Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Great Debate

[Abraham Lincoln, Congressman-elect from Illin...Image by The Library of Congress via Flickr

How do you teach Ethics?

There have been a lot of op ed and blog posts lately about how US and European business schools need to increase the focus on business ethics within their curriculum. On one level my reaction is, "well, duh!" Academic research has overwhelmingly confirmed that companies with strong cultures of integrity suffer fewer incidents of fraud, have lower turnover, decreased costs and outperform their less "ethical" competitors.

But on another level, I wonder to what degree a university or graduate school can truly change the nature of an individual with 18-25 years of life experience. Furthermore, how effective will that learning be if higher principles are not adhered to in their work environments once the students leave academia?

I bring all this up because our CEO, David Childers, is participating in the OICF Ethics Bowl and Great Debate this weekend. A lot of schools have ethics bowl challenges for their students (which I think is a great experience for all involved), but I really like the twist the OICF has introduced this year with the Great Debate. On Friday night the tables will be turned, as the judges - including David and other local CEOs - will be asked to debate an ethical challenge and subsequently judged by the student debators. David has written about this year's subject in his blog.

I see this as a great way to reinforce with the students that business leaders truly do care about making decisions of integrity, and that the lessons of the classroom really do have applicability in the outside "real" world. What do you think - can ethics be taught?
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