Moral Imagination and Management Decision-Making

Moral Imagination and Management Decision-Making

Moral Imagination and Management Decision-Making

Moral Imagination and Management Decision-Making


Why do good people do ethically questionable things? Why do reputable businesses ignore the harmful consequences of their actions? These questions continue to challenge philosophers, legal scholars, and corporate leaders. In this pathbreaking book, Patricia Werhane sets forth a model that explains ethical failings in business and shows how to transcend them. Deleterious corporate actions are often attributed to simple greed, and regulations have traditionally been enacted to counter them. But Werhane argues that most corporate managers are not without moral sensibilities, nor are they motivated primarily by greed or self-interest. Indeed, companies themselves often attempt to improve ethical behaviour -- most American companies today have values statements, and ethics training is widespread -- but applying moral principles to practical decision-making has not been entirely successful. What is missing, according to Werhane, is a highly developed moral imagination that enables managers and the companies they run to be aware of, evaluate, and change the mental models that often constrict business behaviour. The development of moral imagination is not identified merely with increased sensitivity to the existence of ethical issues in business. It includes awareness of the mind-sets that govern managerial and corporate decision-making, the development of reasoning skills to evaluate and moderate these mind-sets, and creativity to ponder viable alternative solutions to what appear to be insoluble economic dilemmas. Unique in its sophisticated application of ethical reasoning to real day-to-day business problems, this book points the way to the exemplary moral leadership that will enable companies to flourish in the complex global economies of the twenty-first century.


R. Edward Freeman

It is all too easy to see business ethics as making impossible demands on business people. Especially in a litigious society that often punishes well- meaning decisions after the fact, executives are understandably timid in going out on "ethical limbs" to take a stand about controversial matters. "Ethics versus profits," "stockholders versus stakeholders," "short term versus long term" are just a few of the paradoxes that typically arise in discussions of business ethics.

Patricia Werhane in this marvelous book has suggested that what is lacking in most conversations about the role of ethics in business is the use of imagination. She goes on to develop the concept of "moral imagination" as a way to enrich our understanding of how to manage in a world that is filled with moral challenges. Werhane takes several recent examples from the business world and shows how imagination has been lacking and suggests that there were in fact better decisions to be made. However, executives had to free their imaginations from some traditional mind-sets.

There is a premium in organizations today on "learning" and "knowledge." Business people have understood that the only competitive advantage that is sustainable is the knowledge and skills of their employees, from CEO to security guard. Werhane offers a welcome addition to this literature on organizational learning. Only by recognizing the mind- sets that we use and their limitations can we use our substantial imaginations to improve what we do.

The purpose of the Ruffin Series in Business Ethics is to publish the best thinking about the role of ethics in business. In a world in which . . .

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