Think outside the square

Being ethical and successful isn’t necessarily an either/or choice

EVA TSAHURIDU By EVA TSAHURIDU
Using human ingenuity to find ethical solutions can help us develop options that provide more value for all
Using human ingenuity to find ethical solutions can help us develop options that provide more value for all

Black’s Law Dictionary defines fraud as “a generic term, embracing all multifarious means, which human ingenuity can devise, and which are resorted to by one individual to get advantage over another by false suggestions or by suppression of truth, and includes all surprise, trickery, cunning, dissembling, and any unfair way by which another is cheated ...”

I think it is interesting that while we see the role of human ingenuity in devising ways to falsely gain an advantage, we don’t focus on that same human ingenuity to devise ways to ensure fair, honest and positive contributions towards others in our work roles.

Imagine what the world would be like if we invested our human ingenuity to develop ethical solutions to the business and societal problems we face?

Even when people in business use ethical reasoning to make a decision, they use economic reasoning to justify it to others. 

Ethics has been a kind of a taboo in business for a while now. Evidence shows that even when people in business use ethical reasoning to make a decision, they use economic reasoning to justify it to others.

People tend to be a lot more comfortable talking about effects on profits rather than moral obligations to justify a decision.

Using our human ingenuity to find ethical solutions can help us consider and develop options that provide more value for all. But all too often we stop searching for ethical solutions; we mistakenly think it’s a choice of being either ethical or successful.

Sometimes we think that our options are limited only because we have stopped thinking. Our existing mental models and possible mental traps are shaped by what we perceive is acceptable, especially at work.

We need to keep thinking and having conversations with other people to feed our moral imagination, to discern those different possibilities that let us be both ethical and successful.

While most organisations have moral principles and codes of ethics, they do not use them to discover ethical possibilities, to imagine a broader set of issues and consequences.

Moral imagination requires us to see our activities from different perspectives and pay attention not only to economic relationships and outcomes but also to ethical ones. And we need to create new possibilities that promote both.

Dr Eva Tsahuridu is CPA Australia’s policy adviser, professional standards and governance.

 

This article is from the August 2014 issue of INTHEBLACK.

 

 

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