What follows is additional background and detail on the Ethics of Choice Training Program, the thinking behind it and some of the specifics concerning its implementation.
The Japanese define "ethics" as human logic, the logic by which we become human or, as Watsuji Tetsuro puts it in his book, Rinrigaku (Ethics in Japan), "the way human beings truly become human beings." 1 The implication is that to behave ethically is not only to do "the right thing" but also to do the thing that must be done if we are to complete ourselves, if we are to achieve our full maturity. By choosing to behave ethically, we find that we must confront the resistance's in ourselves and in the world that incline us toward not behaving ethically. And by our follow-through, as we face and overcome those resistance's, we are refined, matured, made human. That is the notion of ethics as human logic, the notion that through our effort to behave ethically, we further our development as human beings. It is a useful way to define ethics because it emphasizes the double benefit implicit in ethical conduct. Ethics for the sake of the other, to be sure, and for the common good; but ethics for the sake of the self as well. "The gift is to the giver, and comes back most to him . . . " is the way Whitman put it.
The Ethics of Choice Training Program is designed to help individuals acquire an understanding of ethics as human logic and then to help them build within their organizations--their workplaces--cultures anchored to that same logic. One of the key assumptions of the training program is that the organization increasingly anchored to human logic is the organization most likely to win the niche for which it is competing; most likely also to further a larger culture in which full human development is the highest value.
THE ETHICS OF CHOICE
The Ethics of Choice Code is an attempt to detail human logic at the level of one's organizational or work life. It is an attempt to elaborate, among other things, a work ethic that--when followed--results not only in the doing of the job--fully, creatively--but also in the ongoing refinement of character. In that sense, but not in that sense alone, the ethics of choice define what is meant by personal responsibility.
The Ethics of Choice Code differs from most organizational ethics codes in two ways: first, it calls for a standard well above the merely legal, in this way differing from those codes that have a legalistic focus (as important as that is) and second, because it attempts to operationalize the meaning of its ethics, it invites a degree of self-examination that sets it apart from those codes that merely re-state the organization's values. It is not uncommon, for example, to read organizational ethics codes stocked with terms like integrity, fairness, mutual respect, trust, without ever being challenged or in some way moved by them.
There are twelve ethics in the Ethics of Choice Code. The first ethic, "The Organizational Ethic", is the most extensive of the twelve (i.e., has the most corollaries) and may be of use in illustrating the way in which the code is written.
Ethic #1: It is ethical to serve, refine and advance the organization you have chosen to join. It is unethical to harm it.
1) it is ethical to learn everything you can about the organization of which you are a part (its overall purpose, the vision that guides it, its rules, practices and procedures, its parts and how they are connected, its history and current status). It is unethical to remain organizationally ignorant.
2) it is ethical to learn about the needs of those served by your organization (i.e., who they are and what they value) . . . and, as well, about the needs of those within the organization served by your Division. It is unethical to remain ignorant of the needs of those you serve (your customers/consumers/ clients/ students/etc.).
3) it is ethical to perform your role (i.e., your job or duty) accurately, efficiently and pleasantly. It is unethical not to do your job to the best of your ability.
4) it is ethical to perform your role (i.e., your job or duty) in a fashion that does not unnecessarily add to the work, hardship or distraction of others. It is unethical to make work unnecessarily harder for others.
5) it is ethical to speak fairly and honestly or not at all of organizational members; to say about them only what you would say to them. The same applies to the organization as a whole. It is unethical to engage in malicious gossip, ridicule, or derisive humor.
6) it is ethical to follow the rules. It is unethical willfully and knowingly to break the rules or to remain ignorant of them. (Requires as its companion Corollary 7.)
7) it is ethical to seek the correction, modification and/or revision of rules, procedures and practices that are inconsistent with the overall purpose and stated values of the organization. It is unethical to accept organizational practices that harm the ability of the organization to accomplish its purpose.
8) it is ethical to create organizational improvements (which may come in the form of increased revenue, decreased costs, the enhancement the organization's culture). It is unethical not to help the organization evolve.
9) it is ethical to protect and defend the organization against destructive influences (such as outside forces or internal decision-making practices that lead to fraud, libel or abuse). It is unethical to remain silent in the face of perceived threats to the organization's survival.
10) it is ethical to leave an organization whose purpose and values conflict with your own. It is unethical to remain in an organization that would have you violate your values or personal code of ethics.
The Ethics of Choice Code proceeds in this fashion through the eleven remaining ethics, defining what is meant by "the Open-Mindedness Ethic," "the Feedback Ethic," "the Free Choice Ethic," "the Personal Growth Ethic", etc. and while much remains for interpretation (the job of training), the code nevertheless attempts throughout to demarcate and call for a course of action consistent with both the ethical growth of the individual and the long term success of the organization.
TEACHING THE ETHICS OF CHOICE
The Workshop designed to teach the ethics of choice incorporates a number of both standard and unique components:
a "Presentation" component in which each ethic is surrounded with examples, explanations, rationales - thereby furthering an intellectual or cognitive understanding of each ethic;
an "Image Theater" component in which participants engage in exercises designed to bring the ethics of choice and related concepts to life - furthering an experiential understanding of each ethic;
a "Role-Playing" component in which participants are given the opportunity to improvise solutions to ethically questionable situations - furthering the capacity to detect and respond to the need for ethical behavior; and finally,
a "Workbook" component in which participants--through workbook exercises--clarify the personal and behavioral meaning of each ethic and, in the process, emerge with their own, quite specific, ethical conduct objectives.
Image Theater - The Image Theater component of the workshop draws extensively on the work of Brazilian theatrical scholar, August Boal, and American family therapist, Virginia Satir. Both have pioneered the "image theater" concept, documenting through their work its power both to reveal and to inspire. Several existing exercises have been drawn from their work and modified so as to address specific training issues while numerous other exercises are unique to the Ethics of Choice Program; together, these exercises permit participants a graphic understanding of "the nature of bureaucracy," "the organic impact of lying," "the fundamental tension between individual expression and teamwork" (i.e., between rights and responsibilities), "the limited nature of any one person's view," "choice and free will," "continuous personal growth" and other issues necessarily related to the ethics of choice.
Huck Finn Moments - The Role-Playing component of the workshop is comprised of what in the Ethics of Choice Training Program are called, "Huck Finn Moments". These are scripted scenes (read by two or more volunteer "actors"2) revealing the absence of one or more of the ethics of choice and presenting participants with an ethical dilemma. Script topics include: "breaking the rules," "resistance to change," "pretending you are being forced to work," "engaging in the blame game," "passing anger/resentment/rage on to others," "the improper or insensitive delivery of feedback," etc. Scripts are selected and new scripts developed so as to speak to the immediate needs of the organization. In addition, scripts are tailored--through modifications in language and/or situation--to appear as though they come from the life of the organization.
When enacted, the role-playing scenes set the occasion for a useful and often, clarifying discussion. However, the task is not simply to have the missing ethic or ethics identified and the solution discussed, but rather to have the proposed solution enacted in the scene. Therefore, at various points in the discussion, participants are invited to take the place of one of the "actors" and to complete the scene ethically, i.e., in a way more in keeping with the ethics of choice. As for the remaining actors, their job is to maintain their positions, not blindly but rather resisting in a way that invites the participant to use all of his or her strength. The result for the participant is practice in the difficult art of creating/improvising ethical solutions on the spot.
The image theater and role-playing exercises used in the Ethics of Choice Workshop are built on the assumption that the most unforgettable and personally beneficial of all forms of theater is the theater in which you choose to act, the theater that addresses your problems and in which you, along with friends, colleagues and co-workers, work to find a solution. These exercises--the Huck Finn Moments, the exercises revealing the meaning of complex concepts--invite participants to overcome their hesitancy and to act on behalf of their own view and in so acting, to give themselves a hard-to-forget experience, one that they will review, perhaps mull over (as one does with role-playing experiences) and in that way alter and enhance--at least by degree--their "readiness" to behave ethically.
BUILDING ETHICAL CULTURES IN ORGANIZATIONS
One of the primary goals of the Ethics of Choice Training Program is to help individuals build/evolve ethical cultures within their organizations. An ethical culture might be defined as a culture that actively encourages and supports conduct in accord with the ethics of choice (or their facsimile) and thus, is a culture committed to helping its members realize their full potential as human beings. Such a culture is continuously in the process of minimizing its self-destructiveness (fraud, libel, theft, negligence, abuse, inertia) while at the same time maximizing its prospects for survival and prosperity.
The Ethics of Choice Training Program has several components and/or materials, in addition to the Workshop, that relate to the building of an ethical culture. Currently, these components/materials are being used in different ways by different organizations--as each adapts the materials to its own needs. Taken together, however, and used as a whole, they begin to suggest a strategy, a technology, for integrating "human logic" into the fabric of an organization.
· the Ethics of Choice Quick Guide - presents the ethics of choice surrounded by quotes from various sources; allows existing and would-be members of the organization to make a quick, initial judgment concerning the adequacy of these ethics for their workplace and for the culture they hope to create;
· the Ethics of Choice Handbook - presents the meaning and value of each ethic (the value both to the individual and to the organization); required reading for members of any organization attempting to anchor itself to the ethics of choice; and then, henceforth, read as a part of new member orientation;
· the Handbook Quiz - ensures that the handbook is read and understood; completed with an open book, a learning aid as much as an examination;
· the Ethics of Choice Workbook - allows participants to personalize the meaning of each ethic and thus, to identify what one must know and do in the organization if one is to behave in accord with the ethics of choice; it is by means of the Workbook that participants emerge from the workshop with individualized ethical conduct objectives;
· the Ethics of Choice Workshop - presentation, image theater, role-playing (Huck Finn Moments), discussion; leads to a deeper understanding of each ethic and, with the use of the workbook, to specific ethical conduct objectives;
- the Ethics of Choice Trainer's Manual - used to train trainer's who, within their organization, provide the Ethics of Choice Workshop;
· the One Week Report - a report indicating the number of ethical conduct objectives undertaken and completed by participants at the one week mark following their participation in the workshop; created via self-report with participant anonymity protected; this report documents the immediate or short term benefits of ethics of choice training;
· the Evaluation and Feedback System - a annual (or periodic) report in which organizational members evaluate themselves and their organization on the degree to which each is behaving in accord with the ethics of choice; a tracking/feedback system of use in steering the organization in the direction of a more ethical culture;
· Right Livelihood: the Twelve Ethics of Work - a more extensive discussion of the ethics of choice; in dialogue form; useful as a follow-up document for those interested in a further exploration of the ethics, art and nature of work.
A LARGER VISION
One of the most important technologies that any organization can develop (or any society, for that matter) is the technology that allows its members to discuss, re-visit and evolve their ethics. Such a technology, whatever form it takes, is an attempt to provide individuals with a means for ensuring that the organizations that so dramatically affect them, the organizations wherein they work and study and pursue their various interests, are anchored (increasingly) to human logic, i.e., to the logic and practices that promote human development. This serves both the individual and the organization. It also serves the larger community.
For what is a community but--in one sense--a large organization, made up of hundreds, often thousands, of smaller organizations. How many of these smaller organizations must we have actively engaged in building within themselves ethical cultures before the larger community begins to reflect and benefit from this effort? A few hundred businesses? A few dozen corporations? The schools? Local governmental and volunteer agencies? How could the training and active support of ethical conduct at this level not spill over and be felt by the larger community? This is one way for communities to transform themselves. The focus is on the individual, on "the complete energizing of our capacities as selves or persons . . . " as philosopher Wilbur Marshall Urban put it. The unit of change is the organization. As both profit, so too does the larger community since the larger community, like the organization, can be only as strong and as peaceful, as prosperous and as creative, as the character of its citizens permits.
David L. Thomas, Ph.D.
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1 I first became aware of "ethics as human logic" from a quote by Edwin M. Epstein of the Walter A. Haas School of Business at the University of California - Berkeley, "the Japanese word for ethics, rinri, translates roughly as 'human logic' or the 'way of being human'." Later, I discovered Watsuji Tetsuro's Rinrigaku (Ethics in Japan). Translated by Yamamoto Seisaku and Robert E. Carter. Published by State University of New York Press - Albany, 1996. Quote from p. 22.
2 The role-playing procedure used in the Ethics of Choice Workshop follows a modification of Boal's model developed by Douglas Paterson, Professor of Dramatic Arts at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.