Do no harm. Make things better. Respect others. Be fair. Be loving.
Nothing Earth shattering, no blinding revelations--nothing we don't already know deep down.
But these five simple principles--which, put into practice, lead us to making better decisions--warrant far more than a read of Weinstein's excellent book; we would do well to teach his principles not only in every business school, but in each business school CLASS, exploring the ethics of each subject taught (and we would also do well to expand his work into all schools and beyond the business audience he writes for--although applying ethics to business is a very good place to start).
Weinstein does a great job of clearly and simply defining each principle, and uses many examples to help illustrate his points. The only reason I found his book challenging at times is not because of his writing or presentation, but because I myself fall short of the standards of ethics he presents (and who likes to see his or her shortfalls so clearly?). When I took his quiz in the beginning of the book, I knew what the "right" answers were, but I also knew what I would actually do in these situations, and, yes, I fall considerably short in the PRACTICE of ethical intelligence (since it is in our actions, as he points out, not our thoughts, that ultimately express our ethical intelligence). It's also telling how much I had to strain at first to find answers as to why I should increase my ethical intelligence (since, for example, I still struggle with decisions that can be ethically unintelligent, but also seem to be "good for business").
I also find it challenging how it seems that every segment of modern life--in government and civic life as well as business--our society as a whole falls terribly short of these principles.
But at least Weinstein is putting this important topic on the radar for us; at best, he's challenging me, challenging all of us to rise up to our potential to do the right thing, AND shows us how to do it. He's doing an enormous service for us all. I'm glad he has a platform at Bloomberg Businessweek Online.
My one wish (and my only hesitation with giving a five star rating) would be that Weinstein go well beyond his stated definition of "stakeholder," and in his discussion and examples, go well beyond examining ethical behavior with friends and family, employees, managers, clients, and board members; I would love to see him enlarge these circles to include the communities, societies, even the ecologies that a business is a part of.
As one example, he uses several situations involving car and airplane travel to illustrate his points, but what about the ethics of car and airplane travel ITSELF, both of which contribute to catastrophic climate change (thereby violating the principle of 'Do no harm')? What is the ethical thing to do when one works at a business that contributes to habitat destruction, or pollutes a neighborhood next to one of its factories ('Do no harm')? For that matter, what is the ethical thing to do when one is a member of a society like the United States that uses far more of of the share of Earth's resources than the vast majority of Earth's population ('Be fair')?
What good are businesses that have employees that treat one another ethically, but in the end harm the environment, make things worse, don't respect, nor are fair nor loving to the communities and societies that they find themselves in?
To Weinstein's credit, he DOES venture a bit into this territory (at one point discussing the ethics of outsourcing jobs, and hinting elsewhere at ethical behavior of organizations themselves). And perhaps our culture as a whole just isn't ready to face the enormity of the conversation--perhaps the wise thing IS to keep the discussion local and familiar (and if that's the case, then yes, five stars for his work).
His work is indeed vital--it helps bring out the best in us all, guides us back to more fulfilling lives with stronger relationships and deeper sense of esteem--and I really don't think it's too much to say that not only our individual humanity is at stake, but perhaps even the survival of humanity itself.
Yes, it's that important. Please get this book and share its insights and challenges with others.