As you know, we have been doing short vignettes-“What Would You Do?”-all semester. A survey sent to BU faulty about “dishonesty among students” got me thinking about the ability to buy papers on the Internet. I surfed to samedayessay.com . The following transcript is verbatim. I only changed the name of the customer service rep a I worried she would potentially face some retribution.
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Voracious. That’s how I would describe my reading style. From the very beginnings of my lovely life, I have always loved to read. In fact, that’s how I skipped a grade – I was reading chapter books in kindergarten (a little ahead of the curve much?), and I began to split my time between kindergarten and first grade. Two years later, it was decided that I was precocious and apparently socially skilled enough (who knows where on earth they got that idea) and next thing you know, I missed out on the experience that was third grade.
To this day, reading is still one of my favorite activities. That’s all that I do when I’m home! One of my biggest regrets about school is how little time I have for non-academic readings. What a nerd, I know. But if I sat down with a book, I promise you I would get nothing done until I finished that sucker. So this week’s blog post was simultaneously exciting and annoying…. I got to look at fiction books! But…. I got to look at books I wanted to but knew I couldn’t read because otherwise I’d not do my work, fail my classes, and not graduate. Great.
So, this afternoon found me reluctantly heading towards the fiction section on the first floor. The first book to catch my eye was Monday Morning, written by Sanjay Gupta, MD. The cover is mostly black with a large white font, which made it stand out from the rest of the books with picturesque scenes of trees or lakes or other romantic sappy things. When I looked closer, I almost left it; I saw that it was written by a real doctor, who apparently is also the Chief Medical Correspondent to CNN. I’ll be honest, I want nothing to do with dry medical reports, especially if it’s all gonna be bad news. But then I saw the “a novel” line and I was instantly intrigued. A real doctor who is also a reporter who wrote fiction? Wait… what?
I glanced at the inside cover to find a synopsis which goes a little something like this: “Every time surgeons operate, they’re betting their skills are better than the brain tumor, the faulty heart valve, the fractured femur. Sometimes, they’re wrong. At Chelsea General, surgeons answer for bad outcomes at the Morbidity and Mortality conference, known as M & M. This extraordinary peek behind the curtain into what is considered the most secretive meeting in all of medicine is the back drop for the entire book. Continue reading
Built on the formula “buy cheap, sell for less than the other guy, and make a profit on high volume and fast turnover,” Wal-Mart today is the world’s largest retailer. Founded in 1962 by Sam Walton, the company’s key focus is selling goods at the lowest price possible. Wal-Mart places what seems like a fanatical emphasis on the slogan “Always low prices. Always.” Although this business strategy may appear to be very appealing in a consumer’s point of view, Wal-Mart has faced significant criticism for the way it operates. Over the years, Wal-Mart has appeared to favor one group of stakeholders: its consumers. Wal-Mart has placed so much emphasis on satisfying one group of stakeholders that it has neglected the other groups of stakeholders, like employees, or other businesses. Wal-Mart has affected communities and businesses both nationwide and worldwide, but one big question remains – is Wal-Mart worth really worth price? In other words, does the money consumers save ultimately translate into a better quality of life for the majority of people?
In order to fully understand the criticisms of Wal-Mart, one must first grasp the phenomenon better known as “The Wal-Mart Effect.” In The Wal-Mart Effect and a Decent Society: Who Knew Shopping Was So Important, Charles Fishman discusses what the Wal-Mart effect is and how it is shaping everyday life in both the United States and around the world. Fishman says that the “Wal-Mart Effect” is this:
“It is when Wal-Mart comes into town, reshapes shopping habits, and drains the viability of traditional local shopping areas or mom-and-pop shops. It is the relentless downward pressure on the prices of everyday necessities that a single vast retailer can exert on behalf of customers. It is the suburbanization of shopping; the downward pressure on wages at all kinds of stores trying to compete with Wal-Mart; the relentless scrutiny of unnecessary costs that allows companies to survive on thinner profits; the success of large business at the expense of its rivals and the way in which that success builds on itself” (Fishman, 2006).
Clearly, Wal-Mart effects more people than simply those who shop at the stores. Fishman furthers his argument about the Wal-Mart effect and claims that the effect can be felt both directly and indirectly. “Those who never shop at Wal-Mart typically pay 5% less for their groceries if Wal-Mart is in their town” (Fishman, 2006). When a Wal-Mart opens in a surrounding area, businesses are forced to compete with the lower prices, and thus will lower their prices as well. Even if people never set foot in a Wal-Mart, they still reap the benefits – specifically, lower prices (Fishman, 2006). However, the real question is about how much Wal-Mart really saves the consumer, and whether or not those saving dramatically offset the costs of the Wal-Mart effect.
It is clear that Wal-Mart has a significant impact on businesses and communities in the area, but what is it that makes Wal-Mart so unique? In other worlds, how are they able to lower prices to unprecedented amounts? According to Professor Edna Bonacich of U.C. Riverside, featured in the Frontline documentary “Is Wal-Mart Good for America?” Wal-Mart operates by using something called the “pull system”. Essentially, this involves retailers, like Wal-Mart, deciding what is being sold, collecting information on what is being sold, and then telling manufacturers what to produce and when to produce it (Frontline, 2004).
According to John Lehman, a former Wal-Mart store manager, this kind of business is apparently very one-sided. In the documentary, Lehman discusses how Wal-Mart doesn’t leave much room for negotiation. Essentially, Wal-Mart tells a company what price they want to sell something for, and then the manufacturer must find a way to make the product such that they can meet this demand. If a manufacturer cannot meet these expectations, Wal-Mart will find another manufacturer who can fulfill their needs. This usually means outsourcing to Asian manufacturers, where they can meet these needs because standards of living are much lower, and companies can produce goods at a cheaper cost. Skip Hartquist, an attorney at Five Rivers, mentioned in the documentary, discusses how outsourcing is affecting American manufacturers.
“It’s not fair trade. It’s not free trade. The Chinese are pricing their products in a manner contrary to the obligations they undertook when they joined the World Trade Organization a few years ago. The Chinese system has built-in advantages that no one else in the world has. Their currency is undervalued by, we estimate, about 40 percent. Their workers are not treated fairly in terms of worker rights. The government provides subsidies to Chinese producers at preferential interest rates that may not even have to be repaid. It’s a rigged system” (Frontline, 2004).
While Wal-Mart is now the leading retailer in the United States, their business model is not sustainable as they favor only one group of their stakeholders: their consumers. Wal-Mart must operate as a social institution, not just a corporate system. In other words, Wal-Mart must realize the connections between the private troubles and public issues in order to create a harmonious balance between stakeholders. Connecting private troubles and public issues is imperative for companies, as discussed in The Sociological Imagination, by C. Wright Mills. In this case, Wal-Mart is the public sector and its stakeholders make up the private sector. The sociological imagination, according to Mills, is the capacity to shift from one perspective to another (Mills, 1959). Wal-Mart must shift their paradigm and realize that focusing solely on low prices comes at the cost of many people. People are not just consumers – they also need to earn a living as well.
In order to be a sustainable company, Wal-Mart must find a balance among its stakeholders. In Stakeholder Theory of the Modern Corporation, Ed Freeman argues its management’s duty to look after the health of the corporation. This means paying attention to anyone who is a stakeholder of Wal-Mart. As companies get bigger, other groups of stakeholders, such as governments, NGOs, critics, etc. become equally as important. Although Wal-Mart started out as a small company, it has grown to be the largest retailer in the United States. Since the company has grown significantly, their responsibilities have grown as well. According to The Wal-Mart Effect and Business, Ethics, and Society, Wal-Mart cannot view its stakeholders purely in economic terms. R. Edward Freeman argues that Wal-Mart is focusing its business strategy only within the context of the traditional stakeholder theory – maximizing profits.
One example of a similar company that has managed to find a harmonious balance between stakeholders is Costco. Costco’s business model is simple: sell a limited number of items, keep costs down, rely on high volume, pay workers well, have customers buy memberships, aim for upscale shoppers, and don’t advertise (Cascio, 2006). The fundamental difference between Wal-Mart and Costco is that Costco delivers low prices in a more stainable manner, by focusing on satisfying all stakeholders, rather than just favoring one group of stakeholders, like Wal-Mart. Costco not only pays its employers higher than the average Wal-Mart employee, but Costco also has better relations with their suppliers. While Wal-Mart is notorious for having very one-sided relationships with their suppliers, Costco has a different approach. According to Wayne Cascio in Decency Means More than “Always Low Prices”: A Comparison of Costco to Wal-Mart’s Sam’s Club, Costco is tough on its suppliers to keep prices low, but instead of refusing to do business with a supplier if they can’t exactly meet Costco’s needs, Costco simply warns suppliers not to offer other retailers lower prices than what they get (Cascio, 2006). Furthermore, Cascio warns that Wal-Mart’s cheap-labor model is very costly in the long run. “It can lead to poverty and related social problems, and transfer costs to other companies and taxpayers, who indirectly pay the health-care costs of all the workers not insured by their frugal employers” (Cascio, 2006).
In conclusion, The Wal-Mart effect is not a new phenomenon, nor is it going away any time soon. Indirectly or directly, people who live in an area with a Wal-Mart store feel the effects of the retailer. Although Wal-Mart prides itself on its ability to set the precedent for low prices, the reality is this: low prices come at the cost of many people. Moving forward, Wal-Mart must recognize that favoring one group of stakeholders is both unsustainable and unethical. Wal-Mart should adopt a business model more similar to Costco’s – one that balances the interests of all groups of stakeholders.
Cascio, Wayne F. Decency Means More Than “Always Low Prices”: A Comparison of Costco to Wal-Mart’s Sam’s Club. Academy of Management Perspectives (Aug., 2006), pp 26-37.
Fishman, Charles. The Wal-Mart Effect and a Decent Society: Who Knew Shopping Was So Important? Academy of Management Perspectives, Vol. 20, No. 3 (Aug., 2006), pp 6-25. Published by Academy of Management. Article Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4166248
Freeman, Edward. “Stakeholder Theory of the Modern Corporation.” General Issues in Business Ethics: 39-49. Print.
Freeman, R. Edward. The Wal-Mart Effect and Business, Ethics, and Society. Academy of Management Perspectives, Vol. 20, No. 3 (Aug., 2006), pp 38-40. Published by: Academy of Management. Article Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4166250
Frontline. 2004. Is Wal-Mart Good for America? November 16. Retrieved from http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/walmart/view/ on April 3, 2012.
Mills, C. Wright. “The Sociological Imagination.” Oxford University Press (1959). Print.
“Employers Creative Use of Facebook” by Amanda
“Costs of Being Costco” by Caitlin
Almost everyone has heard of the membership warehouse retailer, Costco Wholesale, whether or not you actually choose to shop there. You can find one of their warehouses in over 400 locations around the United States, as well as an additional 200 warehouses in Canada, Mexico, Australia, the United Kingdom, and parts of Asia. Although they are not quite as instantly recognizable as their main competitor, Sam’s Club of Wal-Mart Inc., Costco has attracted somewhat of a cult following due to their unusual business operations. In many financial comparisons, Costco seems to beat out all of their industry competitors. Even in the recent economic downtown, Costco still posted growth in their stock, as well as higher than industry average profits. So what exactly makes Costco so successful? Many business analysts argue that Costco’s focus on corporate social responsibility is what sets them apart from other retailers such as Sam’s Club or BJ’s Warehouse. Their focus on doing “the right thing” for all of their stakeholders, as well as a vision that aims for long-term success, is a unique business model that has interesting implications for many debates within the business world today. Should a company’s main focus be profit? Do they have a responsibility to act in the best interest of all stakeholders? What are the effects of these decisions? Using Costco as a prime example of a socially responsible corporation, I hope to prove that acting in a socially responsible manner towards all stakeholders is ultimately more beneficial for a company. Continue reading
When I originally applied to Bucknell it was through the biology program. I grew up with a mom that worked as a nurse and a dad that worked with pharmaceutical companies, so I always heard a lot about healthcare. One of the studies that my dad frequently talked about was stem cell research. He would always say how amazing it was, and how many lives it could save, but I did not know the extent of this or about the ethical dilemmas behind it until recently.
For anyone that does not know, stem cells are cells found in organisms that divide and differentiate into specialized cell types. They can self-renew to produce more stem cells as well. These stem cells can be extracted from bone marrow, lipid cells, or blood. By extracting these cells from the donor and inserting them into another person, scientists have found that they can act as a repair system for the body and fight diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s. Sounds great, right?
Stem cell research has raised ethical, legal, religious, and policy questions. The main reason is the derivation of embryonic stem cells from early human embryos and embryonic germ cells from aborted fetal tissues. Furthermore, the general concept of the potential of generating human organs is another debate.
The following video tells a true success story of stem cells:
On the ABI/INFORM search engine I found a report produced by the American Association for the Advancement of Science and Institute for Civil Society that performed a study to contribute to the public discussion related to stem cell research and its applications. The document, which is 51 pages long, is their study in which they propose recommendations for conducting stem cell research. This report was from 1999, but I figure the history of the debate will be important to take a look at.
One of the recommendations provided by the report was,
“Embryonic stem cells should be obtained from embryos remaining from infertility procedures after the embryo’s progenitors have made a decision that they do not wish to preserve them. This decision should be explicitly renewed prior to securing the progenitors’ consent to use the embryos in ES cell research.”
I thought this recommendation clearly added to the ethical debate surrounding stem cell research, because much of what is up for discussion is the actual process of gaining consent from the donors. This recommendation provides a basis for the process by which a couple should be addressed that is considering embryo donation, consent for research donation, or consent for destruction of the embryos. The report made it clear that only after the couple has definitely decided not to have the child that they should be approached a second time to discuss the use of embryos in ES cell research.
Obviously this is a huge ethical issue today, and there are many more details that I still do not know about stem cell research. I do think, however, that this report gave me the perfect understanding and potential solutions to the dilemma that I would need to write about this ethical dilemma.
One of the topics in this class that I’m particularly interested in is the whole debate about whether or not Wal-Mart is helping or hurting our economy. “The Wal-Mart effect” has come up in a couple of my classes, and while I’ve read some material about the debate, I thought it would be interesting to dig deeper into the subject to see if I could find out more information.
First, I looked at the works cited page from the Wal-Mart case study we read (the one titled “Wal-Mart’s Business Environment”). Two authors, Nancy Cleeland and Abigail Goldman, were referenced several times in the works cited page. Before I performed the cited reference search, I figured it would be useful to Google these two authors to get some background information on them. When I typed in their names, I noticed that Cleeland and Goldman, along with a few other staff members at the LA Times, were awarded a Pulitzer Prize in 2004 for the staff’s “engrossing examination of the tactics that have made Wal-Mart the largest company in the world with cascading effects across American towns and developing countries.”
After finding out that these two authors had written so much on Wal-Mart, I immediately I knew I was on the right track, and figured I would be able to find a bunch of quality articles dealing with this topic. One in particular, titled “An Empire Build on Bargains Remakes the Working World” looked like it might be helpful to me. Written by Cleeland and Goldman, the article focuses on the impact of Wal-Mart, on a personal level and on a broader level. For some people, like 26-year-old Chastity Ferguson, Wal-Mart is her favorite store because the prices can’t be beat anywhere else. For Ferguson, it’s a no brainer to shop at Wal-Mart since she only makes $400 a week and wants to save as much money as possible wherever she can. However, for others like Kelly Gray, who have lost their job because Wal-Mart has taken business away from the local stores, it is hard not to resent the store.
In a broader sense, Cleeland and Goldman discuss how Wal-Mart both gives and takes away. Although the company has grown tremendously and created jobs all over the world, it has come at a heavy price. By relentlessly cutting prices, Wal-Mart has helped hold down the inflation rate for the country, according to U.S. economists. Consumers are undoubtedly reaping the benefits, but what about the employees and local business owners trying to compete with this competitive business model?
This article is only one of the many written about this particular topic. Using the cited reference search allowed me to find trusted, quality sources that could help me dig deeper into this subject, and I look forward to reading stories from both ends of the spectrum.
A Business Ethics Guild Award is an accolade given by the BGS Blog Council (BGSBC) to recognize outstanding blogging by class members. The award given features a nude male figure holding both a mask of comedy and a mask of tragedy and is called “The Blogger.” It is 16 inches tall, weighs over 12 pounds, and is cast in solid bronze.
Nominations for the awards are determined by and debated by the blog council of approximately 3-5 members. Winners are also chosen by the Blog Council and are notified through a post on the blog site.
This week’s prompt asked that we select a TV episode of our choosing and relate it to either management or business. We were asked to select an episode that on the surface seems to have little relation to business or management. Then, we were asked to analyze it in a way that clearly connects the show to our subject matter.
The Blog council thoroughly enjoyed reading about your shows and pondering your intuitive remarks about how each particular episode connected to our course. That being said, there were six categories that we focused heavily on:
With these award categories, there were three posts this week that stole the awards show.
Award for Originality and Uniqueness of Blog Post
Award for the Best Use of Comedy in a Blog Post
Award for the Best Integration of Episode and Analysis
There is one blog post that stood out above the rest. It earned the majority of the above awards and thus distinguished itself as the best post of the week:
Award for Best Creativity/ Quality of Writing
Award for Best Use of Drama in a Blog Post
Award for Best Organization of Writing
Award for Blog Post of the Week
Congratulations Caitlin! In addition to your invisible “Blogger” statuette, you also get the opportunity to choose one week where you only have to complete half of the homework questions for FULL credit!!
One of my favorite shows is the British science fiction drama, Misfits. Currently filming its fourth season with an American production in the works, Misfits is just about everything you might want in a show – superheroes, evil villains, obscene language, clever writing, superb acting, dark humor, murder, sex, drinking, and a fantastic soundtrack.
The show follows a group of 5 early 20’s delinquents, sentenced to community service. In the first episode, they are struck by an electrical storm, and each delinquent develops some sort of superpower – immortality, the ability to rewind time, overhearing others’ thoughts, invisibility, and sexual power. Their probation worker is deranged from the storm, and one of our crew kills him in self-defense. Much of the first season revolves around “the gang” trying to prevent anyone from finding out about the murder, as they fear no one will believe that a group of juvenile delinquents has superpowers and had to kill their crazy probation worker in self-defense. It soon becomes clear to the viewer that each episode centers around one villain, usually a citizen who uses a power gained in the storm to harm others, and it is up to our quirky delinquents to stop each villain. Hilarity ensues.
In later seasons, more complex scenarios are introduced – other characters with complicated backgrounds enter the Misfits world, and questions of morality arise. At the end of the second season, our gang has finished their community service and is trying to adjust to normal life. By this time, (spoiler alert!) the appearance of “superpowers” within certain citizens has been outed to society, and their powers are no longer a secret. For some of the gang, their powers are a nuisance. The last episode of the season, a “Christmas Special”, centers around a discouraged vicar, who buys the superpowers of walking on water and telekinesis, and uses these powers to convince people he is the next Jesus. Meanwhile, the same dealer has bought the powers of the misfits. As the vicar exploits his new followers for money, he continues to buy more powers, including some of the gang’s. A follower of the vicar attempts to rob a bar where our misfits are currently day drinking, and in the process, kills one of the gang. Realizing that they cannot save her without their powers (especially the power to reverse time), they run back to the power dealer, who will sell them the remaining powers back for a much higher price than they recieved. What now?
Watch the scene below, starting at 30:00 – hulu will ask to you to log in due to mature content
Private Practice is a TV show spin-off of the popular medical drama Grey’s Anatomy. The show follows the lives of doctors at Oceanside Health & Wellness Group in Los Angeles, CA. Charlotte King is the Chief of Staff at St. Ambrose Hospital which is adjacent to Oceanside Health & Wellness Group. The doctors face many ethical dilemmas associated with their patients, but Charlotte is forced to make many tough decisions on behalf of the hospital.
If you’ve never seen the show Curb Your Enthusiasm before, you are missing out. This show stars Larry David, creator of Seinfeld, who plays himself in the most ridiculous situations. Larry always seems to find himself in some sort of predicament and attempts to talk his way out of it. I chose what I think is one of the funniest episodes out of all of the nine seasons, “The Weatherman” to talk about for the blog; Some issues that pop up are Larry’s plaque, the idea of rolling up a sleeve and ruining the elasticity of a shirt, and peeing sitting down and falling in the toilet (this is why he walks with a cane in the video clip). Of all the episodes, one of the most ridiculous theories he comes up with is that the weatherman predicts rain to get everyone off the golf course, in order to clear it for himself. You can watch a short clip of the episode here:
The issue at hand is that Larry and his friend Jeff planned on going golfing, but Jeff cancels because of the weatherman’s report about thunderstorms. When Larry wakes up he sees that it is actually a beautiful day outside, and concludes that the weatherman predicted rain on purpose. Larry goes to the golf course and finds the weatherman playing golf, where Larry claims, “There is a jet stream of bullshit coming out of your mouth!”
While I realize that this is a very particular scenario in a comedic TV show, I think the general issue can be related to our class. This is a question of whether the weatherman’s report was honest, or if he deceived the public by giving a false report in order to gain something for himself. Is it ethical either way? I believe this raises the issue the rarity of honest business practices today.
Grey’s Anatomy has been one of my favorite shows since its debut in 2005. Okay, I’ll admit, part of me watches the show only to stare at McDreamy’s hair or McSteamy’s washboard abs, but the other part of me thoroughly enjoys the ethical dilemmas that the cast faces each episode. For those of you who are not familiar with the show, I’ll catch you up with some brief background:
Grey’s Anatomy (no, not Gray’s Anatomy, the book) is a medical drama television show created by Shonda Rhimes, who also created the spinoff called Private Practice. Grey’s Anatomy takes place in Seattle, Washington and follows the lives of several interns, residents, and patients as they attempt to balance their medical careers with their personal lives — something that is not always easy. Inappropriate relationships, breaches in patient confidentiality, and intense conflicts of interest are not uncommon at Seattle Grace Hospital. The doctors continually face moral dilemmas and are at constant war with each other about what the “right” thing to do is.
One of the main characters, Meredith Grey, is known for making reckless decisions. Although these decisions are usually viewed as the unethical, it’s sometimes hard to completely disagree with her actions. For example, in season seven, Meredith tampers with Dr. Shepherd’s Alzheimer’s trial by switching the paperwork so that the Chief’s wife Adele Webber will receive the Alzheimer drug that Dr. Shepherd is administering to several patients. Adele’s condition seemed to be deteriorating quickly, and since the Chief has acted as a father figure throughout the years, Meredith figured she would help him out. After all, Meredith’s mother passed away from Alzheimer’s, so she experienced first hand how devastating the disease can be. Did Meredith do the wrong thing?
Of course Meredith didn’t do the “right” thing. But on the other hand, part of me was rooting for her as I sat and watched the episode, hoping she would go through with it despite how risky it was. Nevertheless, looking back on her action today, I can say with complete confidence that she did the wrong thing. The whole point of clinical trials are that they are designed and conducted with great care to ensure valid results that are free of bias. Proper randomization of patients and making sure they don’t know if they are administered the trial drug or the placebo are crucial to preventing bias. Although Meredith was trying to help a friend, if we all tried to help a friend in this kind of matter, chaos would ensue.
I’m not sure that this story directly relates to any of the material we’ve read for class, but it is a good reminder that acting ethically and doing the right thing is imperative. I suppose it kind of reminds me of the Enron case where the company started to cut corners and not follow the rules, ultimately leading to Enron’s collapse. Hypothetically of course, if Seattle Grace Hospital always cut corners, it would most likely have some sort of collapse itself.
Long story short: as much as you sometimes want to help out a friend, its costs might not outweigh its benefits. You might actually be hurting more people than helping. If we expect others to act ethically, we must do the same.
So we all have our favorite fairy tale stories that our parents used to tell us before bedtime. Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Hansel and Gretel… the list goes on and on. But, what we were living in an a world that was remnant of a parallel one? That is the basis of ABC’s new show Once Upon A Time. Continue reading
I found the story of Seth Maxwell, one of the 2011 Do Something Awards Finalists, to be particularly inspiring. Seth, a 22 year-old college graduate from Los Angeles, CA, learned from a friend that almost 1 billion people lack access to clean water and that water-borne illnesses account for more than 80% of all global disease. He found this information troubling and immediately decided to do something about it.
He began what became known as the Thirst Project in March of 2008. Seth, along with eight of his friends, was committed to making a difference. They invested all their cash – about $70 in total – and purchased 1,000 bottles of water. They distributed the free water on Hollywood Blvd. and began educating the public, through informal conversations, about the clean water crisis. In a single day, they raised awareness and more than $1,700 in donations! Continue reading
I am supremely interested in the manner psychology affects the way that we construe situations and events. In this realm, my primary area of interest is social psychology, a part of psychology that causes more problems in the business-world than solutions. Social psychology focuses on the psychological impacts that a group has on one individual. Within this domain, there are many phenomena that contribute to the material that we cover, but I will focus on a couple core theories that directly relate to our cases thus far. These phenomena are obedience, groupthink, and deindividuation.
A psychological concept that is relevant to Enron’s demise is obedience. Obedience is represented by one’s willingness to disobey his or her personal values when in the presence of an authority figure asking him or her to do so. Such a phenomenon occurs even when there will be no repercussion to the individual if he or she does not comply with the authority’s demands. Stanley Milgram portrayed this concept in action by performing a study in which a subject was asked to shock a confederate of the experiment whenever this confederate answered a question incorrectly. The machine that the subjects used to shock the confederate counted up in 15 volt increments to 450 volts, past where the label above the voltages indicate a “Danger: Severe Shock” sign. As the confederate continuously got answers wrong, the subject was told to punish him incrementally by doling out higher, more dangerous shocks. Despite the labels above the voltage, cries from the confederate, and the subject’s own inhibitions, twenty-six out of forty subjects continued with the experiment until the highest shock was given to the confederate. Such an example shows the extent to which an authority figure controls underlings, regardless of their respective values and beliefs. This experiment is shown below: Continue reading
Hear ye, Hear ye, o writers and bloggers! We (Derek, Jordi, Chris) proclaimeth!
Upton Sinclair Prize for Muck-Raking:
For your blog post, please take an item or object, with a clear brand identity, and explore what you can learn about the maker’s stance as a company on relevant BGS questions. As a bonus, you can watch the “Story of Stuff” at the Campus Theatre next Tuesday at 7 p.m. Your post can go many directions:
Please, if you discover that your favorite branded company has a questionable or even awful track record, save the guilt. Do you know how hard it is to buy clothes NOT made in questionable conditions?!? Feel free to imagine a different world, but guilt is not the price of admission to that conversation.
For example, I think I will do Automagic, the company that makes wordpress. Part of the reason is I thought of a company whose product I whole-heartedly endorse with word of mouth. “Worpdress is great, better than blogger,” is a phrase I have said many times. A little like AIG, I am giving away my good name to this product. I suspect as a tech start up they are venture capital-funded and therefore probably have much less public info than bigger firms. Do what you can!
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
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.