I came across an excellent INSEAD article in the BT-Citibank Young Investors’ Forum on 27 Feb 2012, “Changing business behaviour”. Professor Jean-François Manzoni of INSEAD believes that it is possible to get organizations to behave ethically, but that it would probably take several years. Messages, and not just verbal messages, promoting ethical behaviour have to come from all sectors of the organization and those messages have to be internally consistent. The leadership would play a large role in this, of course, and leadership needs to recognize and take ownership of this process instead of tending to abdicate responsibility and rely on external regulators.
Professor Manzoni asserts, quoting Aristotle, that “We don’t act a certain way because we have a virtue, but rather it is the other way around. We have that virtue because we behave that way repeatedly, over time.” I agree partially. Being creatures of habit, our actions shape our attitudes and beliefs as much as vice versa. However, if we do not have the desire to be ethical in the first place, even years of acting ethically can be swept away by a single decision to be unethical in view of the perceived gain to be accrued. Since the two basic motivators in humans are fear of loss and desire for gain, it is vitally important that our people are able to both see and visualize the gains that come to all stakeholders as a result of being an ethical business entity.
Structure and right fit are very important as well. They are support systems that will facilitate or hinder our success at building ethical organizations. Do you want help to build an ethical business? Get an onboard gyroscope for your business! Even that isn’t enough. Aviators and seamen know very well that even onboard gyroscopes need to be calibrated. Is yours calibrated? Get in touch with me today!
The INSEAD article may be found here: http://bit.ly/yGe8rO