A Guest posting from Mary C. Gentile PhD, Director, Giving Voice To Values, Babson College
Teaching and training on business ethics has tended to focus on ethical decision-making as an intellectual topic.
That is, sharing the rules, the laws, the moral principles as well as the different ethical reasoning models. Ethical dilemmas are presented, inviting individuals to figure out what is truly “over the line” and to answer the question: “what’s the right thing to do?”
Giving Voice to Values (GVV) focuses on ethical action. Rather than just asking mainly “What is the right thing to do?” GVV asks the question:
“Once I know what I believe is right, how can I get it done? What could I say and do? How could I be most effective?”
GVV is not about persuading people to be more ethical.
Rather it starts from the premise that most of us already want to act on our values. But we also want to feel we have a reasonable chance of doing so effectively and successfully.
The core idea is to engage individuals in the “GVV Thought Experiment” – to ask them “What if” they were going to act on their values and to provide them with the opportunity to practice – literally rehearse – the scripts and action plans that may be effective.
Distinctive features of the GVV approach include:
- A focus on positive examples when individuals did indeed find ways to act on their values
- The opportunity to anticipate and script responses to the most frequently heard “reasons & rationalizations” for unethical behavior
- The opportunity to share and rehearse these action plans in groups
- Engage in supportive peer coaching to enhance the approaches they develop
The original GVV curriculum was developed with the support of The Aspen Institute and Yale School of Management. Currently it’s based and supported at Babson College in Boston.
We make GVV available online for free and invite business educators to pilot test it.
The response has been all that we dreamed of and more than we ever dared to expect.
The pilots have spread rapidly to over 540 in business schools and in companies on all seven continents to date, and still growing.
I believe that the rapid and continued expansion of this approach is due to several key factors.
First, the concept is not rocket science. It’s basically just about asking a different question – the action question – when it comes to ethics, rather than approaching the subject as if it is primarily one of intellectual debate.
Second, GVV starts from a place of respect for the values we already hold, focusing on helping us to be more skillful and effective and confident in enacting them.
In other words, GVV does not ask people to be someone other than who they believe they are. Rather it is about preparing them to be who they already want to be–at their best.
Nor is GVV about arguing with those who assert a lack of interest in ethics. It’s about empowering the rest of us who would like to find a way to voice and act on our values.
Finally, GVV provides hope – calmly, humbly, and pragmatically. It does not claim that effectively enacting our values is easy, nor even always possible.
Instead GVV highlights the examples and approaches that have been effective and invites us to work together – informed by research and experience — to enhance and rehearse them, so we are more prepared to put them into practice.
It’s about building a moral muscle memory – a default to informed, skillful action in the service of our values.