Market leader Facebook was the first social network to surpass 1 billion registered accounts and currently sits at 2. Sixth-ranked photo-sharing app Instagram had 1 billion monthly active accounts.
Yet we rely equally on social infrastructure. It consists of the social practices that allow us to relate successfully to coworkers, customers, investors, and the community at large. Building and maintaining physical infrastructure requires a certain kind of know-how, which we call engineering.
Maintaining our social infrastructure also requires know-how, because we must develop ground rules that make our social practices sustainable.
The field that provides this kind of know-how is called ethics. This means that ethics is serious business. Ethical dilemmas are at least as hard to resolve as engineering problems, and at least as urgent, particularly in our complex and fast-moving world.
They require careful analysis, not gut feeling or simplistic platitudes. When does online data harvesting become invasion of privacy? When does pharmaceutical pricing become price gouging? When does cost saving become worker exploitation?
When does product promotion become false advertising? When does socializing become sexual harassment? When organizations go astray ethically, it is usually due to a lack of ethical competence, not bad people.
Naturally, there are plenty of scoundrels out there. The media loves to tell us about the Bernie Madoffs and Martin Shkrelis of the world.
But most of us are basically good people who are unsure how to navigate the treacherous ethical waters of modern work life. Even when there are bad people around, we often lack the concepts and vocabulary to explain why they are wrong.
To illustrate this, we need look no further than one of the most famous case studies in professional ethics. In the s, the Ford Motor Company discovered that its budget car, the Pinto, was prone to burst into flames after low-speed rear-end collisions. One of the managers involved in the affair was an idealistic young man named Dennis Gioia, who went into the auto industry to make a contribution to society.
He wrote an honest article about his experience years later, after he became a business school professor. The problem was not bad people, but bad thinking. It is a relatively straightforward matter to hire staff with engineering competence. But how does one recognize ethical competence?
How does one motivate staff to acquire this competence and apply it? The first step is to understand how people grow ethically. Beginning with Lawrence Kohlberg, developmental psychologists have discovered that ethical competence tends to develop in stages that parallel social and cognitive development.
There are various accounts of what the stages are, but I find it helpful to identify three broad stages that one can recognize in the staff of almost any organization.
The first stage is heteronomy, in which people take their beliefs and values from others. In youth, norms are typically supplied by family and school, and in adulthood, by the organizations to which one belongs.
The second stage is ideology, in which people begin to do their own thinking but buy into a thought system that claims to have an answer for everything.
One often finds this perspective among teens and young adults, but it can persist into later years. The third stage is autonomy, in which people acknowledge the validity of different points of view but strive toward a rational consensus.
It arrives in mature adulthood, if at all. Employees and managers in the autonomy stage are ready for mature leadership. They will respond to ethical reasoning and can learn to apply it themselves. Those in the ideological stage may have charisma but are best avoided when top leadership responsibilities are assigned.
Those in the heteronomy stage will absorb the values of the organization, particularly when it advances their careers.
Training in ethical analysis can play a key role in developing ethical leadership.Find ethics case studies on bribery, sourcing, intellectual property, downsizing, and other topics in business ethics, corporate governance, and ethical leadership. (For permission to reprint articles, submit requests to [email protected] The National Wildlife Federation brings nature to life in the pages of our publications, inspiring people of all ages and reading levels to develop a deeper relationship with our natural world.
Students' freedom of speech and symbolic speech rights in schools is the subject of the Supreme Court landmark case Tinker v.
Des Moines. That means that case studies business ethics must show what people need to do to make things better. Just focusing on the negative aspects of case studies on business ethics will make people unhappy. Business Case Study Ethics.
Arthur Andersen Case Studies in Business Ethics During the period Arthur Andersen funded a $5 million joint project with universities to raise awareness of ethical issues in business.
This collection of 90 case studies is one product of that effort. Virtue ethics is currently one of three major approaches in normative ethics.
It may, initially, be identified as the one that emphasizes the virtues, or moral character, in contrast to the approach that emphasizes duties or rules (deontology) or that emphasizes the consequences of actions (consequentialism).