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Nurturing ethical mind
Posted by Mukesh Arya on Fri, 22/07/2011

On the eve of launching the whistle blower facility (EthicsCall), I had to deal with choices on what to write on my first blog. Well, after some deliberation, I settled down on the subject of ‘nurturing ethical mind’. I remembered having read the renowned psychologist, Howard Gardner who came up with a set of five cognitive capabilities a human mind may develop over the life time of a person.

Briefly, he talked about disciplined mind, synthesizing mind, creating mind, respectful mind and the ethical mind. He gave utmost importance to ethical mind which is the impartial spectator of a group, organization, country or the world. It analyzes substantial issues on the compass of moral principles and makes reflective choices of what is right and what is wrong. It looks for aberrations and takes a stand to correct the course of action for the greatest good that is in conformity with moral principles. You see these people as activists, teachers, professors, and social reformists to name the few.

Whereas each one of us may have developed different capabilities (mostly in combination) described above, it is the preponderance of ethical mind that gives the society a different perspective. Whether an organization is fair to its stakeholders, a society behaves justly with its members, a country maintains transparency with its citizens, are all dependent upon the ethical mind. It’s the ethical mind as a unit that rolls out the character of the whole organization, society, country or the world.

We all know that ethics is contemporaneous with the societal norms on issues of integrity, corruption and good governance. When shove comes to push, most of us instinctively think about others as ‘problem’. Surely, it is important to know where we stand vis-à-vis the scams such as WorldCom, Enron, CWG 2010, Satyam, and Siemens. But isn’t it true that these scams are culmination of the collective mind-set that has failed. Why did it fail? Perhaps the answer is that because it has oscillated between passively accepting the state of affairs and actively challenging what is wrong in the society. What is then important to know is where each one of us stands individually? It is time to look into the mirror and introspect how each one of us constructs oneself on the benchmark of ethical behavior. This introspection, in my view, is the first step to ‘nurturing ethical mind’.

Whether it is about fighting corruption, doing the right things, preventing criminal activities or promoting morality; the next steps are towards finding the best value drivers. Nurturing ethical mind is about strengthening innermost values with which we wish to live in this society. It’s easy to show the ethical compass to others but difficult to set one’s own benchmark. It’s looking inwards.

How do we nurture ethical mind? Who decides what it should be? Who is the arbiter of the desirable ethical mind? Who sets the benchmark? What are the pitfalls? How to overcome them? Where do we find great values that should drive the society? Who takes the responsibility for the failures? Who takes the credit? Who could be our acceptable mentors?

There are no easy answers to these questions. These questions seek to break new insights into our own minds to look beyond and think laterally to solve our problems related to integrity and ethics. They indeed trigger our ethical mind. However, if the society does not have enough ‘ethical mind’ or is thinly dispersed, it may become difficult to gather critical mass to move forward. This phenomenon perhaps explains why certain organizations or societies make rapid progress towards becoming “fair organizations” or “just societies” whereas others lag behind.

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