In September, I had the opportunity to spend ten days at Wolfsberg, the Executive Development Centre for UBS located in northern Switzerland. As executive-in-residence for that time, my primary duty was to lead a “Think Tank” with 25 executives on “Success Keys for the Development of Large Scale Information Systems.” Other duties involved meeting with various leaders who came through during that time for discussions on technology, business ethics, and creation of new ideas. I also had the opportunity to write, to read, and to explore a beautiful part of the world.
Dr. Toni Schönenberger is the director of this unusual development center. His goals for the center include both executive development (including the development of the UBS culture) and business development (exploring and creating new ideas for UBS). Professor Prabhu Guptara is the executive director for organizational development in the center, and was my gracious host. I sat down with both of these leaders and explored their views of business, technology, ethics, and corporate culture from a European perspective, in conversations captured in this issue.
Earlier in the summer, with some other faculty members at Seattle Pacific University, I participated in four half-day discussions on globalization and its impact. I had prepared a presentation for that group on the role of technology in globalization. The chance to follow this study with trips to Singapore and Switzerland to meet with business executives added a richness and new dimension to my thinking in this area.
My column, Technology Watch, represents my present views on globalization. I fully recognize that to gain a more complete view, I should include visits to India, Mexico, and Nigeria, for example, where business is very different from the U.S., Singapore, and Switzerland. Perhaps that opportunity will come.
While pushing out from the U.S. borders with our conversations and perspectives is vital for Ethix, we recognize that many of our readers are in the U.S. dealing with day to day challenges in their own corner of the world. We want to provide some relevant tools for this world as well. As such, our next conversation is planned with Don Flow, President and CEO of Flow Auto, with 24 auto dealerships in North Carolina. Flow has instituted some truly unusual ethical business practices (forget your stereotype of a used car salesman) that we believe could be a model for many companies. But we won’t talk only with him. Walt Wright, chair of the Max DePree Institute in Pasadena, has done extensive interviews with Flow’s customers, employees, suppliers, and community. We will get his perspective as well.
The list of ethics problems in business continues to grow, with mutual fund traders and Boeing added to the list since the last issue (see Notable News, p. 13). The Boeing situation, with Mike Sears (CFO) being fired, hit particularly close to home. I worked at Boeing for thirty-two years, and well remember my first meeting with Sears. I remember him as smart, approachable, articulate, and helpful. He certainly didn’t fit the profile of the corporate bad-guy. Nevertheless, if he did what he is charged with, it will cost many other people their jobs through lost contracts. This particular example adds sadness to anger in my personal reaction, and renews my desire to continue to build the case for business ethics.