Dear Ethix – Issue 55

Businesses That Serve

I really enjoy reading each issue of Ethix. Thanks for sending it to me. Nothing makes me more excited than business done right with a “serve others” perspective. Yet I find few ideas more disheartening than business guided by the pursuit of greed or power. The content of the Ethix publication often seems to address these decisive issues. Ethix is clearly focused on doing right to our “neighbor” in a profit-driven world. Thanks.

Brad Parry
Seattle, Wash.

Laws Working Against Ethics?

I am a retired lawyer who has become concerned about the growing set of laws that would seem to tie the hands of those trying to do the right thing. My question is this: Does the law undermine what corporate ethics officers are trying to achieve? Is there some data that might substantiate my thesis that laws, rather than being the solution to the business ethics problem, are perhaps contributing to it?

Robert Shattuck
electronic submittal

Editor’s Note: I understand the concern. This has been raised about Sarbanes-Oxley, for example, which is expensive to implement. However, on its fifth anniversary many are concluding that it is helping more than hurting (see the Ethix Conversation with Sherron Watkins, Ethix 54, and News Notables on p.18 of this issue). In general, laws are needed for business to function. In countries such as the Central African Republic, it is very difficult to conduct business at all (see pp. 16–17 of this issue) in part because of the lack of a rule of law. So I would suggest the answer to your question is, “It depends.” Finding the balance point between the right amount of law and the proper place for judgment remains a challenging pursuit where even the lawmakers struggle. You can read a lawmakers perspective in the Conversation with Susan Collins, U.S. Senator, in the archive section of, issue 36.

Social Networks for Internal Problem Solving

The Technology Watch article about social networking in business stirred some cobwebs.

In the early 1990s, Boeing created a Technical Fellow program, partly to develop an alternative career path for the expression of leadership other than the classical management route.

When I was vice president of human resources for the airplane division, I sketched a concept that would develop what I felt was a “highest and best use” (to steal a real estate term) of the Technical Fellow community, which by then had grown into several levels. The concept was that for every challenge discovered in a large company, there might well be a solution already extant in an administratively disconnected function. Or at least there may be minds already engaged with the problem and capable of providing assistance. The issue was how to secure the connection between those experiencing the challenge and those possessing the skills and experience to assist.

Enter something like Zoodango, but in a form sponsored internally by a company and available through its Intranet. No such “technology” was available at the time, and so I dropped the project. The means by which I had conceived to broker the supply and demand was just too complex.

If there are people at Boeing who read Ethix, or people with a similar problem at other companies, I hope they will connect these dots and establish a “tap a fellow” network with a clever title and expend the small resource to create a purposeful culture as James Sun does. He said he has two employees serving thousands, sounds like it could be done in a Tech Fellow community with one person.

Ethix continues to blossom, my hat is off to you and your associates for an excellent journal.

Peter Morton
Whidbey Island, Wash.