The upside of irrationality – Bounded Ethics bias

The towels were so thick there I could hardly close my suitcase.

Yogi Berra, Baseball athlete & accidental satirist

You lie, steal and cheat all the time. Well not you of course – just everybody you have ever met. Some more than others though. Or at least they are the ones who get caught:)

So bounded ethics is your tendency to act unethically, whenever there is a conflict between doing what is right – and what is right for you. It can be small things like taking a pencil from work, crossing a pedestrian street at red light or dressing up your story a bit. Try googling and taking the online test: “How unethical are you?” and share your results if you dare!

In fact most of this is small, but that is also the problem, because once you cross that line, you are entering a very slippery slope, where it is easy to lose your bearings and keep going a little further all the time – and before you know it, you have destroyed a +100 year old financial institution and created the largest financial crisis in almost a century just as a completely hypothetical example (or not – check out the case of Lehman Brothers).

Sometimes it is you hiring a board member from your trusted network or as a 40ish male Caucasian simply just preferring other 40ish male Caucasians for your team, because – well – they just seem very trustworthy and competent. And it is not to pick on 40ish male Caucasians – 20ish female Asians also trust 20ish female Asians the most. Nobody means any harm, but you need to find a debiased recruitment process.

Another interesting trick is to take page out of Amazons playbook with assigning a chair in every meeting to a customer – in this case assign it to the newspaper, you are most concerned about ending up on the frontpage of. But it can also be as easy as posting your values on a poster – in fact you do not even have to have any values written down – research shows that if you just refer to the values of the organization, then people will automatically behave better!

One of my favorite professors Dan Ariely is here to tell you the honest truth about dishonesty:

Now if you know someone, who knows someone, who might have some “issues”, they need to fix in this arena contact me a brian@behaviouralstrategygroup.com or +45-23103206.

Have a wonderful week!

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