Archive for November, 2019
Morality – A critical success factor for business and society?
Luke Andreski – Graham Williams
There can be little doubt that we have reached a point in our history which is marked by profound ethical issues.
We face the acceleration of AI, an environmental crisis, the potential for future conflict over resource, probable large-scale migrations and an ascendancy of populist authoritarianism in politics across the world.
In parallel with this, another disturbing change has occurred. Morality has become unfashionable. It is no longer cool – and now carries with it connotations of ‘moralising’, of self-satisfaction or superiority, of being ‘moralistic’ or ‘preachy’. It’s as if, in the world of realpolitik and commerce, ethics no longer matter. Effectiveness and profit have taken morality’s place. ‘What’s in it for me?’ has become our guiding principle.
Yet this is a guiding principle which places our world in jeopardy. ‘What’s in it for me?’ cannot provide a solution to the major challenges which our businesses, our economies and even our species now face.
In addition to compassion, truth is at the heart of any moral code. If we cannot see our world clearly, if we are unable to separate reality from fake news or ideology, then how can we navigate our way towards personal, business or wider societal success? The reverse is also true. As our society drifts away from honesty, so it increasingly attacks it: a vicious circle we see all around us. It is now common to say, particularly of our politicians, that ‘everybody lies’. This then becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Lying is normalised. We see this amongst some of the most prominent politicians of today’s world. A willingness to lie is no longer considered a quality which debars them from office. And the more they lie, the more they hate the truth. To quote George Orwell, “The further society drifts from the truth, the more it will hate those who speak it.” A wonderful example of this is seen in this interview with Michael Gove, the British politician campaigning for Brexit and the re-election of the Boris Johnson government:
It is also replicated in the many attacks we see from populist politicians on journalism and the press. Populism disdains experts and facts.
“To assert that everybody lies becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Lying is normalised.”
In collaboration with Graham Williams, a writer and consultant based in Cape Town, South Africa, I’ve been looking at how we can reassert the value of morality, honesty and compassion in a business context, and also for society as a whole. In a series of articles for Phase3 Consulting and HRZone I’ve argued for the value of ethics specifically within business. In my book Intelligent Ethics I expand this argument to society as a whole; and in his powerful work, The Virtuosa Organisation, Graham takes a similar approach.
There are so often situations in the marketplace where “business considerations” take precedence over ethical considerations – an either/or solution. Our contention is that this is a mistaken dichotomy. Business considerations (efficiency and profit) are in fact enhanced by adopting an ethical approach. Unethical practices exist in many toxic workplaces, including all forms of discrimination and exclusion, harassment, overt or unconscious prejudice and bullying – and tackling these can only benefit the performance, reputation and, ultimately, the profit of the business.
Leadership, training and coaching responses all too often fall into the ‘compliance’ and ‘rules’ category, when what is needed is:
- Development of an intrinsic ethical maturity and value base
- Encouragement of a learning, growth and mastery journey
- Nurturing of appropriate application in the context of the situations faced and their community impacts
To assist with this, we have drawn together a map of ethical best practice, outlining a set of cultural, process and human capital considerations for business leaders, a framework for:
- Providing a quick overview of the ethics landscape
- Moving from a rules-based to a values-based mind-set
- Guiding people how to behave positively and effectively, overcoming a bystander mentality
- Entrenching an understanding that ethics is an important bridge in aligning behaviours with core values
“Business considerations (efficiency and profit) are in fact enhanced by adopting an ethical approach.”
We hope you find this guide useful.
1: An Introduction
Cooperation is at the heart of all life. Competition is just a side-show.
In our bodies, 37 trillion cells cooperate. Multi-celled organisms are cooperative endeavours. Bacteria cooperate. Herds, flocks, shoals and swarms cooperate. Families, tribes, cities, nations cooperate…
2: The Basis of Life
Before multi-celled organisms can compete the cells out of which they are made must collaborate: each cell cooperating with others to form the organism itself. Cooperation is a necessary precondition for competition. Even single-celled life achieved complexity through symbiosis – in other words, through cooperation.
3: An Act of Selflessness
Having offspring in any species and ensuring their survival is an act of selfless cooperation, with no guarantee of future benefit for the parent organisms. Individual selflessness is widespread – found throughout nature. Is it the gene, then, which is selfish? Acting competitively on behalf of its strain?
Yet genes have no agency. They merely encode patterns. They are passive devices for passing information down generations. Only when genes are embodied in the individual do they gain agency… and individuals cooperate. Selflessness and action for the common good are encoded in our genes.
5: Social Cooperation
Cooperation is at the heart of society. Our billionaires could not become billionaires without roads, energy supplies, infrastructure, education, government research, the innovations of others… i.e. without other people.
Economic competition is sustained by economic cooperation: by agreements, rules and laws.
Selfishness and private greed – sustained by the ideology of competition – in fact stifle competition, depriving the economic cycle of hoarded wealth.
Private greed is the enemy of both cooperation and the cooperative impulse: the rich are less charitable than the poor (see https://www.thelondoneconomic.com/news/environment/poor-people-really-are-more-charitable-than-the-rich-according-to-new-research/28/06/).
7: Communication = Cooperation
Even language is a cooperative construct. We would have no words, no poetry or literature without the cooperative act of establishing meaning. Our minds are products of cooperative interaction with others. Sentience is a group activity. ‘Others’ define us and help us make sense of our world.
8: An Ideological Error
It is a misinterpretation of nature to highlight competition above all things. The notion that competition is the basis of life or society is an erroneous ideology. The ideology itself could not exist without cooperation. Society, science, technology and language are all cooperative acts.
In summary: we need each other. We are all in the same boat. Competition is the smaller part of what we can offer one another and our society. Cooperation is the builder of our world – our greatest and most valuable skill.
Think of what we have achieved through cooperation: medicine, space flight, the internet, smart phones, immense cities which sustain vast numbers of cooperating individuals, an incredible technological civilisation…
Think of what we have yet to achieve – together.
www.ethicalintelligence.org “The ethics of common sense”
Twitter & Facebook: @EthicalRenewal
For a detailed discussion of cooperation, see Ethical Intelligence by Luke Andreski:
1: An Introduction
Let’s talk about propaganda.
Democracy can only thrive on clear thinking and facts.
Deceit, lies, misdirection and misinformation undermine clear thinking – distract us from the facts.
For our decisions to be sensible, we need to see what’s truly in front of us: we need to be observers of the real world.
Propaganda blurs the real world.
Propaganda, through its lies and disinformation, is an enemy of democracy.
2: A functioning democracy
It is not propagandistic to say that any enemy of democracy is an enemy of the people.
The purpose of democracy is to devolve power to the people, to us.
It is a mechanism for removing power from authoritarians, dictators, demagogues and bullies.
Propaganda disrupts that mechanism. It seeks to give authoritarians, dictators, demagogues and bullies free rein.
3: A sensible vote
How can we vote sensibly without clear thinking and facts?
Propaganda ignores facts, hinders clear thinking.
Propaganda uses language manipulatively: to coerce us; to trigger decisions or beliefs we would not otherwise adopt.
It is a tool for control.
4: Taking back control
How does propaganda work?
It hijacks our instincts and psychology for the purposes of others.
It attacks our autonomy by sidestepping our powers of analysis.
It activates automatic and predictable responses.
It makes us a pawn in someone else’s game.
Do we want to be controlled? Do we want to be pawns?
5: Detecting propaganda
What does propaganda look like?
– manufactures ‘enemies’
– polarises viewpoints: “Are you with us or against us?”
– it’s emotive
– it doesn’t want you to think: it wants you to react
– it oversimplifies, giving answers so simple they rapidly become stupid
– it hypes up and exaggerates, attempting to trigger your automatic response.
6: Other traits
Propaganda is often dishonest, aggressive or abusive. Name-calling, denigration and smearing are its calling card.
It exaggerates grievances, shouts about ‘offence’.
Propaganda pretends it’s ‘one of us’.
It likes to be folksy when really it’s a tool for manipulating ‘folk’.
And, because of its disconnect from fact, it is often absurd.
7: Idols and their enemies
Propaganda inverts victimhood. The propagandists may be part of an elite; they may be powerful, rich and well protected; but they will still assert they are being ‘picked on’, they’re the ‘scapegoats’, they’re victims of other people’s conspiracies.
Since propaganda doesn’t like facts (it’s aim is control, not communication) it fixates on personalities rather than their actions. Some it puts on pedestals. They can do no wrong.
Some it smears and denigrates. They can do no right.
But from a moral perspective actions are what counts. Personality is irrelevant if what you’re doing is wrong.
8: Countering propaganda
How do we counter propaganda?
– Recognise (its nature as propaganda)
– Analyse (its manipulative intent)
– Publicise (the fact it’s propaganda)
– Identify (its sources and their motives)
– Demolish (with ridicule, clear thinking and facts)
The RAPID acronym helps us react to propaganda rapidly. Don’t wait. Act.
9: An alternative message
Propaganda appeals because it’s simple.
We would all like to live in a simpler world.
Yet there’s an alternative with an equally simple message.
A message as simple as:
- Integrity 1st
- Honesty 1st
- Compassion 1st
- Make Humanity Great Again.
These words are effective, humane and moral. When you’re faced with propaganda, bring them to the forefront of your mind. Assert your freedom and identity. Resist.
www.ethicalintelligence.org “The ethics of common sense”
Twitter & Facebook: @EthicalRenewal
For a detailed discussion of propaganda, see Ethical Intelligence by Luke Andreski: