Bernie Madoff Explains Himself

A few years ago, professor Eugene Soltes phoned convicted felon Bernie Madoff and asked him an important question: How would you explain your actions and misconduct to students? The recorded answer offers sobering lessons for anyone with business ambitions.

Laura W. Geller, Jessica Kennedy

Jessica Kennedy has researched the origin of unethical behavior, and why it takes hold. She has found that the whole story is more complex. It’s not always about power corrupting. Rather, power causes people to identify so strongly with their group that they lose sight of whether that group’s actions cross an ethical line. This identification can lead them to support misconduct, rather than stopping … [ Read more ]

The Thought Leader Interview: Jonathan Haidt

The NYU social psychologist says that the ethical risks for a business depend on its ingrained cultural attitudes.

Jessica Kennedy Takes On Ethics, Power, and Gender

The professor at Vanderbilt’s Owen Graduate School of Management explains the root of unethical behavior.

Dick Martin

Compliance is not the same as ethics. Compliance is concerned with the letter of the law, ethics with its spirit. Compliance is rooted in statutes; ethics flows from a company’s character. Compliance and ethics overlap somewhat, but not completely.

Doing Business Where Governance Is Weak

Eight principles for succeeding in markets prone to ethical and legal risks.

Quality in Human Treatment: An Innovative Five-Level Framework

ESE’s Domènec Melé presents a framework for “human quality treatment” (HQT) based on a recognition and respect for our shared human characteristics as well as our uniqueness. He ranks the quality of treatment in an organization according to five levels: Maltreatment, Indifference, Justice, Care, and Development.

Bad Behavior

Even ordinary people are prone to shocking ethical lapses. As the empirical study of ethics has surged in the past two decades, clear evidence has emerged that ethical thinking and behavior are prone to many of the same mental processes and pitfalls as the rest of human thinking and behavior. Just as we humans are prone to systematic and predictable cognitive errors, we appear to … [ Read more ]

Dan Ariely on ‘The Honest Truth About Dishonesty’

Everyone cheats a little from time to time. But most major betrayals within organizations — from accounting fraud to doping in sports — start with a first step that crosses the line, according to Dan Ariely, a leading behavioral economist at Duke and author of The Honest Truth About Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone — Especially Ourselves. That step can start people on a … [ Read more ]

Jerome Kohlberg, Jr.

All around us there is a breakdown of values […] It is not just the […] overpowering greed that pervades our business life. It is the fact that we are not willing to sacrifice for the ethics and values we profess. For an ethic is not an ethic, and a value not a value without some sacrifice to it. Something given up, something not taken, … [ Read more ]

Randy Cohen

People tend to be as good or bad as their neighbors. Most people are not saintly, and neither are they great villains. It’s very hard to be good when you look around and see your neighbors acting very badly. It’s hard to drive at 65 mph when everyone else is driving at 100 mph.

The Ethics of Ethics Programs

In response to society’s demand for a stronger emphasis on business ethics, in light of recent publicity concerning unethical business practices, and in trying to be in compliance with new federal and state regulatory laws, many businesses have created or strengthened ethics programs. These programs are most effective when they flow out of a culture that values practicing business legally and ethically. However, there are … [ Read more ]

Peter Ulrich and Thomas Maak

There are different approaches that may constitute business ethics, just as there are different ways to think about ethics in society. Firstly, there is the widely held view that the sole task of business ethics is to restrain the economic drive for profit in cases which raise considerable moral problems. This perspective restricts the role of business ethics to a corrective factor which needs to … [ Read more ]

Jonathan Haidt

Because I think that we’re so limited in our ability to behave ethically in the face of situational pressures, I want to teach our students how to do ethical systems design, how to take all the flaws and weirdnesses of human nature and work with them to design organizations and startup companies where people are always concerned about their reputation. People are concerned about reputation … [ Read more ]

The Thought Leader Interview: William J. O’Rourke

The former head of Alcoa Russia teaches executives that in international business practice, ethics and competitive advantage go hand in hand.

The Thought Leader Interview: Dov Seidman

The influential business author and CEO explains why the practice of enlightened self-governance gives companies an edge.

Dov Seidman

I have facilitated sessions with CEOs in which I ask, “How many of you could grab your BlackBerry and in the next five minutes produce a list of your top 25 performers?” All the hands go up. Then I ask, “How many, with the same confidence, could produce a list of your most principled or ethical leaders?” Every hand goes down. They all recognize that … [ Read more ]

Clayton Christensen’s “How Will You Measure Your Life?”

World-renowned innovation expert Clayton M. Christensen explores the personal benefits of business research in the forthcoming book How Will You Measure Your Life? Co-authored with James Allworth and Karen Dillon, the book explains how well-tested academic theories can help us to find meaning and happiness not just at work, but in life. This excerpt describes how marginal thinking can lead to personal, professional, and moral … [ Read more ]