I love fairy tales. I love watching the fairies, wizards and goblins sprinkle their magical pixie dust as they cannily disguise fantasy as the truth—and the truth as fantasy. They just make me smile…
I have also always seen their great value as they force us to separate and disentangle truth from fantasy. And that is good – particularly as we always seem to be in a political season in which politicians lie outrageously to us.
Always, our greatest challenge is Mark Twain, who once wrote that the truth is stranger than fiction, because fiction has to make sense. Of course, he was right: The truth doesn’t have to make sense. But this raises another question: When something does makes sense, does that suggest that its fiction? Who knows? Of course, this can hurt our minds. But that’s fine, because this too makes me smile…
So, in this article, I’m offering you a fairy tale. Your challenge will be to decide how much of it is misleading – and how much isn’t... Good luck!
In one recent article, I offered you a story that was an ethics test that many of our finest and brightest had failed. In that story, I wrote how someone had remained silent as he heard a friend tell an outrageous lie that resulted in an investor losing a lot of money. This is part of my fairy tale.
In another article, I offered you a story about those huge companies that were involved in those outrageous financial scams. To make sure everyone in their companies acted ethically, each had put into place beautifully crafted Codes of Ethics. I wrote how these leaders had studiously ignored their own Codes of Ethics – in part by putting their personal financial interests ahead of the interests of their companies. For them, integrity had taken a back seat… They looked away as those around them cheated and acted unethically. This is also part of my fairy tale.
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A “FAIRY TALE”
“A story involving fantastic forces and beings
that are often fairies, wizards, and goblins.”
“A made-up story usually designed to mislead.”
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MY FAIRY TALE
A problem to solve…
Once upon a time, many moons ago, in the mightiest kingdom in the universe, there were a few huge companies that dominated the universe’s business world…
Meanwhile, each of the wizards and priests that ran these companies had put into place beautifully crafted Codes of Ethics to allow them to assure the general public that their companies did business ethically.
These wizards and priests then proceeded to ignore their very own Codes. Soon, an epidemic of cheating and acting unethically broke out. When faced with a choice between furthering their personal financial interests and integrity, these wizards and priests each turned their backs on integrity. Everyone in these companies turned and looked away as those around them cheated and acted unethically.
Well, as you might imagines, these companies eventually collapsed and as many of the wizards and priests went to prison.
What was the Grand Ruler of the mightiest kingdom in the universe to do?
A solution to the problem …
The Grand Ruler decided to solve the problem by directing the schools of business to do a better job training future leaders of industry to be more sensitive to ethical issues – and particularly to be more sensitive of the need never to put one’s personal financial interests ahead of integrity.
Everyone rejoiced in the Grand Ruler’s decision…
How did the schools do?
The schools quickly implemented the Grand Ruler’s decision. They knew they had to introduce new ethics courses. And, as they did so, they eagerly embraced the noble goal of improving the ethical standards of future leaders of industry.
The organization responsible for accrediting business schools in the universe refused to demand the teaching of certain ethical courses as a condition to be accredited as a business school. Being accredited was essential for any business school.
Each school would have to create their own ethics programs.
So, how did they do?
Studies conducted by the best fairies and goblins in the universe released their reports. Unbelievably, they determined that students at business schools cheated more than students in any other faculties. They also determined that the deans and faculties of these business schools knew about this epidemic of cheating in their schools.
Despite this, the deans and faculties did nothing to slow down this epidemic of cheating…
And why was this?
On the one hand, they sensed that, if they exposed the cheating, this would alienate actual and potential donors, as well as actual and potential students and their parents…
On the other hand, they sensed that they simply couldn’t afford to turn their back on integrity. They knew the financial scandals were the result of leaders turning their backs on integrity. They knew they had to do what they could to stop this.
What did they decide?
They decided to turn their backs on integrity. They decided to focus on the financial interests of their business schools.
Despite the best intentions of the Grand Ruler, the cheating epidemic in the universe continued… It was never a case of WHETHER it would continue… It was always the a case of WHEN it would continue…
Did everyone live happily ever after? No, not really…
So, how much of my fairy tale was true?
Everything!I hope you enjoyed this. If you'd like to hear a podcast in which I interviewed Prof Diane Swanson and Steve Burrows CBE about the problem of cheating in business schools, you can find it in my latest blog, "A Fatal Flaw In The Training Of Our Business Leaders."Again, enjoy!!!Michael Friedlander