Taking the lead from Susan Wolf's and Linda Emanuel's work on systems thinking, and developing ideas from Moberg's, Seabright's and my work on mental models and moral imagination, in this paper I shall argue that what is often missing in management decision-making is a systems approach. Systems thinking requires conceiving of management dilemmas as arising from within a system with interdependent elements, subsystems, and networks of relationships and patterns of interaction. Taking a systems approach and coupling it with moral imagination, (...) now engaged on the organizational and systemic as well as individual levels of decision-making, I shall conclude, is a methodology that encourages managers and companies to think more imaginatively and to engage in integrating moral decision-making into ordinary business decisions. More importantly this sort of thinking is a means to circumvent what often appear to be intractable problems created by systemic constraints for which no individual appears to be responsible. (shrink)
After experiments with various economic systems, we appear to have conceded, to misquote Winston Churchill that "free enterprise is the worst economic system, except all the others that have been tried." Affirming that conclusion, I shall argue that in today's expanding global economy, we need to revisit our mind-sets about corporate governance and leadership to fit what will be new kinds of free enterprise. The aim is to develop a values-based model for corporate governance in this age of globalization that (...) will be appropriate in a variety of challenging cultural and economic settings. I shall present an analysis of mental models from a social constructivist perspective. I shall then develop the notion of moral imagination as one way to revisit traditional mind-sets about values-based corporate governance and outline what I mean by systems thinking. I shall conclude with examples for modeling corporate governance in multi-cultural settings and draw tentative conclusions about globalization. (shrink)
Both Adam Smith and Herbert spencer, albeit in quite different ways, have been enormously influential in what we today take to be philosophies of modern capitalism. Surprisingly it is Spencer, not Smith, who is the individualist, perhaps an egoist, and supports a "night watchman" theory of the state. Smith's concept of political economy is a notion that needs to be revisited, and Spencer's theory of democratic workplace management offers a refreshing twist on contemporary libertarianism.
Most papers in this issue carefully analyze normative and empirical methodologies. I shall argue that (a) there is no purely empirical nor purely normative methodology; (b) some terms escape the division of the normative and descriptive. (c) Most importantly, dialogues such as this one point to a form of integration that allows us to reflect on what it is that each approach presupposes in its study of business ethics. Thus we have made progress in recognizing the importance of each methodology, (...) how each is dependent on the other, and how neither is singularly The Approach to business ethics. (shrink)
In this article we discuss what are the implications for improving the design of corporate ethics programs, if we focus on the moral motivation accounts offered by main ethical theories. Virtue ethics, deontological ethics and utilitarianism offer different criteria of judgment to face moral dilemmas: Aristotle's virtues of character, Kant's categorical imperative, and Mill's greatest happiness principle are, respectively, their criteria to answer the question "What is the right thing to do?" We look at ethical theories from a different perspective: (...) the question we ask is "Why should I do the right thing?" In other words, we deal with the problem of moral motivation, and we examine the different rationale the main ethical theories provide. We then point out the relation between moral motivation and the concept of rationality in the different approaches - is acting morally seen as an expression of rational behavior? Our analysis of moral motivation provides a useful framework to improve the understanding of the relationships between formal and informal elements of corporate ethics programs, emphasizing the importance of the latter, often overlooked in compliance-focused programs. We conclude by suggesting that the concept of moral imagination can provide a unifying approach to enhance the effectiveness of corporate ethics programs, by providing an intangible asset that supports the implementation of their formal components into management decision making. (shrink)
This paper builds on London and Hart’s critique that Prahalad’s best-selling book prompted a unilateral effort to find a fortune at the bottom of the pyramid. Prahalad’s instrumental, firm-centered construction suggests, perhaps unintentionally, a buccaneering style of business enterprise devoted to capturing markets rather than enabling new socially entrepreneurial ventures for those otherwise trapped in conditions of extreme poverty. London and Hart reframe Prahalad’s insight into direct global business enterprise toward “creating a fortune with the base of the pyramid” rather (...) than at the BoP. This shift in language requires a recalibration of strategic focus, we argue, and will necessitate implementation of “moral imagination” to formulate new mental models that can frame the possibility of local entrepreneurs working collaboratively and discursively with development partners drawn from civil society, corporate, and government sectors. Successful partnerships will arise from interactive processes of emergent, co-creative learning within a shared problem domain or “community of practice”. We call attention to three related pluralist framings of situated learning within such communities of practice: decentered stakeholder networks; global action networks; and a focus on “faces and places” as a cognitive lens to humanize and locally situate diverse inhabitants within base of the pyramid partnership projects. (shrink)
Despite the fact that a number of economists and philosophers of late defend insider trading both as a viable and useful practice in a free market and as not immoral, I shall question the value of insider trading both from a moral and an economic point of view. I shall argue that insider trading both in its present illegal form and as a legalized market mechanism undermines the efficient and proper functioning of a free market, thereby bringing into question its (...) own raison d'etre. It does so and is economically inefficient for the very reason that it is immoral. Thus this practice cannot be justified either from an economic or a moral point of view. Insider trading is the reverse of speculation. It is reward without risk, wealth generated — and injury done to others — by an unfair advantage in information ... [T]he core principle is clear: no one should profit from exploitation of important information not available to the public. (shrink)
During recent years, the principle and practice of employment-at-will have been under attack. While progress has been madein eroding the practice, the principle still governs the philosophical assumptions underlying employment practices in the United States,and, indeed, EAW has been promulgated as one of the ways to address economic ills in other countries. This paper will briefly reviewthe major critiques of EAW. Given the failure of these arguments to erode the underpinnings of EAW, we shall suggest new avenues forapproaching employment issues (...) to achieve the desirable goal of employee dignity and respect. (shrink)
This article presents a response to Richard Rorty's paper "Is Philosophy Relevant to Business Ethics?" The author questions Rorty's views on the depreciation of the role of philosophy in applied ethics, and outlines four reasons why philosophy retains its relevance. The author addresses the role of moral reasoning in the development of the moral imagination. The author also concludes that humans have the means necessary to make moral progress and are capable of moral reasoning, and need only to develop a (...) strong moral imagination. (shrink)
While no one seems to believe that business schools or their faculties bear entire responsibility for the ethical decision-making processes of their students, these same institutions do have some burden of accountability for educating students surrounding these skills. To that end, the standards promulgated by the Association to Advance Collegiate School of Business, their global accrediting body, require that students learn ethics as part of a business degree. However, since the AACSB does not require the inclusion of a specific course (...) to achieve this objective, it may be satisfied by establishing a stand-alone course in ethical decision-making, by integrating ethical decision-making into the existing curricula, by some combination of the two strategies, or through some alternative mechanism. Notwithstanding the choice of delivery process, though, the institution must ensure that it is able to demonstrate the students' achievement of learning with regard to ethics, a bar that was raised, or arguably simply modified, in 2003. With learning objectives designed precisely to measure the student delta based on content, process and engagement in a particular class, those programs that have opted for stand-alone ethics courses may be more prepared to respond to assessment-related inquiries regarding their programs or satisfaction of the standards. The relevance of the AACSB standards modification to the current efforts at ethics integration in business programs is instead a re-examination of how to create a program of integration that is designed to ensure the most effective learning results possible, while responding to the challenges presented by the integrated approach. The purpose of this article is to explore some of those challenges that may be somewhat universal to business school programs implementing the integrated approach, and to share one large university's response to those challenges, along with lessons learned. (shrink)
The Challenger incident was a result of at least four kinds of difficulties: differing perceptions and priorities of the engineers and management at Thiokol and at NASA, a preoccupation with roles and role responsibilities on the part of engineers and managers, contrasting corporate cultures at Thiokol and its parent, Morton, and a failure both by engineers and by managers to exercise individual moral responsibility. I shall argue that in the Challenger case organizational structure, corporate culture, engineering and managerial habits, and (...) role responsibilites precipitated events contributing to the Challenger disaster. At the same time, a number of individuals at Morton Thiokol and NASA were responsible for the launch failure. Differing world views, conflicting priorities of the engineers and managers on this project, and the failure of either engineers or management to take personal moral responsibility for decision-making contributed significantly to the event. (shrink)
Michael Walzer is one of the most distinguished political philosophers and social critics of this century. His ideas have had great import and influence in political philosophy and political discussion, yet very few of his ideas have been incorporated explicitly into the business ethics literature. We argue that Walzer’s work provides an important conceptual canvas for business ethics scholars that has not been adequately explored. Scholars in business ethics often borrow from political theory and philosophy to generate new insights and (...) develop new substantive contributions. Many valuable theoretical resources are already used extensively—particularly Aristotle, Kant, Marx and a variety of utilitarian philosophers. Walzer offers another set of resources to bring to the conversation of what business ethics is and how business ethicists add value. This paper provides an opportunity to delve further into Walzer’s writings, particularly themes that are tied to business ethics, and to illustrate how his ideas can be extended to reshape our understanding of the field and develop new perspectives on ethical issues in commerce. (shrink)
The societal and ethical impacts of emerging technological and business systems cannot entirely be foreseen; therefore, management of these innovations will require at least some ethicists to work closely with researchers. This is particularly critical in the development of new systems because the maximum degrees of freedom for changing technological direction occurs at or just after the point of breakthrough; that is also the point where the long-term implications are hardest to visualize. Recent work on shared expertise in Science & (...) Technology Studies (STS) can help create productive collaborations among scientists, engineers, ethicists and other stakeholders as these new systems are designed and implemented. But collaboration across these disciplines will be successful only if scientists, engineers, and ethicists can communicate meaningfully with each other. The establishment of a trading zone coupled with moral imagination present one method for such collaborative communication. (shrink)
There are important synergies for the next generation of ethical leaders based on the alignment of modified or adjusted mental models. This entails a synergistic application of moral imagination through collaborative input and critique, rather than "me too" obedience. In this article, we will analyze the Milgram results using frameworks relating to mental models (Werhane et al., Profitable partnerships for poverty alleviation, 2009), as well as work by Moberg on "ethics blind spots'' (Organizational Studies 27(3): 413-428, 2006), and by Bazerman (...) and Chugh on "bounded awareness" (Harvard Business Review, 2006; Mind & Society 6: 1-18, 2007) Using these constructs to examine the Milgram experiment, we will argue that the ways in which the experiments are framed, the presence of an authority figure, the appeal to the authority of science, and the situation in which the naïve participant finds herself or himself, all create a bounded awareness, a narrow blind spot that encourages a climate for obedience, brackets out the opportunity to ask the moral question: "Am I hurting another fellow human being?" and may preclude the subject from utilizing moral imagination to opt out of the experiment. We will conclude that these forms of almost blind obedience to authority are correctable, but with difficulty. We will argue that linking the modification of mental models to an unbinding of awareness represents an important synergistic relationship and one that can build effectively on the lessons learned from our experience with moral imagination. (shrink)
With the recent rash of mergers and friendly and unfriendly takeovers, two important issues have not received sufficient attention as questionable ethical practices. One has to do with the rights of employees affected in mergers and acquisitions and the second concerns the responsibilities of shareholders during these activities. Although employees are drastically affected by a merger or an acquisition because in almost every case a number of jobs are shifted or even eliminated, employees at all levels are usually the last (...) to find out about a merger transaction and have no part in the takeover decision. Second, if shareholders are the fiduciary beneficiaries of mergers and acquisitions, then it would appear that they have some responsibilities or obligations attached to these benefits, but little is said about such responsibilities. In this essay I shall analyze these two ethical issues, and at the end of the paper I shall suggest how they are related. (shrink)
The most serious ethical challenge facing multinational corporations in the next century is their exportation of the mental model of Western-style capitalism. This model promises that industrialized free enterprise in a free trade global economy, where businesses and entrepreneurs can pursue their interests competitively without undue regulations or labor restrictions, will produce growth and well-being, i.e., economic good, in every country or community where this phenomenon is allowed to operate. This paper points to some limitations to this model and illustrates (...) how multinational corporations might meet this challenge. (shrink)
With the demise of Marxism and socialism, the United States is becoming a model not merely for free enterprise, but also for employment practices worldwide. I believe that free enterprise is the least worst economic system, given the alternatives, a position I shall assume, but not defend, here. However, I shall argue, a successful free enterprise political economy does not entail mimicking US employment practices. I find even today in 1998, as I shall outline in more detail, these practices, when (...) consistently carried out, by and large erode trust in the workplace, they are, on balance unfair to workers and managers, and, if Jeffrey Pfeffer is correct, they do not maximize long-term corporate earnings or growth. Getting clear on US employment practices and their weaknesses may help to shape other models for employment that neither contravene free enterprise nor are degrading to workers. (shrink)
Until recently, business issues in healthcare organizations were relatively insulated from clinical issues, for several reasons. The hospital at earlier stages of its development operated on a combination of charitable and equitable premises, allowing for providing care to be separated from financial support. Physicians, who were primarily responsible for clinical care, constituted an independent power nexus within the hospital and were governed by their own professional codes of ethics. In exchange for a great deal of control over their conditions of (...) practice, they took almost complete responsibility for patient care. Thus clinical and professional ethics could to some extent be compartmentalized from the business issues—a much easier feat when, as in much of the last few decades, virtually all care was reimbursed from some source or other. In addition, many HCOs were not categorized or treated as businesses, although of course they were presumed to be governed by the same expectation for good management as any other organization. (shrink)
The article, Inside Trading Revisited, has taken the stance that insider trading is neither unethical nor economically inefficient. Attacking my arguments to the contrary developed in an earlier article, The Ethics of Inside Trading (Journal of Business Ethics, 1989) this article constructs careful arguments and even appeals to Adam Smith to justify its conclusions. In my response to this article I shall clarify my position as well as that of Smith to support my counter-contention that insider trading is both unethical (...) and inefficient. (shrink)
1993: GE’s NBC News unit issues an on-air apology to General Motors for staging a misleading simulated crash test. NBC agrees to pay GM’s estimated $1 million legal and investigation expenses.February 1994: The Justice Department brought a criminal antitrust case against General Electric, accusing it of conspiring with an arm of the South African DeBeers diamond cartel to fix prices in the $600 million world market for industrial diamonds. General Electric denied wrongdoing...
This article will defend a very simple thesis. In a diverse globalized “flat” world with expanding economic opportunities and risks, we will need to revisit and revise our mindsets about free enterprise, corporate governance, and leadership. That we can change our mindsets and world view is illustrated by studies of primate behavior, and the kind of leadership necessary in a global economy is, interestingly, exemplified by women.
The first issue of Business Ethics Quarterly was launched in 1991. At that time there were few general principles that could serve as guidelines for global business. However, since 1991 a plethora of such principles have been developed to serve as guidelines and evaluative mechanisms for global corporate responsibilities. But operationalizing these principles in practice has been a challenge for most transnational corporations and even for smaller, more local enterprises. This is because, in some cases, the principles ask too much (...) of companies. In other cases, the principles are ambiguous. And in still other cases,the principles, written by and large from a Western, rights-based perspective, cannot be operationalized in some cultural or religious settings. In this paper I will outline a series of dilemmas multinational enterprises face in the global market place, even when they sincerely sign on to one or another set of principles. These problems are not insurmountable, but in the imperfect world of commerce, require that our expectations of corporate responsibilities be satisficing rather than absolutist. (shrink)
An ongoing argument often made by business ethicists is that a singular preoccupation on profitability, will lead, in the long run, to disvalue for all the stakeholders and the communities it affects, and often, economic challenges for the company. On the other hand, we argue, a preoccupation with ethics and CSR as the primary aims of a for-profit company, it is, on its own, like a preoccupation with profitability, unsustainable. Indeed, without economic viability, a company will fail. Both of these (...) contentions point to our conclusion that one must take care in changing habits and rethinking business models. We illustrate through case examples, that merely being ethical and socially responsible is insufficient for the long-term well-being of business just as a preoccupation with profits for their own sake also is insufficient. What is realistic, practical, pragmatic, sustainable and profitable for corporations, and what also serves the interests of multiple stakeholders including those in the communities they serve, is a true balance of ethics, CSR, and economic value-added. Expanding on the recent work of Husted and Allen, we call this a strategic global strategy approach. (shrink)
_Management Ethics_ is a highly accessible and concise introduction to issues and key problems in the area of management ethics. Examines the obligations that managers have to their various stakeholders: employees, customers, shareholders, and the community Looks at topics at the cutting edge of business ethics, including the ethics of supply chain management, as well as dealing with the press and non governmental agencies Considers the concepts of sustainability and triple bottom line accounting Includes chapters on stimulating the manager's moral (...) imagination and promoting a unique theory of ethical leadership. (shrink)