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 / Winter 2012 / Issue 69(originally published by Booz & Company)


The Thought Leader Interview: William J. O’Rourke

The better universities are teaching ethics as a separate course. Mary Gentile’s “Giving Voice to Values” curriculum, which has been piloted at more than 100 business schools, is one example of this effort. In addition, more MBA programs are integrating ethics into core curricula. The first step in dealing with an ethical problem is to gather the facts, but Step Zero is seeing there is an issue in the first place.

S+B: What do you advise your students to look for if they want to work at a company that has a high level of integrity?
First, don’t look at the ethics statements written on paper. Look at a company’s behavior; ask for stories and specifics. I carry around a corporate values statement; people who see it tend to say it is a good example of corporate ethics. Then I tell them it was published by Enron before it collapsed.

I also tell students that when they see something they don’t like in a corporation’s culture, it can be changed. It’s not easy; it takes time, persistence, and caring about the long-term success of the company. But it can be done. It gets more feasible as you rise in the company. The more influence you exercise, the more likely you are to be a force in creating a company with people as interested in taking and holding the high ground as you are. 

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Author Profile:

  • Ann Graham is a contributing editor at strategy+business and an editorial consultant with the Center for Higher Ambition Leadership. She is a coauthor, with Larry Rosenberger and John Nash, of The Deciding Factor: The Power of Analytics to Make Every Decision a Winner (Jossey-Bass, 2009).