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Friday, December 21, 2007

Conspiracy Theory: Teaching Ethics

How do you teach ethics? Sometimes a lawyer comes to a company and speaks on the topic, sometimes it is part of a new employee orientation program and sometimes it is an e-learning module where you answer true/false or multiple choice questions....seriously does anyone think that type of training is going to impact ethical decisions?

Instead, I think you should make everyone read three books, all about actual ethical breaches and then dissect and discuss the main characters and then talk about what each person would do in a similar situation.

Most ethics breaches are not because of a "lack of knowledge" which is what training addresses, it is because of a failure to see conflicts of interest or of choosing not to see conflicts of interest because you are somehow small indiscretion leads to others.

But what ethics violators fail to see is the damage they are causing themselves and others...they often think they are justified when they aren't.

So, three good books on the topics of ethics are really good cautionary tales about what not to do. So for future ethics training, I suggest you require your class to read the following (yes, read, I know its sooo low tech.)

Unfortunately, there are lots of books about ethical breaches in companies so if these three don't inspire you...then choose others. I have to say that Conspiracy of Fools about Enron was a page is long but I couldn't put it down...even when I knew what was coming, I marveled at the arrogance and foolishness of the key players but they never saw their downfall coming. It was riviting.

So, I suggest that if you or someone you know this Christmas season is into conspiracies then this is a collection for them. Or, more importantly, if you have to teach an ethics course in 2008, I suggest a reading list like this is a much better way to begin a discussion of ethics than with some type of training or e-learning course.

*Disclosure: In the spirit of true disclosure and to avoid any ethical breaches, I do receive a 6% fee whenever anyone purchases a book through the Amazon links on my blog. It averages out to about $18 a quarter. I really just use the Amazon Associates feature so I don't have to hunt around for pictures of books, video games, etc. Amazon always has the visual I need.


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