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Article Review: Ethics & Innovation

1115 words - 5 pages

Baucus, M. S., Norton, Jr., W. I., Baucus, D. A., & Human, S. E. (2008). Fostering creativity and innovation without encouraging unethical behavior. Journal Of Business Ethics, 81(1), 97-115. doi:10.1007/s10551-007-9483-4
Baucus, Norton, Jr., Baucus, and Human (2008) identify four types of creative behavior that also raise serious ethical issues: “(1) breaking rules and standard operating procedures; (2) challenging authority and avoiding tradition; (3) creating conflict, competition and stress; and (4) taking risks” (p. 97). The authors cite empowerment as the key to ethical innovation, which is defined as: focusing on the attributes of autonomy for employees; providing employees with mission critical resources; and freedom to fail (Baucus, Norton, Jr., Baucus, & Human, 2008, citing Yukl, 2006). This article identifies key ethical issues related to each of the four behaviors that enhance creativity.
Ethical Innovation and Empowerment
The authors approach the issue of empowerment for employees by addressing each of the primary behaviors that enhance creativity, and provide the ethical considerations appropriate to each of them. It is these issues that company management and leadership must focus on to enhance creativity while maintaining ethical conduct.
Breaking rules and standard operating procedures
Rigid bureaucratic structures and norms can inhibit creativity to the point where creative employees adhere to the motto, ‘‘Better to ask forgiveness than permission’’ (Winslow & Solomon, 1993, p. 77). Baucus et al. (2008) point out that organizations that allow employees to break the rules are often more creative. At the same time, organizations need a code of conduct to inhibit unethical behavior, while their employees are breaking the rules. The authors offer four guidelines: “(a) which rules to break; (b) under what circumstances should rules be broken; (c) how far to go in breaking the rules; and (d) who gets to make or break the rules” (Baucus, Norton, Jr., Baucus, & Human, 2008, p. 103).
Challenging authority and avoiding tradition
Researchers address organizational constraints by recommending that innovation seekers challenge authority and avoid traditions. A wide variety of suggestions are made to encourage employees to challenge the traditional approach—the way we’ve always done it. As Baucus et al. (2008) point out: “The rationale behind these recommendations rests on encouraging employees to continually probe for better ways to provide value” (p. 106). The suggested organizational response is to adopt an exploratory style of learning in creating a learning organization (Senge, 1990).
Creating conflict, competition and stress
To avoid groupthink and the pressure to conform, the authors point out that “serious organizational problems may arise if employees value group membership so highly that they place higher priority on the absence of cognitive conflict than on critical thinking, sound decision-making or searching for...

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