Corporate critics like Eric Schlosser and preachers of business ethics have the same basic problem: They attempt to make business better by controlling its behavior, through either punishment and government regulation (Mr. Schlosser) or advice, rewards, and recognition (the various books of guidance).
By contrast, books such as Good Work, Counting What Counts, and Crossing the Unknown Sea are more effective precisely because they teach us how to surrender — not to a higher power, but to an ongoing conversation with ourselves and the people around us. Muckrakers are important because they show us what the stakes are, but to meet the challenges they offer, we need help we don’t currently have.
We won’t find it in examples of other companies that have succeeded at ethical practice. We have to look for it in our identity as professionals, the language of our business, and our personal growth.
Ethics, in the end, is not something we do. It is something we become. If you want to change the industry you work for, you must start by finding a professional mind-set that will allow you to measure results creatively, and learning to cultivate and follow your best instincts.
Reprint No. 01402
email@example.com is the “Culture & Change” columnist and a regular contributor of “The Creative Mind” profiles for strategy+business. He teaches at New York University’s Interactive Telecommunications Program. His Web site is www.well.com/user/art. Mr. Kleiner is the author of The Age of Heretics (Doubleday, 1996); his next book, Who Really Matters: The Core Group Theory of Power, Privilege, and Business Success, will be published by Doubleday Currency in August 2003.