Friday, July 13, 2007

Business Ethics & Multiple Intelligence

I once, while in college, received a subscription to a publication called Strategy + Business published by Booz Allen Hamilton. I never knew who gifted me this subscription, but I found the magazine profound. It had no b.s., just many solid articles on business. It didn't have the glossy, dumbed down glam of Time, but rather the serious intellectual quality of the New Yorker. No 'Ten Ways to Make Your Business Succeed' type articles or 'Ask Don' columns. Anyway, as part of this project, I subscribed to this publication as reading material for career and mind.

I'm in the middle of an article (Howard Gardner Does Good Work by Lawrence M. Fisher). Howard Gardner is a Harvard professor in the School of Education. His relevance to business comes from his scholarly linking of cognitive development and leadership ability.

First, I admire Howard Gardner for his lifestyle. A brilliant, but frugal man who lives a professionally ethical life. Second, I like what he has to say about business ethics. When presented with the question of why should businesses concern themselves with anything more than making money (i.e. ethics), Gardner states that the survival of business may depend on it.

How bold! How profound! How true... Fisher paraphrases Gardner, too could corporate enterprises be rejected by the body politic -- consumers, employees, and even shareholders -- if they fail to generate wealth for more than a privileged few. If given a choice, he [Gardner] believes, knowledge workers will flock to companies that embrace high standards of excellence and that allow them to feel engaged with society, leaving other firms with the less talented, less motivated members of the workforce.
I have always felt this, but haven't put it so eloquently. In my business aspirations, I have always believed that I needed to not just make money (let there be no doubt that I want to make money), but to fulfill a social need and create economic and social wealth for the community my businesses operate in. I want my employees to be better compensated than anyone else around and that the communities they live in provide them a higher quality of life. Sort of like the utopia Milton Hershey envisioned for Hershey, PA, but rather than providing everything, I want to endow the employees and community businesses with the ability to do it themselves.

Another quick mention in the article is about Gardner's other studies. There are two that caught my eye. The first put forth in his book, Five Minds for the Future. The second in Creating Minds. Both of these I'll put on my reading list.

Five Minds "posits five sets of congnitive capabilities that will be any successful citizen, professional, or businessperson. These include the 'disciplined mind,' the 'synthesizing mind,' the 'creative mind,' the 'respectful mind,' and the 'ethical mind'" (Fisher). The article sprung forth from this last 'mind,' but I find a great interest in reading more about the others.

Creating Minds
interests me because of my daughters. Fisher writes of the book's posit, "Children do indeed know how to play, but achieving sustained creativity requires first mastering a particular domain, whether classical piano or particle physics, which in turn requires at least 10 years of intense study, generally amid a community of supportive individuals." I've suspected this after watching my 6 year old daughter jump from activity to activity, never spending more than a couple weeks learning anything. Karate, gymnastics, dance, theater, t-ball, ballet, horseback riding, authorship, singing... they never lasted and I can't say she actually achieved any true understanding, much less mastery, of these disciplines. I know that I've found in my own life a great difficulty focusing on anything or achieving true mastery over anything. I think it's because I was allowed to "do whatever I wanted" and my childhood and adolescent genius was spent on who-knows-what, rather than focused on any one discipline.

In summary, a great article on a great subject. And an interesting author for me to explore more.

Fisher, Lawrence M. "Howard Gardner Does Good Work." Strategy + Business Summer 2007: 82-91.

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