteen exceptional students in the class, most of whom were juniors and had "known" each other for a couple of years. We spent the first five weeks of the semester reading and talking about the book as a foundation for leadership development and practice. Once we were firmly grounded in the conversational infrastructure, we met once a week in circle to put into practice what we had been reading and discussing.

For our first circle, I invited students to bring an object to place in the center that represented who they were at this point in their lives. The group was quite diverse, despite its small size. Participants were from Wisconsin, India, Serbia and China and represented the fields of accounting, finance, supply chain, marketing, and human resource management. Amazing stories were shared that day, as people talked about family history, sources of inspiration, the sacrifices made by parents and grandparents to give these scholars better opportunities to succeed, etc. The openness and depth of that initial sharing set the tone for one of the most inspiring experiences in my 25 years as a management educator.

During our final class, we held an Appreciation Council in which each of us had the privilege of listening for three minutes about how others experienced our contributions to our circle community. A number of these highly gifted young people mentioned that they had never had such a transformative experience in the classroom. They learned how to see each others' talents, as well as weaknesses and idiosyncrasies through the eyes of compassion, humor, and connection, rather than judgment, fear, and distrust.

Equally important, we were all able to use our minds and hearts to sort through some of the most complex aspects of human behavior in organizations. However, there were also a few skeptics in the room who thought “Yeah, we're just kids, will this work in the real world?” So I suggested that we do some empirical research to find out.

We have created a short survey to provide some empirical documentation of the impact The Circle Way process is having on the world. Our hope is that readers who have experienced the benefits of this process might be willing to share their stories. Please click here if you want to contribute to this research.

Our intention is to use some data visualization techniques to show where in the world the The Circle Way is shimmering and how it is changing peoples' lives. We would also like to use text/content analysis techniques that identify the most common themes that people use in their stories--we will share the results in a future Circle Tale.

Feel free to contact me, Dr. Jude Rathburn ( if you have any questions or would like to hear more about our experience using The Circle Way to build a stronger community in the Lubar School of Business at the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee.