“A poet’s work is to name the unnameable, to point at frauds, to take sides, start arguments, shape the world, and stop it going to sleep.” – Salman Rushdie
OUR evolving narrative
In a nutshell, our exploration is focused on bridging morality, psychology and management science to understand how to craft ethical businesses that enable a "good society". We believe that “organisational goodness" is critical and can be operationalized on three levels, by: (a) the organization as a virtuous actor in society and ecosystem, (b) the organization as a container for collective flourishing through community enablement and virtuous practices (c) the organization as a trustee for authentic and creative self-expression, personal (moral) development and individual thriving.
Organisations pursue idiosyncratic aims and must survive in their respective markets. Yet, we are convinced they can also become – again – inspirational, courageous and responsible agents of a sustainable and shared prosperity for all. Whilst making a fair profit.
During the next weeks and months we will share here our evolving thinking and research, in order to enable collective exploration and stimulate a community of learning. On this page you find the growing book (the questions we tackle per chapter, the references we have consulted). In addition, we hope to be able to showcase work of young researchers who are willing to engage with partners or share their thesis with fellow academics. And we will also stimulate possible master- and bachelor thesis topics - where we can either become sparring partners or offer the theses in collaboration with the University of St. Gallen or the Hochschule für Wirtschaft Zürich.
Further research-oriented insights can also be found on our "bucket list".
We thoroughly believe that today's challenges are often "wicked" and require evidence-based and trans-disciplinary research, as well as intuition and practical wisdom to progress. We are often stuck in silo-thinking, flawed beliefs and assumptions, or focus too much on theory and analysis rather than sufficient focus on practical implementation. That is why we are trying to foster a coalition that transcends boundaries - between academia, consulting and organisational leaders as well as across numerous different domains.
We are looking forward to an enlightening and fruitful dialogue with many diverse thought and operational leaders. We are hopeful that, together, we will be able to add incremental value in an urgent and important debate. We truly hope that some of you will feel energised to join us, and get our "teeth" into a few particularly crunchy problems that undoubtedly await us on this journey!
For many decades, management theorists and practitioners have been struggling to develop a novel “theory of work” that would help organisations to become at the same time more humane, socially responsible and productive. In spite of much rhetoric, agile methodologies and multiple waves of business transformations, it appears so far little has been achieved. Most recent studies demonstrate that the impact of work on both physical and mental health has been progressively deteriorating in most of the western world. In this article we argue that a more fundamental change in how we think about work and how we design organisations is necessary. In this article, written for a popular magazine, we build on neo-Aristotelian virtue ethics and suggest that a shift towards “eudaimocracy” might help to craft organisations that foster “organisational aliveness” and contribute positively to society. Drawing upon moral philosophy, sociology, complexity science and positive psychology we start to develop a set of principles and practices that could pragmatically bridge business ethics and management. In this context, we especially highlight the need to revise institutional governance, establish virtuous communities and develop practical wisdom and agency across the organisation. Using the concrete example of traditional HR processes, we examine how a novel approach could help to foster individual and collective flourishing and more radically address some of the shortfall of previous approaches.
Keywords: business ethics, virtue ethics, organisational development, leadership development, business transformation, management, HR, performance management, New Work, Agile, positive psychology
Opportunities for Engagement
Thesis on Thriving
Systematic literature analysis with the focus of outcomes on thriving (not performance)
What is the relationship between trust (or more broadly relational resources) and thriving? Trust as an antecedent, an outcome and/or an emergent property?
HR practices and thriving
Heedful relating, learning and thriving
Thriving and eudaimonia
Thriving from a critical management perspective
Systematic literature analysis
Maybe complemented with expert interviews (eg in the case of HR practices and thriving or to validate transdisciplinary findings)
Literature to start:
Good literature review as examplar: Meier, Matthias. "Knowledge management in strategic alliances: A review of empirical evidence." International journal of management reviews 13.1 (2011): 1-23.
A SOCIALLY EMBEDDED MODEL OF THRIVING AT WORK
This is one of our core articles. Spreitzer and colleagues unpack the how thriving at work "feels" - as vitality and learning - and how it relates to our own doing and the influence of the organization. Importantly thriving is embedded in a virtuous cycle as once thriving humans start to create more positive resources (positive meaning, positive emotions, relational capital and knowledge) which then bolsters thriving and collective flourishing in turn. Organizations can enable thriving through a climate of trust and respect, broad information sharing and decision-making discretion. But of course as you can see in the citing list - more can be done.
THE RESEARCH LANDSCAPE of Thriving
This article is higly influential and you can see that it crossed several disciplines. It is also part of the complexity we have to handle when making decisions what insights to follow. One way is to go for high citations (but we rarely go this way). Find attached here highly cited articles researching more aspects of thriving. These are all openly available articles.
What is "Good"?
- What does good mean in philosophy and in business?
- What is a good society? What is a good business?
- How to measure goodness? What is appropriate (or fair) profit?
- Does good need a guardian and who then guards the guardians?
How good is business today?
- Has CSR worked - What research/statistics are available? If so, how? If not, why not?
- Has normative stakeholder theory worked - if so, how? If not, why not?
- Can any flavours of capitalism work - if yes, which and why?
- Do evidence-based rankings (or ratings) of good businesses exist? What are the deployed methodologies and respective strengths/weaknesses? What can we learn?
- What do we know about the phenomeon - how does a good organization look like, which problems does it encounter, which solutions have been found? What "thick" descriptions of good companies are out there (which we did not find by desktop research)?
What are virtue ethics and how applicable are they to business?
- How exactly is virtue ethics conceptualized? Historically and in current discourse, from Western and Eastern perspective? How is it different from e.g. care ethics and ubuntu? How does it relate to (different currents) of humanistic philosophy?
- What is eudaimonia and how can eudaimonia be operationalized? How does it differ/overlap with positive psychology and POS? How does it differ from (relevant theories of) spirituality and theology? How does intrinsic and obligation-based motivation differ from the idea to "acting being always end in itself" in Aristotelian/Aquinan logic?
- What are virtues, traditionally and today? How are (new) virtues "introduced"? Given lack of agreement over virtues, what are their necessary and sufficient characteristics to create a pragmatic "pick and choose" list? To what degree are they contextual (by type of organisation, department, culture/geography) etc?
- How can we integrate knowledge about virtues across different disciplines as neither empirical analysis nor definitions are self-sufficient?
- How can we reconcile normative/moral concepts like solidarity/fraternity/subsidiarity (and "general reciprocity") with freedom/equality, and psychological insights from e.g. individual and group relations/organisational psychology (esp. identity) in terms of "flourishing" and meaning
- What is practical wisdom and how does it develop? How can it be understood "at organisational level"?
- What is the role of emotions and sacrifice in modern virtue ethics?
- What is the common good and how does this differ from common pool resources and public goods?
- What are the available approaches to deploy virtue ethics in business? What are the concrete implications? In what ways should organizations be virtuous, e.g. by enabling organizational members to become virtuous or by acting virtuously "as an organization"? How would this be operationalized?
- In what ways can virtue ethics be complementary to other approaches at the organizational level (particularly utilitarianism and deontology / compliance, but also care ethics)?
Initial hypotheses: What makes organisations "good"?
- How can we frame the potential relationship between morality and management practice? What matters most? Is organisational goodness mainly a question of governance and ownership? What is the role of context and "social paradigm"? What is the role of virtues?
- Virtue ethics seems "painful" as it asks for discipline/sacrifice - how can it turn into a hopeful and exciting narrative for organizational transformation?
- What are the most critical blockers that thwart flourishing? And what are the most important enablers?
- How can organizations "protect" goodness - eg. how do we need to handle "bad apples"?
- Fowers, Blaine J., et al. "The emerging science of virtue." Perspectives on Psychological Science 16.1 (2021): 118-147.
Pathbreaking article of a moral psychologists on how to operationalize virtues as “habituated practices”. By far the most reflective operationalization we have found.
- Bright, David S., Bradley A. Winn, and Jason Kanov. "Reconsidering virtue: Differences of perspective in virtue ethics and the positive social sciences." Journal of Business Ethics 119.4 (2014): 445-460.
Inspiring article from the area of positive psychology where the researchers reflect how virtue ethics can be operationalized on several levels and how organizational practices can be linked accordingly.
- Newstead, Toby, et al. "What is virtue? Advancing the conceptualization of virtue to inform positive organizational inquiry." Academy of Management Perspectives 32.4 (2018): 443-457.
The core of this article is the definition of criteria upon which to differentiate virtues from non-virtues. In addition the article also offers important distinctions between observed and internalized virtues.
- Melé, Domenec. "Understanding humanistic management." Humanistic Management Journal 1.1 (2016): 33-55.
Excellent article which shows a way how to differentiate ethics (upon which his humanistic management builds) and its consequences for business and the operationalization in organizations.
- Wicks, Andrew C., Daniel R. Gilbert Jr, and R. Edward Freeman. "A feminist reinterpretation of the stakeholder concept." Business ethics quarterly (1994): 475-497.
An early and very modern approach to stakeholder theory (but also a road less taken) where Wicks and co-authors apply care ethics and feminism to the normative foundation of stakeholder theory.
- Ghoshal, Sumantra, and Peter Moran. "Bad for practice: A critique of the transaction cost theory." Academy of management Review 21.1 (1996): 13-47.
An early article of Sumantra Ghoshal on a topic he would dedicate his last years too: namely his pledge for the return of the moral character. Here he looks critically at a core assumption of economic theory, home economicus, and shows how this often implicit assumptions is creating vicious self-reinforcing cycles – hence his insight “bad for practice”.
- Bal, P. Matthijs, and Edina Dóci. "Neoliberal ideology in work and organizational psychology." European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology 27.5 (2018): 536-548.
The authors show how worldviews, more specifical neoliberal ideology, are acting as hidden influencing factors both in the workplace but also in science.
- Putnam, R. D. (2020). The upswing: how America came together a century ago and how We can do it again. Simon and Schuster.
In his new book Putnam scrutinizes again his hypothesis of “bowling alone” but comes to a hopeful analysis when looking at how the pendulum in the US used to swung into the other direction we big crisis hit.
- Cho, Charles H., et al. "Organized hypocrisy, organizational façades, and sustainability reporting." Accounting, organizations and society 40 (2015): 78-94.
In this inspiring article the authors offer a new explanation why CSR indeed might not have worked or in their conclusion “we suggest that organizations are bound to continue to engage in organized hypocrisy, including establishing and maintaining several discrepant organizational façades.”
- Rost, Katja, and Thomas Ehrmann. "Reporting biases in empirical management research: The example of win-win corporate social responsibility." Business & Society 56.6 (2017): 840-888.
This article shows how strongly the narrative CSR is good for performance is even holding science hostage. As the authors are clearly able to demonstrate that studies showing no- or negative effects are very rarely published.
- Boyd G. 2020, Rebuild: the Economy, Leadership, and You, Evolutesix Books
- De Vries, B. 2019, Engaging with the Sustainable Development Goals by going beyond Modernity: An ethical evaluation within a worldview framework, Cambridge University Press
- Edelman 2020, Edelman Trust Barometer, https://www.edelman.com/trust/2020-trust-barometer
- Fiske A. 1991, Structures of Social Life: The Four Elementary Forms of Human Relations: Communal Sharing, Authority Ranking, Equality Matching, Market Pricing, Free Press
- Frankl V. 1946, Man's Search for Meaning, Beacon Press
- Friedman 1970, The Social Responsibility Of Business Is to Increase Its Profits, The New York Times Sept 13 1970
- Hennig, A. 2016, Three Different Approaches to Virtue in Business― Aristotle, Confucius, and Lao Zi, Front. Philos. China 2016, 11(4): 556–586
- Heon, F., Davis A., Jones-Patulli J., Damart S., 2017, The Essential Mary Parker Follett Ideas We Need Today, 2017, Published by Heon, Davis, Jones-Patulli, Damart
- Kegan R. 1983, The Evolving Self: Problem and Process in Human Development, Harvard University Press
- Kleine A., Rudolph C., Zacher H. 2019, Thriving at work: A meta‐analysis, J Organ Behav. 2019;40:973–999.
- Kohlberg L. 1981, The Philosophy of Moral Development: Moral Stages and the Idea of Justice, Harpercollins
- Mintzberg H. 2015, Rebalancing Society: Radical Renewal Beyond Left, Right, and Center, Berrett-Koehler Publishers
- Oxfam 2020, Time to care Unpaid and underpaid care work and the global inequality crisis, www.oxfam.org
- Pfeffer 2015, Leadership BS: Fixing Workplaces and Careers One Truth at a Time, HarperBus
- Ryan R., Deci E. 2017, Self-Determination Theory: Basic Psychological Needs in Motivation, Development, and Wellness, Guilford Press
- Salomon R. 1992, Ethics and Excellence Cooperation and Integrity in Business, Oxford University Press
- Sandler R. 2007, Character and Environment: A Virtue-Oriented Approach to Environmental Ethics, Columbia University Press
- Schwab K. 2017, The Fourth Industrial Revolution, Portfolio Penguin
- Sison A., Beabout G., Ferrero I. 2017, Handbook of Virtue Ethics in Business and Management, Springer
- Spreitzer G., Lam C., Quinn R. 2012, Human Energy in Organizations: Implications for POS From Six Interdisciplinary Streams, Article https://www.researchgate.net/publication/267411272
- Torbert W. 1991, The Power of Balance: Transforming Self, Society, and Scientific Inquiry, SAGE Publications, Inc
- Ulrich P. 2008, Integrative Economic Ethics, Cambridge University Press
- Wilber K. 2000, Integral Psychology: Consciousness, Spirit, Psychology, Therapy, Shambhala Publications Inc
ETHICS AND EXECLLENCE
The Greek philosopher Aristotle, writing over two thousand years before Wall Street, called people who engaged in activities which did not contribute to society "parasites." In his latest work, renowned scholar Robert C. Solomon asserts that though capitalism may require capital, it does not require, much less should it be defined by, the parasites it inevitably attracts. Capitalism has succeeded not with brute strength or because it has made people rich, but because it has produced responsible citizens and―however unevenly―prosperous communities.
CORPORATE GOVERNANCE AND ETHICS
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THE CORROSION OF CHARACTER
Carrie Leona wrote "Workplace flexibility is the topic of Richard Sennett's new book, “The Corrosion of Character: The Personal Consequences of Work in the New Capitalism,” his latest analysis of class, work, and social relations. Sennett seeks to remind us that stability—currently so maligned by business writers and consultants--has distinct benefits for individuals and society. More important, he raises a warning flag about the costs of flexibility and the toll it can take on our energy, our relationships, and our very characters."
Keywords: Individualism, Corrosion of Interdependence, Nomads, the loss of voice for exit, Flexible Working
TRUST & RECIPROCITY
Trust and reciprocity are core foundations for our book. Find here in one of the many great book of the russell sage foundation on that topic findings from evolutionary psychology, game theory, and laboratory experiments, to explain the origins of trust and trustworthy behavior.
Keywords: Elinor Ostrom, Russell Hardin, Toshio Yamagishi, Margaret Levi and many more.
Mintzberg argues that a healthy society is built on three balanced pillars: a public sector of respected governments, a private sector of responsible enterprises, and what he calls a plural sector of robust voluntary associations (nonprofits, NGOs, etc.). Communism collapsed because the public sector was overbearing balance triumphed in 1989, not capitalism. But that misunderstanding has led to the private sector becoming overbearing in many countries, especially the United States, and this imbalance is wreaking havoc.
What is business for? Day one of a business course will tell you: it is to maximise shareholder profit. This single idea pervades all our thinking and teaching about business around the world but it is fundamentally wrong, Colin Mayer argues. It has had disastrous and damaging consequences for our economies, environment, politics, and societies.
In this urgent call for reform, Prosperity challenges the fundamentals of business thinking. It sets out a comprehensive new agenda for establishing the corporation as a unique and powerful force for promoting economic and social wellbeing in its fullest sense - for customers and communities, today and in the future.
Highly controversial when it was first published in 1981, Alasdair MacIntyre's After Virtue has since established itself as a landmark work in contemporary moral philosophy. In this book, MacIntyre sought to address a crisis in moral language that he traced back to a European Enlightenment that had made the formulation of moral principles increasingly difficult. In the search for a way out of this impasse, MacIntyre returns to an earlier strand of ethical thinking, that of Aristotle, who emphasised the importance of 'virtue' to the ethical life.
handbook of eudaimonic well-being
This handbook presents the most comprehensive account of eudaimonic well-being to date. It brings together theoretical insights and empirical updates presented by leading scholars and young researchers. The handbook examines philosophical and historical approaches to the study of happy lives and good societies, and it critically looks at conceptual controversies related to eudaimonia and well-being. It identifies the elements of happiness in a variety of areas such as emotions, health, wisdom, self-determination, internal motivation, personal growth, genetics, work, leisure, heroism, and many more.
In Doughnut Economics, Oxford academic Kate Raworth lays out the seven deadly mistakes of economics and offers a radical re-envisioning of the system that has brought us to the point of ruin. Moving beyond the myths of ‘rational economic man’ and unlimited growth, Doughnut Economics zeroes in on the sweet spot: a system that meets all our needs without exhausting the planet.
UTOPIA FOR REALISTS
In Utopia for Realists, Rutger Bregman shows that we can construct a society with visionary ideas that are, in fact, wholly implementable. Every milestone of civilisation - from the end of slavery to the beginning of democracy - was once considered a utopian fantasy. New utopian ideas such as universal basic income and a fifteen-hour work week can become reality in our lifetime.
We believe that there has never been a better time to start businesses and build an economy that works for all of us, and all our needs. This book gives builders of a better world the toolkit and building blocks capable of doing the job, because each is designed for a regenerative, sustainable, circular economy that delivers a good life for all within the planet's boundaries. Whatever you are focused on, from our the rapid depletion of everything we need to live on the planet, the climate emergency, the 17 UN SDG, to your own life, you will get proven cutting edge approaches to
THE NECESSARY REVOLUTION
Imagine a world in which the excess energy from one business would be used to heat another. Where buildings need less and less energy around the world, and where "regenerative" commercial buildings - ones that create more energy than they use - are being designed. A world in which environmentally sound products and processes would be more cost-effective than wasteful ones. A world in which corporations such as Costco, Nike, BP, and countless others are forming partnerships with environmental and social justice organizations to ensure better stewardship of the earth and better livelihoods in the developing world. Now, stop imagining - that world is already emerging.