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Business “Ethics”: How to Define Right and Wrong


In the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy’s entry on business ethics, many interesting points are raised on how to define, explain, and apply the concept of business ethics. Our class has already spent a considerable amount of time trying to define ethics and how they fit into our society, our government, and our businesses, and I suspect that those discussions were only the tip of the iceberg. So I was not surprised to find the article awash with conflicting definitions and views, which were both fascinating and frustrating to read about. Continue reading

Positives and Negatives of Classroom Blogging


Classroom Blogging

Positives

One of the most substantial gains that classroom blogging can contribute to an academic class is that blogging is a forum through which students are encouraged to actively participate consistently. On a blog, there is no privacy to keep ones rambling thoughts and ideas from being shared with the greater part of the class. Therefore, the peer-reviewing pressure encourages students to bring their “A-game” for each post that they publish to a class blog. Furthermore, this type of classroom communication allows others to critically evaluate others work by commenting underneath each post. Such a technique enables students to be actively engaged in others contributions to the class, ultimately forcing students to read other individuals’ thoughts as well as critically evaluate these posts. Students are also able to receive immediate feedback from comments from fellow classmates.

The theory behind “two heads is better than one” has shown to be true. We are all indelibly ingrained with unique ways of perceiving and processing information, thus our different neural networks allow us to take differing perspectives on the same issues. Through blogging, students are able to learn from others’ posts and work off of these ideas to produce a better end-product. Even better, all of these ideas are captured on one forum, as opposed to spread out in individual papers. All students have access to all ideas, whether recent or old.

Continue reading

C. Wright Mills “a born troublemaker”


Charles Wright Mills, 1916-1962

C. Wright Mills was born in Texas to a white-collar insurance broker and a housewife.  His childhood consisted of moving around a lot within Texas, causing him to grow up with many intimate friendships. After grade school, Mills anticipated an engineering career and enrolled in Texas A&M. One year later he transferred to the University of Texas. He received a bachelor’s degree in sociology and a master’s degree in philosophy, and went on to receive his PhD. Mills became a Professor of Sociology at Columbia University and later, one of the most controversial figures in American social science. Continue reading

You want me to do what??


From an early age, I can remember my English courses preaching on the importance of sticking to MLA format, having a few drafts before turing in a final one, and spending countless hours preparing such a report. But now I keep hearing this blogging word floating around. Do you mean to tell me I can speak my mind without having to follow a set of guidelines? Interesting.

Blogging has become one of the most dominant forces on the Internet since its inception in the late 1990’s. The sky is the limit for self-proclaimed bloggers and blogging as a whole, as this whole new aspect to idea sharing and social-media is still very early in development.

When first hearing about blogging, it never really interested me as I figured it was more geared toward those Geek Squad guys over at Best Buy. Little did I know, blogging is one of the most used tools by intellectuals and students of my age. Now that I am a member of this class, I have to admit, this is my first time as a “blogger”. Now that you know about the relationship between myself and blogging, let’s take a closer look into the role that blogging plays in education.

As I pointed to earlier, blogging is an excellent writing tool that can be utilized essentially at any location with WIFI and a compatible device. This is obviously a major advantage over standard writing methods that require MLA format, as is commonplace. Moreover, blogging creates a port for writers to express their thoughts on a much more frequent and informal basis. In a way, it makes writing not so much a task but rather an engaging experience that taps into a wide variety of audiences rather than just a professor. Finally, blogging can be an excellent tool for tweaking and strengthening one’s writing abilities. Students required to blog every week in addition to formal writing requirements are bound to be ahead of those students who just engage in formal writing requirements.

On the other hand, blogging can inspire one to abandon all those years of English courses and MLA format. It could also be seen as a source of unwanted rebellion and anarchy. Another downside of blogging is the fact that bloggers can potentially defame anyone or anything. Furthermore, because of the massive size of blogging it would seemingly go unnoticed. To be concise, blogging can spread the wrong kind of message about expressing one’s self. But then again that can also be an upside to blogging. All in all, I believe that blogging is a positive writing utensil when utilized correctly and in the right context. Some people are greatly opposed to it. But how could they be when we pride ourselves on being American and “free”.

 

Enron — one of the greatest frauds in American history


The Enron fraud scandal is undoubtedly unparalleled to any case of its kind.  After a 56 day trial, former CEO and president Jeffrey K. Skilling and former chairman Kenneth L. Lay were found guilty of hiding more than a billion dollars of debt, manipulating energy markets, bribing foreign governments and wiping out their shareholder equity.  Now, a textbook example of how not to conduct business, the case of Enron stands at the center of business ethics.

Google “biggest business ethics scandal” and what comes up? Enron, of course.  The Enron scandal severely damaged the reputation of corporate America.  The downfall began when Enron failed to accurately report their financial statements.  Instead of admitting the company wasn’t performing as well as in previous quarters, executives jumped through several loopholes to modify the company’s balance sheet to portray a favorable depiction of its performance.  Moreover, the company’s accounting practices became sketchier when they chose not to release their financial statements.  What did they have to hide?  Well, apparently a lot.

By the late 1990s, Enron appeared to be performing quite well — or so people thought. Its stock was trading for about $80-$90 per share.  Then, strangely, CEO Skilling quit, citing that he wanted to spend more time with his family and that it had nothing to do with the fact that Enron was about to collapse.  Later in trial, Skilling argued “on the day I left, I absolutely and unequivocally thought the company was in good shape.” Sure he did…

Needless to say, the company fell apart.  Enron declared bankruptcy and shareholders lost around $70 billion dollars — all because of a deliberate ignorance to fraud and ethics.  Now because of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX), there is more protection for the investors by improving the accuracy and reliability of corporate disclosures.  Hopefully with more responsibility placed on the top management team, an Enron-like scandal will never occur again.  Moral of the story: do the right thing!

A Theory about Stakeholders


Take a second to name as many stakeholders as you can that a business should recognize (or just cheat and look at the ones that I listed below)….

 

According to stakeholder theory, which was developed by R. Edward Freeman, there are four stakeholders that are normally addressed by businesses: investors, employees, suppliers, and customers. These are the ones that you probably guessed.  The theory goes on to list a number of other stakeholders though.  These include governmental bodies, political groups, trade associations, trade unions, communities, associated corporations, prospective employees, prospective customers, the public at large, and competitors.  These might not come to mind right away, and most people wouldn’t even think of one of these other stakeholders.  However, business decisions should be made with these unheralded parties in mind.  But how much should they cater to their needs in each individual decision?  This is an essential question that business ethics attempts to answer.  In his theory, Freeman argues that the role of business is to benefit its stakeholders, which will in turn benefit the business.  Ideally, this would be done through innovation that helps align the interests of stakeholders.  If this is accomplished, then the business doesn’t have to deal with tradeoffs that pit stakeholders against each other.  In the end, the fundamental driver of business behavior is the stakeholders of that business.  Because of this, I am fascinated in the identification of stakeholders, and then their subsequent effect on the behavior of businesses.

Blogging in Education


Teachers are introducing students to blogging as early as elementary school.  Some educators who advocate for blogging as a learning tool suggest that it motivates students to want to write.  At an early age, students feel less pressure in blogging and it is an outlet for brainstorming ideas before writing a formal paper.  In addition, students take their blogging assignments more seriously.  They are more apt to use correct grammar and express their ideas in a logical way because they know that other people are going to read and assess their writing style and ideas.

At a later stage in education, blogging presents an outlet to collaborate with others about new ideas.  Students are able to both give and receive feedback on their writing and ideas.  This presents students with the opportunity to gain the opinions of others and focus their thoughts before engaging in a formal writing assignment.  It also gives the writer new knowledge about the aspects of their writing that may be unclear to the reader and ideas that could be explained in a different way.

Blogging is also helpful for students to practice expressing their ideas through writing.  We are all accustomed to voicing our opinions in class.  Blogging forces us to articulate our ideas in a new way and back up our arguments with solid evidence.  Another aspect of blogging is knowing your audience.  Audience awareness is an important aspect of writing and blogs allow students to experiment and learn about the appropriate writing style for different audiences.

The lack of confidentiality in blogging may cause students to hold back their opinions.  Students may fear criticism from classmates or other outside people.  It may also cause tension instead of collaboration if students begin competing for blog posts.  Some educators have also stayed away from blogging in a classroom setting because they feel students are less likely to use proper grammar and punctuation and this may cause poor writing habits.  Although these concerns about blogging in education may be true for some students, I believe the positive aspects of blogging far outweigh the negatives.  Blogging is new to education and as it matures, I believe we will see it more and more from educators and students.

The Greatest Happiness Principle


There is something known as “The Trolley Problem” that is utilized as a hypothetical situation in the study of ethics and morality. There are multiple scenarios of the trolley problem, but here is just one: you are driving a trolley and on the track ahead of you, there are five men working who will be killed unless you pull a lever to divert the train to the other track. However, on the other track there is one man working who will be killed if you choose to divert the train. What would you do? Most people say that they would divert the train in order to save more lives.

This response aligns with the theory of Utilitarianism, which is a principle influenced heavily by John Stuart Mill and Jeremy Bentham. Essentially, Utilitarianism, which has been dubbed “The Greatest Happiness Principle,” is a consequentialist belief that actions should be based on maximizing the amount of happiness for the whole of society. John Stuart Mill wrote in Utilitarianism, “Actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness; wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness. By happiness is intended pleasure and the absence of pain.” Therefore, the action of diverting the train follows utilitarian beliefs, as diverting the train will kill one person instead of five, which by simple reasoning, minimizes the amount of pain suffered by society as a whole.

Now let’s complicate the situation. Let’s say that the five men on the track are workers and the single person on the track is a pregnant woman or the President of the United States. Does this change anything? For many people, it probably does. I think a problem with Mill’s theory of Utilitarianism is that it frames the world and the decisions that people have to make in too simple of a nature. In a purely quantitative sense, killing the pregnant women or the President would still be killing less people than the five workers. However, Mill asserts in his argument that there are different levels of happiness and pleasure. Does saving the President fall into a higher order of happiness for the whole than the happiness that would result from saving the five workers? Questions such as these suggest that the principle of Utilitarianism is flawed in guiding our actions.

Continue reading

Where is Immanuel Kant?


Personally, I am fascinated by how we as a society choose to honor our great leaders who have passed. While I was researching more on Immanuel Kant, I came across information on where he is memorialized today. Kant’s tomb is a mausoleum near the northeast corner of the Königsberg Cathedral in the city of Kaliningrad, Russia.

See it here!

This was not the original way in which Kant was buried. His body was first interred within the cathedral. In 1880, for an unknown reason, his remains were placed in another chapel nearby. There, Kant remained until 1924 when the chapel became uninhabitable. It was later destroyed in order to create the mausoleum which can be visited today.

Kant’s grave stone reads: “Two things fill my mind with ever-increasing wonder and awe, the more often and the more intensely the reflection dwells on them: the starry heavens above me and the moral law within me”.

What makes Kant’s memorial so special is that it was one of the few historical places from the German era that was preserved as the Russians took over the city during the war. It is said that Newlyweds to this day regularly bring flowers to the mausoleum.  In addition to his memorial, Kant is remembered by a replica statue, donated by the Germans, which stands in front of the University of Königsberg. In 2005, the University of Königsberg was even renamed Immanuel Kant State University of Russia. Over two hundred years following his death, Kant was honored in this way during a ceremony with Vladimir Putin and other high ranking German officials.  Since then, the Kant Society was created in order to further the study of Kantianism. He also has a song.

It is obvious that Kant’s contributions of the categorical imperative, transcendental idealism, and nebular hypothesis among his other philosophical successes, continue to permeate through culture today. The value of his contributions can be measured in the many ways in which he is honored to this day.

File:Immanuel Kant Tomb.jpg

 

Business Ethics: Practice versus Concept


According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, there is a difference between the concept of business ethics and what is actually put into practice. There are many debates among academic business ethicists over the different aspects of business ethics. However, in my opinion, these debates focus only on the conceptual ideas behind business ethics and what they think should be taught in universities throughout the country instead of on practical and helpful information regarding ethics. Another issue is that the business ethics discussed in this article only revolve around large, publically traded companies. In reality, this type of business is a minority compared to the multiple styles of business so the article cannot really represent all business ethics.

In the article, business ethics is discussed in segments starting with the history, the role of the corporation, employment relations, international business ethics, and criticisms. The history section of the article is pretty Continue reading

Blogging: Friend or Foe?


The new wave of fast-paced technology has allowed more information to be shared publicly. Blogging, brought on by this new culture of innovation, has become increasingly popular. Bloggers write about many different issues, from politics to fashion, and may allow others to comment on their posts in order to foster a sense of community and the spread of information globally. While some people see blogging as a useful tool, others view it as taking away from the way they were taught to write, and a mere means of providing opinions rather than facts.

Supporters of blogging say that it is a powerful tool to express an idea and receive feedback from many different people with varying backgrounds. At the Institute St. Joseph, the Principal calls blogging “a virtual extension of the classroom”.Blogging has been used for educational purposes, such as teachers posting assignments, receiving assignments, and responding. Also, teachers are able to open the realm of communication further since members of the community can react to current issues that may be discussed in class. Therefore, students are able to learn how to express themselves through writing and can also learn more through their conversations with members of the community.

A quote from the movie Contagion that struck me is, “Blogging is not writing, it’s just graffiti with punctuation.” I remember this from the movie because it made me think about what kind of impact the new wave of blogging may have on the development of writing skills and education. Indeed, critics of blogging believe that it is not real writing, it is teaching kids to write poorly, and it provides little insight. While I believe there are people out there who do not write blogs as eloquently as others, I believe the majority of people who really spend the time blogging are doing it well, and for a good cause.

I learned through my research that many people believe bloggers began receiving recognition only after September 11th occurred. News casters reviewed many blogs during this time to gain more information and have access to video recordings that they otherwise would not have found. Commentator Catherine Seipp recalls, “But after September 11, a slew of new or refocused media junkie/political sites reshaped the entire Internet media landscape. Blog now refers to a Web journal that comments on the news—often by criticizing the media and usually in rudely clever tones—with links to stories that back up the commentary with evidence.” I thought it was really interesting that this tragedy brought so many people together in this way, and was a huge contributor to the development of blogging.

Business Ethics According to Stanford Encyclopedia


The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy’s article entitled Business Ethics was interesting to read.  Although it was published in April of 2008, many of the issues addressed are still relevant at the present time.  First, the entry discusses business ethics on a broad level, defining the concept as “the applied ethics discipline that addresses the moral features of commercial activity.”  But, what exactly is business ethics in practice?  The article goes on to explore the answer(s) to this question, touching upon the role of the corporation, the employment relation, international issues, and criticisms of the focus and methodology of business ethics.

I would agree with the idea presented in the article that business ethics is rooted in corporate social responsibility. According to Forbes, corporate social responsibility refers to “demonstrating concern for the environment, human rights, community development and the welfare of their employees both in the U.S. and abroad.”  In order for a business to be perceived as socially responsible, it must behave in an ethical manner.  As a result, the business may become even more profitable by appealing to increasingly socially and environmentally conscious consumers.

I also liked the idea that business ethics encompasses a business’s relationship to the well-being of society.  This point ties into our class discussion from last week regarding stakeholder theory.  As you might recall from Freeman’s Business Ethics at the Millennium, stakeholder theory argues that a business should be managed in a way that achieves a balance among the interests of all stakeholders, or those who can have some effect on the firm or may be affected by the firm’s actions.  A business needs to be accountable to others and society as a whole by attending to the interests of stakeholders when creating policies and making decisions.

I found the section of the article that described international business ethics particularly interesting as it brought up the emergence of globalization.  I had never really considered the fact that ethical norms may not always be consistent across cultures.  The article explores the question of which ethical norms should guide one’s business conduct in other countries and cultures, with a particular focus on business in less developed countries. The basic guidelines call for the avoiding harm, doing good, respecting human rights, respecting the local culture, cooperating with just governments and institutions, and accepting ethical responsibility for one’s actions.

In addition, international ethical business conduct is directly tied to the debate over sweatshop labor, or the hiring of workers in less developed countries, usually at minimal wages and under poor work conditions, to manufacture products for the developed world.  It is troublesome to me that many multinational firms outsource labor and exploit poor working and wage conditions in less developed countries.  They engage in this practice to increase their profits.  This is unethical.  These firms need to consider the stakeholders involved and pay reasonable living wages and ensure better working conditions for those involved.

John Stuart Mills & Feminism


As a history junkie, I jumped on the opportunity to explore one of our class’s big thinkers more in-depth. As a double major in history, my interest is more narrowly focused on the women’s rights movement, more specifically during the 1960s. Nevertheless, the evolution of women’s roles in society, the formation of gender expectations and the origins of feminism has always absorbed me, and I was fascinated to learn that John Stuart Mill was one of the earliest proponents of women’s rights. Although we often associate Mill with the philosophical ideology of utilitarianism, his 1869 essay entitle The Subjection of Women, advocates for perfect equality between men and women and that subjugating women was  the greatest form of oppression that plagued Great Britain. He stressed that women had the intellectual abilities to be exposed to higher education and should have equal access, while also possessing the capability to occupy roles in the political and professional domains. Additionally, Mill commented on the status and sanctity of marriage, emphasizing that the union between a man and a woman should be equal and that parity should be recognized both within the home and within a social setting.

In regards to the education of women, he believed that the people of Britain ultimately perpetuated certain gender roles within society because the education system was designed to bind women to a sphere of domesticity. By only enlightening and informing women about their responsibilities as mothers, wives and caretakers, men ultimately forced women to become reliant on the dominant paternal figures in their lives. What I found particularly interesting about Mill’s support for women’s liberation was not only did he put his thoughts into writing, but he also put his words into action. As a member of Parliament, he supported the Reform Bill of 1867, while also pushed for an amendment to the bill that would have secured women’s suffrage in Britain. It was no surprised that the amendment to grant a woman’s right to vote failed (Britain would grant temporary voting rights to women in 1918 and full suffrage in 1928).

Mill’s support of women’s rights ultimately correlated with his ideas of utilitarianism, which preach that, “the best actions and policies are defined as those that promote the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people” (ABC-CLIO, 2012). By securing their right to vote, escaping tyranny and patriarchy, and recognizing that their self-interests were different from their male counter-parts, women would be able to secure and redefine their meaning of happiness. At the same time however, despite the fact that Mill’s believed in gender equality, he could not escape the ubiquity of prejudices that existed at the time and the importance of conformity to gender roles.  For example, Mill wrote that, “Like a man when he chooses a profession, so when a woman marries, it may in general be understood that she makes a choice of the management of a household, it may in general be understood that she makes a choice of the management of a household, and the brining up of a family, as the first calls upon he exertions” (Subjection of Women, Chapter 2). This assertion contradicted his belief that women should break from gender stereotypes, and that men and women should maintain equality within the home. This statement underlined women’s inferiority to men, which challenges Mill’s support of women’s liberation and suffrage. Despite the fact that Mill succumbed to societal pressures, made evident by some of  his statements, his ideas as a man were ultimately radical for his time in regards to women’s progress within society, and her desire to break from the shackles of domesticity and have equal opportunity in the public sphere.

 

Blogging in writing and education – the convergence of technology in the classroom


With the advent of technology and the large audience one can gain by sharing their thoughts on the Internet, it’s no wonder there are millions of blogs in cyberspace on any subject one could be interested in.  Blogging has given people a voice who may have not had an audience to share their voice with before.  Blogging also allows gifted writers and storytellers, as well as those with certain media connections, to provide unadulterated information to the public.  In fact, blogging has become so popular, and more importantly influential, that blogs with large audiences (high traffic volume) stand to make money through advertisements, and partnerships, among other things.  Blogging has given a voice to everyone who desires one, and with technology transforming the way we communicate (e.g. iPhone, cloud computing, etc.), blogs can be maintained and altered in seconds from a mobile device or tablet.  Because education is such a hot topic in today’s society, its no wonder blogging, among many other technologies, has invaded the classroom.   Continue reading

Blog Post 2 Instructions


  1. Find something “real” from Enron.  By real, I mean actual documents, voices, or material of the real people and events of the Enron case.  Avoid journalism in the from of articles.  This may be court documents, documentaries, oral histories, blogs form insiders FROM THAT time, Sherry Watkins memo and so on.  Hint: I know some business schools wrote cases praising Enron… that would be Ok also.  Discuss what you found and what it adds to our knowledge of Enron.  Hint: Use the footnotes in the Enron case for some ideas.
  2. Discuss role of blogging in writing and education.  What are pros and cons?  What have others said about this?
  3. Read and respond to the Stanford Encyclopedia article on business ethics.  Link to article.
  4. Provide more background on any of the big thinkers we have read about- C. Wright Mills,  Aristotle, John Stuart Mills and utilitarianism, or Kant.  Use hyperlinks or otherwise include sources you find.  Funny, interesting, or zany information, as long as it is accurate are ok.

Also,

You can check off each of these tasks…

Blog Skills Checklist for Session 3

  • You have changed your display name to something that makes sense.
  • You have added a real image for your avatar.
  • You know how to use categories and tags when crafting a post.
  • You know how to use the “read more” insert into a post so your post does not chew up the whole front page.
  • You know how to find the wordpress.com support.
  • You know how to include hyperlinks in your posts.
  • You know how to include multimedia in your posts.

Background on Session 2 Readings


C. Wright Mills rode a motorcycle.  He was a sociologist at Columbia U.  Some people may think he does not fit into a management or business class since he was more well known for describing the way the elites in US society wielded power.  He did not believe in value-free social science (in contrast to many sociologists of the day and now).  A book list is here.

Click for more on Session 2 Readings.

Continue reading

The Price of Failures of Imagination


Thanks to the Motley Fool, some of the scariest “pictures” of the price of failures of imagination…

 

BLOG INSTRUCTIONS

Blog 5 before session 6 What (interest) or Who (person) Inspires You? For this week’s prompt, the Blog Council wants you to examine how this class relates to your own interests. So, please write about how this class relates to some of your own intellectual or other learning interests. We are NOT interested in how it relates to a specific career goal. Plan B: same idea, but based on a person. See whole post for details.

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