Friday, March 02, 2007

Interview with Professor Gardner on the Ethical Mind

The Harvard Business Review of March 2007 contains an interview worth reading with Harvard Graduate School Professor of Cognition and Education Howard Gardner.
Gardner became well known by his 1983 book Frames of Mind, in which he argued that people don't have one, but multiple intelligences: linguistic, logical-mathematical, spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, musical, interpersonal and intrapersonal intelligence.

Likewise, Gardner now proposes to distinguish between Five Types of Cognitive Minds:
  1. The Disciplined Mind - What we gain through applying ourselves in a disciplined way in school.
  2. The Synthesizing Mind - Surveys a wide range of sources, decides what is important and is worth paying attention to.
  3. The Creating Mind - Looks for new ideas and practices, innovates, takes chances, dicovers.
  4. The Respectful Mind - The kind of open mind that tries to understand and form relationshipss with other human beings.
  5. The Ethical Mind - Broadens the respect for others (see 4) into something more abstract. Asks: "What kind of a person, worker, and citizen do I want to be?"

The Ethical Mind grows at home and in the surrounding community. Bad behavior of others can undermine it. Gardner mentions cheating MBA students as an example of this undermining, and thinks that it is more difficult for businesspeople to adhere to an ethical mind than it is for other professionals, because business is strictly not a profession, has no guild-structure, no professional model, no standards and no penalties for bad behavior. The only requirement is to make money and not run afoul of the law.

In order to stay on the right track, Gardner advises business leaders to:

  1. Believe doing so is essential for the good of the organization, especially during difficult times.
  2. Take the time to step back and reflect about the nature of their work.
  3. Undergo "positive periodic inoculations", being forced to rethink what you're doing.
  4. Use consultants, which should include a trusted advisor within the organization, the councel of someone completely outside the organization (an old friend), a genuine independent board.

See also the related website The Good Work Project, an "effort to identify individuals and institutions that exemplify good work—work that is excellent in quality, socially responsible, and meaningfulto its practitioners—and to determine how best to increase the incidence of good work in our society".


Blogger Martin said...

As a principal in a small software-consulting business, I am trying to find ideas and perspectives related to trust. Your reference to the Gardner article is clear and simple. It helps set a framework for me to think about "business ethics" as we try to understand the ethical environment in which we find ourselves working.

7:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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4:42 PM  
Anonymous phys431 said...

Although I have not owned a business, I have been on both the "labor" side and the "supervisory" side. I have a pretty good taste as to the interests of each side of the coin and seeing full well, both personally and through grapevine-talk, of people on both sides of the honest/ethical spectrum. By far, most people are either clearly on the self-interest end or somewhere in the middle where they are either complacent or defeated to their situations. Very few people are on the opposite end, trying with every ounce of strength and authority to do what is equal, honest, transparent, as well as safe and productive. Walking this tight-rope is often times difficult because the corrupt foreces-that-be often times end up becoming exposed for who they are by virtue of the contrast of ethical/unethical behavior/practices. I can go on and on, but I'm new to the site and I am very interested to see what more I can learn/find and to meet others in good forum and perhaps change some minds along the way. Cheers!

7:17 AM  

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