Tuesday, October 20, 2009

When greed is no longer good

Attended a presentation yesterday on Business and Ethics by Prof. Ed Freeman, who is a visiting scholar to Melbourne University's Trinity College. Ed conducted a quick show of hands around the room to explore common threads in the values we would teach our kids. The three top values were: respect, honesty and selflessness.

The point of the exercise was to demonstrate that these are commonly held values - not only in the room yesterday, but around the world. And, proposed Ed, if these values were those we taught our kids, why had they not applied in business over the years. I proposed that Donald Trump's The Apprentice series mantra, 'It's not personal, it's just business', was at the core of the problem. Series like this promote the idea that this philosophy lies at the core of business success (there is an Australian version of The Apprentice built around a mini-Trump, Mark Bouris, currently airing) .

In an era of celebrity and digestible 15-second grabs, how can we expect Gen Ys and beyond to see life any other way when we have shows that promote these values? The interesting thing in the Australia context is that Mark Bouris has already stated in interviews that his success with the Wizard Home Loans group was as much a consequence of being lucky and in the right place at the right time, as well as just bloody hard work. Nothing in that to suggest that you have to be ruthless also.

Professor Ed made a solid case, littered with commercial examples and simple homespun wisdom, to demonstrate that it is the best interests of business to approach and resolve each challenge as you would wish your own children to deal with their issues. But basically, it boiled down to what brand developers have known for years - act in the best interests of your customers and the rest will follow.

I will post on the challenge of the 15-second grab next time!

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