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December 10, 2008


While a fan of ethics, I’m not a fan of ethics trianing. Ethics defies codification. Ethics look black and white only at a distance… up close, it’s nothing but gray.

LYING is pretty easy to spot and should be avoided. ETHICS is often tough to spot because the way we view a situation often depends on how the situation is framed. Literally.

Joshua Greene, a Harvard prof, hooked people up to fMRI machines and asked them ethical questions. Totally different areas of the peoples’ brains lit up depending on how the questions were framed. Think about that: people’s morality changed based on the emotional component of the question.

I took the quiz. I missed one question: apparently I got docked points because I thought engaging people in dialog was a superior option to creating a formal policy.

I get what the quiz is driving at, but frankly, if I ever suggested to a client that the most ethical solution to a problem was to bog their team down in the administrivia of policy creation (with the—cross your fingers—hoped for benefit of heightened awareness)… rather than (1) push back on the leader for what appears to be an ill-conceived, knee-jerk reaction to something and then (2) treat the team like grown ups by talking to them, I’d lose my “seat at the table.” Not for being unethical, mind you, but for being naive, ineffective, and “unleaderly.”

An unquestioned moral code is a luxury not held by leaders in any quarter.

Blago was corrupt. For the rest of us, our tests won’t be so blatant…

Thanks for your thoughts, and I agree ethics tends to be more of a gray issue in general. I guess at the end of the day, you just have to adhere to your own sense of right and wrong. After all, unlike Illinois politicians, you probably won't get caught and have only yourself to answer to anyway.

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