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Posts tagged Ethics.

Girl Scouts, Explain Thyselves

Why do Thin Mints™ cost $4 a box? Everybody wonders; one motivated amateur researcher tries to find out.

You should check out Are Girl Scout Cookies Deliciously Evil?, a strange and interesting homebrew analysis of the famous Girl Scout Cookies fundraiser.

The author notes the following. In 1992, a box of cookies cost $2. In 2011, they cost $4. I quote: "Total inflation from 1992–2011 was 57%, but the price increased 100%. From 2006–2011, annual US inflation was close to 1% over that period and the net inflation was 9.25%; ); there was a 14% price increase. Perhaps the Girl Scout leadership is to blame."

Girl Scout Cookies

The analysis is interesting, and well worth a read, for at least two reasons:

  1. The working hypothesis is that the Girl Scouts are evil.
  2. It's an interesting case study in evaluating charities on your own.

Spoiler alert: It looks like the local Girl Scout councils, rather than the national leadership, are probably to blame.

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PaulMay 13, 2011

Monday Tutorials

A random collection of how-to's.

1. How To Raise An Ethical Issue At Work: 3 tips from HBR

1. Treat the conflict as a business issue. Present the issue as you would any other business issue: provide sufficient detail, tailor your message to the audience, and deliver it in an appropriate context.
2. Recognize that it's part of your job. Ethical issues may feel like a distraction from "real" work, but identifying, thinking through, and acting on them are part of everyone's job.
3. Be yourself. Don't assume that you have to be confrontational, assertive, or courageous to bring up an ethical issue. The best approach is to be yourself and use a style you are comfortable with.

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AndreaFeb 22, 2011

News in Business Ethics: Hurd & Oracle

Last week, the Atlantic reported an interesting case in business ethics.

Former HP CEO Mark Hurd was forced to step down from his post August 6 of this year on account of two violations of the company's ethical standards: the first involved a sexual harassment suit filed by a HP contractor (former reality TV actress Jodie Fisher), and the second involved the results of an internal investigation that uncovered expense-account irregularities (see also Huffington Post, NYT, Bloomberg, and HP).

The Atlantic characterizes Hurd as having had "quite a soft landing". Soft indeed: one month later, it has been announced that Hurd will be hired as the president of Oracle, the software company with the third-largest revenue in the world (after Microsoft and IBM; statistic from 2007).

This, it seems, does not speak well for the amount of concern being paid to business ethical considerations in Oracle's executive-level hiring practice. (The Atlantic, slightly more dramatically, suggests that this case might somehow "prove that business ethics don't matter".)

I now quote their interesting points in full, although again, it is worth noting that the stakes are perhaps not so high as they are set forth in the following.

While the accusations against Hurd sounded pretty bad, they boiled down to ethics. Ultimately, HP's sexual harassment probe found that he didn't violate the company's policy, but did violate its ethical standards. Oracle has responded to Hurd's poor judgment in areas other than management with a resounding -- so what? The company thinks Hurd's talent for business decision-making trumps his poor decision-making elsewhere.

Yet, in other situations, business ethics clearly do matter. It's easy to think of examples of businesses and individuals that don't recover, like Bernie Madoff and Enron. These ethical violations show something very different from Hurd's problems, however. Instead of using their superior talent and expertise, such firms or individuals must rely on fraud to bring in profits. The business community has no use for mere thievery as a means to make money. Anyone can do that; it's the brilliant minds that matter in the long-run.

So perhaps the lesson here is that business ethics only matter when they jeopardize business. Of course, sometimes these go hand-in-hand. A perfect example is Arthur Andresen. With an auditing firm, integrity is everything. If you lose that, you have no business, as the firm quickly found out. But in other businesses, where the profit motive is less connected to good ethics, that's not the case. Then, so long as poor decisions don't compromise profit, they will eventually be forgotten.

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PaulSep 13, 2010
Tagged with: Business Ethics, Ethics

Four Ethics Links:
July 5, 2010

Four ethics links is a review of recent stories in applied ethics. This week: Business Ethics for Recent College Grads, Twitter and Corporate Ethics Agreements, The Ethics of Criticism, and Ethics in Chinese Science.

1. Workplace Ethics: The High Cost of Compromise

Kirk O. Hansen recently made some interesting observations about the ethical challenges that will face new college graduates. Facing the current, difficult economy, Hansen claims, will "make ethical decisions even tougher."

Because it has been difficult this year to land any job, new graduates will be less likely to resist, less likely to put their new position at risk in order to do the right thing. And that threatens to undermine the ethical character of this year's graduates at the outset of their careers.

John Constable: Detail from 'Seascape Study with Rain Cloud'
John Constable, Detail from Seascape Study with Rain Cloud (c.1824)
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PaulJul 5, 2010

Four Ethics Links: June 14, 2010

Four ethics links is a review of recent stories in applied ethics. This week: Privacy for Animals, Ethics for Extraterrestrials, iPhone Obsession, and Stolen DNA.

1. Do animals need privacy?

Brett Mills at the University of East Anglia suggests that the ethics of the media and privacy should be extended beyond humans to the animal world. He says it might be acceptable to film "public events" such as animals hunting - but questions more intrusive recording. For humans, he says, it is assumed that documentary makers would need consent to go into people's private lives, but no such boundary exists for wildlife filmmakers.

Albrecht Dürer: Young Hare
Albrecht Dürer, Young Hare
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PaulJun 14, 2010

Four Design Links:
May 13, 2010

Four Design Links is a review of the design- and ethics-related stories we've been reading online this week.

1. Ethical behavior is good for the economy

This paper by David Rea of Victoria University examines the large-scale implications of an idea that we've been kicking around for quite a while.

2. Imagine A Pie Chart Stomping On An Infographic Forever

Why Does a Salad Cost More than a Big Mac?
Source: Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine in Good Medicine Magazine

Careless designers all too readily sacrifice truth for the sake of aesthetics.

Smashing Magazine calls out designers' statistical illiteracy with a Showcase Of Bad Infographics.

3. 7 Ways to Use Psychological Influence With Social Media Content

Edgar Dale’s Cone of Learning

This article from Social Media Examiner describes 7 psychological principles that can help your content get people's attention.

4. “Daddy, What’s a Brand?”

Last, this Fast Company article has a number of interesting perspectives on the postmodern practice of branding.

Next to the economics of peer-to-peer recommendation, the old paid-media model looks like a scam. You have to ask yourself how an industry employing so many creative thinkers at such high salaries has, on the whole, gotten away with so much crap for so long. Imagine if all that creative problem-solving power was re-channeled?

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NickMay 13, 2010

Four Ethics Links: April 29, 2010

Four ethics links is a review of recent stories related to ethics.

1. Hotel Fakeout Photos -- Hotel Fakeout Photos
Photos from -- Hotel pics on the left; real pics on the right

FatWallet ran a story last week about some "creative" photography resorts use in their advertising. Hotel review site, which encourages users to send their own photos of hotels, has a gallery full of examples.

Of course, it's the photographer's job to make things look as good as possible, but it's a slippery slope.

2. 'The story BCG offered me $16,000 not to tell'

Consulting parody poster

MIT newspaper, The Tech, ran an interesting opinion piece this month about a student's ethical dilemma in Dubai. But it's probably not what you think.

The story is not about Dubai or the culture there, but rather the troubling practices of a consulting company the author worked for after leaving MIT:

...[C]lients usually didn’t know why they had hired us. They sent us vague requests for proposal, we returned vague case proposals, and by the time we were hired, no one was the wiser as to why exactly we were there. I got the feeling that our clients were simply trying to mimic successful businesses, and that as consultants, our earnings came from having the luck of being included in an elaborate cargo-cult ritual.

3. The Ethics of Flying Gaming Press to Hawaii

Airplane in Hawaii

Ars Technica asks: Is it ethical for journalists to accept an free trip to Hawaii, in order to view presentations from a game company?

I would add: what about the CO2 from all those trips? Hawaii is a long ways from just about anywhere.

4. Is it OK for vegans to eat oysters?

Plate of Oysters

Okay, so this one is not related to design or business ethics, but as a story about ethical complexities, it made me stop and think. Apparently, oysters are okay for vegans to eat.

I thought vegans didn't eat any animals or animal products. It seems I didn't understand vegans or oysters.

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NickApr 29, 2010

Four Ethics Links: April 12, 2010

Four ethics links is a review of recent stories in applied ethics. This week: The Ethics of Ethisphere, The Banks, War Journalism, Yelp, and Planetary Exploration and Colonization.

In wake of crisis, public eyes corporate ethics - Reuters

Some of the best-known U.S. companies, including General Electric, Gap and Google, made The Ethisphere Institute's 2010 ranking of the 100 most ethical companies (read our worries about these rankings here) , released on Monday. But, after a government bailout of the U.S. financial system, no Wall Street banks were represented for a second straight year.

We quote Reuters, who sounds like they're quoting us:

Top ethics officials at several major U.S. companies said honest business practices are critical after a brutal downturn that pushed the U.S. jobless rate as high as 10 percent, savaged retirement savings and home values and left many Americans less trustful of big business.

Read all about it here

Jean-Francois Millet: Gleaners
Jean-Francois Millet, Gleaners
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PaulApr 12, 2010
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