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Sunday, July 27, 2008

Business Ethics and Multiple Intelligences

The Harvard Business Review of March 2007 contains an interview with Howard Gardner, Harvard Graduate School Professor of Cognition and Education.

Gardner, author of Frames of Mind (1983), maintains that people have multiple cognitive paths or "intelligences." These include linguistic, logical-mathematical, spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, musical, interpersonal and intrapersonal intelligence. In the HBR interview, Gardner distinguishes Five Types of Cognitive Minds:

The Disciplined Mind - Focuses on applying one's efforts in a disciplined and organized way.

The Synthesizing Mind - Surveys a wide range of sources, decides what is important and what needs immediate attention.

The Creating Mind - Looks for new ideas and practices, takes risks, discovers opportunities and innovations.

The Respectful Mind - Tries to understand others, listens well, and forms relationships.

The Ethical Mind - Approaches situations and people with ethical consideration. Asks: "What kind of a person, worker, and citizen do I want to be?"

The Ethical Mind is nurtured within the family and in the community. Unethical behavior is like a bad apple that can begin to spoil the others. Gardner mentions how MBA students who cheat create an environment where cheating is viewed as the norm and therefore acceptable.

In order to stay on the right track, Gardner advises business leaders to:

Believe doing so is essential for the good of the organization.

Take the time to step back and reflect about the nature of their work.

Undergo "positive periodic inoculations", regularly practice rethinking what you're doing.

Use consultants, including a trusted advisor within the organization, someone completely outside the organization, and a truly independent board.

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