by: Jerry Dilettuso
Why is it that individuals sometimes behave in ways that deviate from their values and aren’t even aware that they are doing so? How important is context to ethical behavior? How is it that conflict of interest disclosure often leads an adviser to offer biased advice more freely? Why is it that managers will tend to manage the measure rather than focus on the activity or event measured? Why are employees often reluctant to speak up about problems and concerns? How can organizations create climates more open to employee input and honest upward communication? Has the corporate search for “best practices” in reality become a drive toward common practices as cautious boards gravitate toward a safe norm?
These are just a few of the questions contributors explored in Friday’s “Ethics by Design” Conference at New York University’s Stern School of Business. The event was a partnership between Ethical Systems and the Behavioral Science and Policy Association, with CEO Trust and support from NYU Stern School of Business.
The conference played to a packed auditorium. I was joined at the conference by fellow CEO Trustees who, like me, signed up and stayed for the entire daylong conference, which I thought was a testament to the importance of the topic and the quality of the content. Several Trustees spoke about their experiences, and many volunteered to facilitate lunch discussions. More than 20 of the most noted academics and practitioners in the field of ethics shared their research and insights, including Nick Epley, Professor of Behavioral Science at the University of Chicago's Booth School of Business; Ann Tenbrunsel, Professor of Business Ethics at Notre Dame’s Mendoza School of Business; Linda Trevino, Professor of Organizational Behavior and Ethics, at Penn State’s Smeal College of Business; Carsten Tams, SVP of Ethics and Compliance at Bertelsmann SE & Co. KGaA; and Brian Beeghly, VP of Ethics and Compliance at Johnson Controls, Inc.
Jonathan Haidt, Professor of Ethical Leadership at the Stern School, states, “Business ethics today is like medical practice was 50 years ago. It’s not based on evidence.” With the help of Ethical Systems and its collaborators, Jonathan believes we can design an ethical environment that makes moral behavior easy, automatic, and habitual, and thereby, “change the world.” I was proud that CEO Trust was a contributor to the discussion.