Ethics is a hot topic in academia and industry, in my conversations with MBA students who represent many different industries, proper ethical behaviour is both a key strategic differentiator in attracting customers, investors and employees, and, represents a shift in our understanding of an organization’s role in society. In academia many business courses have an ethics thread within the course. Ethics are critical to society and well run organizations and economies.
In both academia and industry we often see ethics taught in a linear prescriptive approach. In other words, telling students and employees what is the appropriate action and decision to take. Indeed many training or educational tools also take this approach by presenting users a dilemma and then having them chose the solution that the organization or instructor wants to see, for example,
You see someone drop their wallet, do you:
A) Steal it
B) Return it
The appropriate answer is obvious so what the user has really learned is to choose a response that the evaluator wants.
The top problem is therefore instilling within the organizational culture exemplary ethical standards which are consistently and predictably adhered to regardless of the situation, culture, people involved and rules.
However, ethics is more difficult than that, ethical beliefs are shaped by experience, education, culture etc. and the difficulty is not just choosing the appropriate approach in isolation, but understanding and interacting with other people’s ethical decisions and actions to arrive at a joint decision that is ethical.
Ethical training or education should focus on understanding other individual’s ethical beliefs, open mindedness, influencing and compromising to arrive at a decision and action that reflects integrity as the core common value. We define integrity as consistently holding to values such as truthfulness, human rights, dignity, empathy, compassion, etc. regardless of the situation. Integrity is the core value that we are focusing on in our new ethics simulation: see it here
Ethics training/education is applicable to everyone, every course, every organization, every decision and all our metrics. We need to improve our training and educational processes.