by Albert M. Erisman and David W. Gill
IBTE Links CEOs, Techies, Critics
The Institute for Business, Technology, and Ethics (IBTE) exists to promote the transformation of business through appropriate technology and ethical values. Why do we believe this is a critical need today?
Advances in technology, particularly information technology, have created change in every type of business. In some cases, technology has completely altered the nature of an industry. “Techies” and others who excitedly welcome each new technological innovation, may view technology as the ultimate answer to every business question.
To safely navigate the technological revolution, business leaders must have the right goal. In too many cases, the focus has been solely on profit. Technology may be viewed merely as a tool to use or not, depending on the added value it brings to the bottom line and not how it will impact employees. Downsizing and changes in business practices are considered only in terms of immediate financial gain, with little regard for the people who are affected by them. Some companies may disguise the objective in the language of valuing employees, but practices often demonstrate the real motive.
Meanwhile, ethics leaders-business and technology critics, often from outside the business world-may focus only on people issues and maintaining jobs. They may view technology and profits as the enemy.
As in the story of the blind men approaching an elephant, each group sees only one aspect. By and large, these diverse viewpoints have remained at odds, with each community talking only within itself and with little mutual learning taking place.
The unique objective of IBTE is to create a conversation around the three-way linkage of technology, business, and people issues.
Through this bi-monthly Bulletin, we will expose and challenge standard rhetoric of how technology is used and what impact this has on the questions of business and people. We will present a variety of opinion pieces, from the business/technology side as well as the ethics/people side. We will review pertinent books and call attention to noteworthy media articles. We will interview business leaders for their opinion and experiences with these issues.
The answers will not be neatly packaged. Books we review will be related to this dialogue, but their authors will not necessarily agree with each other. Interviews will express opinions that we believe will be valuable to consider, but not present the final answer.
Through our own discussions in creating the IBTE, we have discovered many areas of disagreement. In spite of this, or maybe because of it, our dialogue has greatly enriched our understanding and changed us.
We trust your participation with us will encourage you along the same expansive path of discovery.
“The unique objective of IBTE is to create a conversation around the three-way linkage of technology, business, and people issues.”
In this Issue
The rush to add technology to education, whether K-12, university, or education in business, is documented almost daily in the press. A few of the recent, interesting samples of this can be found in our In the News section.
This subject is also of great interest to business leaders. Forward thinking business leaders are concerned about their workforce of the future, and are participating in business roundtables and panels to try to ensure this future. Internal education has become increasingly important to businesses as changing skill requirements and business climates require retraining and “life long learning.” Our interview subject this issue is an educational leader and developer from a major business consulting firm.
It, should, also be recognized that education itself is a business. It has business objectives and processes, and dealing with technology has become a major concern for many. Here the viewpoints are strongly divided. The president of a major university recently told us that “while restructuring the business is going on out there, and affects the administrative parts of my university, the education process will go on as it always has.”
At the same time, virtual universities and franchised universities are emerging across the country, task forces are calling for educational reform, and spending for technology by educational institutions is increasing at an exponential pace.
Other articles in this issue deal either directly or indirectly with this subject. In another sense, however, what is contained in this issue goes far beyond the borders of traditional education. The principles and dialogue apply to almost any business seeking benefit from technology.