How to Future-Proof Yourself? Strenghten your Integrity! Build your Inner Citadel!

How to deal with these chaotic, dramatic times? How to make sure we don’t get lost, now catastrophy is on our doorstep? How to recollect ourselves? How to preserve our balance of mind?

Let us get inspired by someone who had to cope with these same kind of challenges. For decades. And never lost the desire to live a good and just life.

May I introduce you to one of my all-time favorite heroes?

May I introduce you to Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Augustus?

He was a Roman Emporer (121-180 AD). One of the five Good Emperors. In order to not lose himself in the turbulences of war, he reflected on his decisons and ‘meditated’ on past days events.

By doing this every night, he discovered and strengthened his soul, the guiding principle within himself. His soul became an inviolable stronghold of freedom, his “inner citadel”.

Inner citadel

These are the laws he lived by:

  1. think with rectitude and veracity (ask yourself, “Is it true what I believe?”)
  2. accept serenely those events which do not depend on you (ask yourself, “What can I hope for?”)
  3. act justly in the service of other people (ask yourself, “What must I do?”)

These laws are hard to understand and even harder to live by. But, once you have accepted them, there is no turning back or ignoring their existence. You will discover that you must obey them. And if you refuse to live by them, you’ll know that you don’t do justice to yourself. These laws of life are the rules of integrity.

So, let’s prepare ourselves. Let’s build our own inner citadel.  To achieve this,  we need to accept the following conditions – as Marcus Aurelius showed us:

Condition n° 1: be present to yourself. The world often distracts you from any reflection, self-examination or introspection.

Condition n° 2:  embrace silence and solitude. Turn inward, because only in silence you will find the scope and depth of the three laws.

Condition n° 3: examine the smallest of your thoughts, the tiniest of feelings. Evaluate your decisions. Is it true what I believe? What causes my emotions and feelings? What depends on me? What can I hope for?  Am I true to myself? Was my action “right”?

Condition n° 4: practice the three laws on a daily basis.

You will experience that in the end it is you who chooses what you feel and what you think. The ultimate quest is to master the power to consciously decide what you think, feel and experience.

Once you have accepted this challenge, you will slowly, but surely, construct your own inner citadel.  You will strenghten our integrity. You will develop your conscience. This daily habit will become your character, and your character will become your destiny.

This practice will guide you to real freedom. It will safeguard serenity and engender peace of heart.

Once you live by these laws you will not be determined by fear, selfishness and pride. You will gradually free yourself from resentment and feelings of revenge or complacency.

When you have reached the depths of your conscience, you will touch upon your core and your sanctuary; your inner citadel. Nothing and nobody will be able to impair your faculty of judgement.

Then, and only then, you will have earned the right to act upon your conscience. You will never accept any authority outside  yourself.

You are future-proof.

Such are the ways of life, such are the ways of integrity.

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Drinking wine, tasting mayonnaise and making moral judgments.

You gave me words! 

A young man – HR-professional, in his early thirties –  walks up to me, after a one-day-training in moral judgment.  This training is part of a project to promote and enhance organisational integrity. The management followed me in my advice that the integrity of their organisation  needs to be built on  a solid foundation: the moral judgment of their employees.

He says,  “I want to thank you because you have given me the words,  concepts and procedures to determine whether my decisions and actions are morally correct. This means a lot to me. You know, I have been struggling with a decision I made a few months ago. I couldn’t figure out whether I had done the right thing. Using your techniques I now see more clearly why my decision was … wrong. Disappointing, because I consider myself an ethical person. But at the same time it is a relief: I don’t need to worry any longer. Because I understand why my decision is  wrong, I will never make the same mistake again.”

As he sees that I’m listening attentively, he continues, “If I’m honest, I have to  admit that up to now my decisions ultimately were built on my gut feeling. I followed  my moral instinct, if you want. But if challenged, I never could  explain exactly why my decision was right or wrong. Sure, I could give arguments, but I didn’t have a system, a procedure that helped me to weigh in a transparent and correct way the values, the rights and interests involved.  It was as if  I used my  reasoning skills to justify my moral emotions. Somehow, I always had the  feeling  I was fooling myself. That in the end my conclusion was built on quicksand.  I consoled myself that in my line of work you have to decide fast, that there is no time to dig deep into the decisions you’ve made.”

Shaking my hand, he said goodbye, “Thank you again for giving me words.”

I was an amateur, I am an expert.

“So, that is what I do! I give people words,” I thought when I closed the door and went to my car. “I give words.” That is an interesting way of framing my work.

This man’s reaction confirms one of my strong and long held beliefs: enriching your moral vocabulary is an essential part of a moral learning process.

Not that this man suddenly, just by following a training in moral judgment, will become a better person. But from now on he will able to test his gut feeling and evaluate his actions and decisions.  And what’s more, if he does this regularly, he will be able to see if and when his feeling is correct.  He will become an expert in trusting/distrusting his own moral intuition. As a consequence of this expertise he will know exactly when  it is necessary to check his feeling and start  deliberate judging, or just decide upon his feeling. Or, paraphrasing Joshua Green in his book Moral Tribes, he will know when to switch from automated mode (feeling) to manual mode (thinking).

Greene_Moral_Tribes

So you can say that ‘my words’ turn this moral amateur in a moral expert. At least, if he is willing to do the work.

Think about it. What makes an expert?

Tasting mayonnaise and drinking wine.

If I would ask you to asses the quality of a given jar of mayonnaise, how would you proceed? How many words and concepts would you use to determine the quality of mayonnaise?

mayo

And if I would give you a glass of wine, how many words and concepts do you need to assess the quality of wine?

glass wine 2

Malcolm Gladwell explains in his book Blink that experts, determining the quality of mayonnaise use six dimensions of appearance, ten dimensions of texture and fourteen dimensions of flavour, split among three subgroups to assess what the quality is of a given jar of mayonnaise. I would only be able to say, “This mayo looks nice and it tastes great.”

It seems that you need an extensive vocabulary to determine the quality of mayonnaise.

And when it comes to assessing wine: a quick look on a random website on drinking and tasting wine  shows me that  wine experts,  determine the quality of wine using…..126 concepts. From ‘acerbé’, over ‘’maderisé’ and ‘puissant’ to ‘vif’.  ‘And yes, I counted them.

The difference between an expert and an amateur is not that the latter can’t identify the best mayonnaise, or good wine; only, he can’t explain it. He is not capable of explaining why his sensation is correct. Novices stutter things as “This mayo is good because it tastes good, this wine is excellent because I like it.” Experts know how their mind works, they know how and when and why they can and should trust their snap judgments, and their first impressions.

Gladwell, “Experts have a way to structure their first impressions, the vocabulary to capture them and the experience to understand them.”

Without the relevant vocabulary you will have a hard time assessing mayonaise or wine.

Now, let’s see if we can transfer these conclusions to the realm of ethics and moral judgment. Is the richness of your moral vocabulary symptomatic of your level of moral expertise?

Are you  a moral expert or a moral novice?

How many words do you need to assess the quality of your moral judgment?

When  I confront the participants in my trainings with the question: “How do you know your decision is morally correct?”,  most people say  things like, ‘My moral judgment is correct because it feels right.’ Just as the HR-professional did. Or they use  variations like, “As long as I can look myself in the mirror, or as long as I can sleep at night.” 

Most people just give the answer that in the end, they just feel  righteousness. Therefore, in their opinion ethics is  a personal matter.  “Who am I to say what is right and wrong? You feel this, I feel that. Everybody has to make up his own mind.”

And the younger people are, the more they rely on their moral intuition.

My observations are confirmed by Lost in Transition: The Dark Side of Emerging Adulthood, an interesting book written by Notre Dame sociologist Christian Smith. He  and his team interviewed 230 young adults. They found that young people don’t live bad lives, or do morally wrong deeds. But their research showed “how bad they are at thinking and talking about moral issues.” The main reason for this is the lack of moral categories and vocabulary. Because they don’t have the moral vocabulary they will not develop their own moral compass. They will get lost in the moral morass of postmodern relativism and confused moral reasoning.

Coup de grace! 

Confronted with these answers, I go for the kill!  “Ok. So you say that you feel what is right.  But how do you know your feeling is morally right? Does your feeling guarantees that  your decision is morally correct?”

Most people really get in trouble here. The more they try to reason their way out of their swamplike beliefs, the deeper they sink. Just before they completely submerge, I throw my lifeline: my moral vocabulary and concepts, my procedure for moral judgment.

I know, I admit it – my questions are not innocent. I try to dismantle my trainees’  apparent moral truth. It confuses them deeply when they try to articulate their moral foundation. But this moment of not-knowing is necessary: confusion is the mother of knowledge. Because only now we can begin to build a sound and coherent moral framework. It is hard work,   but its pays off.

Why don’t you try to answer these questions for yourself?

  • How do YOU know your decisions are morally correct?
  • How do YOU know your feeling is morally correct?
  • Does YOUR feeling guarantees that  YOUR decision is morally correct?
Two Moral Compasses

Using Joshua Green’s insights,  I give my trainees a second moral compass. Or better, I help them to find their second moral compass. The first moral compass is their moral intuition. And this works fine when dealing with basic moral problems. This system leads to basic moral ideas like ‘steeling, lying, killing, …. is not  right’. But when things get complicated, you need to stop feeling, and start thinking. In order to think morally correct you need a second moral compass.

62456two compasses

But be aware! You know what happens if you use two compasses at the same time and closely together? Look at the picture! They both forget about which way is North, and the needles point at each other.

What to do if your two moral compasses contradict one another? Hmm, a good topic for my next post?

What do you do when your profession makes you corrupt?

A recent study, published in Nature,  suggests that working in a bank makes employees  more susceptible to dishonesty. Three Swiss economists wanted to see if there is a link between the professional identity and the moral behavior of bankers. The researchers designed a coin-flip experiment where participants were given an incentive to cheat.

In their article ‘Business culture and dishonesty in the banking industry’ the researchers  describe that when the professional identity of bank employees is rendered salient by a series of questions about their job, a significant proportion of them become dishonest. The control group whose  professional identity was not activated, did the same test and they acted as honestly as every other person.

The primed bankers reported 58 percent winning tosses, leading the researchers to conclude that 26 percent of the subjects cheated. They add that 58 percent is ‘significantly above chance and significantly higher than the success rate reported by the control group.’

What is happening here?  How is it possible that good people do bad things?

The researchers concluded  ‘that the prevailing business culture in the banking industry weakens and undermines the honesty norm, implying that measures to re-establish an honest culture are very important.’ They suggest the implementation  of a bankers oath and ethics training.

The same conclusion emerges from research done by Kathleen Vohs.  Daniel Kahneman refers to her work in  his brilliant book  Thinking, Fast and Slow. ‘Her findings suggest that living in a culture that surrounds us with reminders of money may shape our behavior and our attitudes in ways that we do not know about and of which we may not be proud.’  Money primes individualism: a reluctance to be involved with others, to depend on others or to accept demands for others.

These studies not only show the  power of culture, but also show in more detail how culture works: very subtly, through the words we use and  the questions we ask.  I think it is significant  that the activation of the professional identity of the bankers was achieved by asking simple questions about their work. Questions like “What is your function in the bank?”

These simple questions are  very powerful: they  prime a specific mindset. A mindset that includes a specific construct of professional identity. In this case an identity without an ethical dimension, or, rather, where  an ethical  orientation is overruled by other, money-related concerns.

If we really want to find an antidote for this specific priming effect, we need to take a closer look at priming itself. The question is if installing an oath and ethics training will suffice as an antidote.

Priming works as an automated,  unconscious reaction. It is like a script your brain follows, it works like a software program that guides your feeling, thinking and behaving.

‘Priming is an implicit memory effect in which exposure to one stimulus influences a response to another stimulus. Priming can occur following perceptual, semantic, or conceptual stimulus repetition.’ Thank you, Wikipedia.

Thinking,_Fast_and_Slow

Kahneman calls priming a system 1 thinking process. He defines system 1 – ‘fast thinking’ – as a generator of impressions, feelings and inclinations. System 1 operates automatically and quickly with no sense of voluntary control. These impressions can turn into believes, if not challenged. It contains a model of the world that guides our choices and judgments.

But this is not the end of the story.

We also have a system 2. System 2 – ‘slow thinking’ – is often called the executive controller. It is in charge of self-control. It is related with agency, choice and concentration. System 2 is hard work. Ethical thinking is System 2.

What is instructive is the fact that  System 2 is able to program  System 1 to mobilize attention when a particular program or pattern, such as priming, are detected. System  2 can program our attention  to obey an instruction that overrides habitual responses. Or it can design a setting where the probability of these effects are minimised.

We can ‘rewire’ our brain and  redesign our  organisation.

Let’s have  a look at both strategies.

Can we prime a moral mindset?  Can we condition people in such a way that their ethical thinking is activated whenever it is needed?  What would be the priming effect of an oath, or of questions using explicit moral vocabubulary?

First of all, ‘rewiring’ our brain can be done. As  I  often work with NLP (Neuro-linguistic programming), I know that  ‘reprogramming’ can be achieved through a process called ‘anchoring’.    For example, clenching your fist could be an anchor. If you clench your fist when you feel vigorous, and you do this repeatedly, you associate this feeling with this specific gesture. Remember Pavlov! If you need to feel vigorous in a stressful situation, you can ‘fire’ the anchor and the desired state is reaccessed. Anchors are stimuli that call forth states of mind, thoughts and emotions.

Using this same technique, we could anchor a response that includes ethical concerns.  So that ethical thinking, ethical framing or at least ethical questioning becomes a reflex, a new default setting. This is a crucial step in building an ethical professional identity.

Taking an oath can have an anchoring effect, if it is done under the right conditions. One of my professional highlights this year was being part of a formal ceremony where civil servants took an oath to serve the public interest.  Before their inauguration they all had a one-day-training in moral judgment and professional integrity. I was their trainer and they wanted me to be there when they took their oath.  This festive and solemn  moment  was experienced as a moment of great importance.  The people taking part in the ceremony were proud.  The location was carefully choosen. There were flowers and music. The wine was excellent. The master of  ceremony was their highest-ranking manager.  All their colleagues were present. There was applause.  Under these conditions such an event can have a deep impact. Tangible memories of this ceremony – a certificate, a photo, …  can be anchors that establish an ethical attitude. If they are displayed in a clearly visible place, the effect will be even more  lasting.

But more has to be done. We have to redesign our organisations in such a way that the rewiring of our brains is sustained and supported. One way to do this is to preclude negative priming effects.

Malcolm Gladwell gives in his book Blink. The Power of Thinking Without Thinking an illustrative example how this can be done. In order to guarantuee a more objective application procedure for orchestra musicians, they have to play behind a screen. So that biases of the auditing committee are neutralised. Biases such as ‘women can’t play the trombone, because their lips are too different, their lungs are less powerful, their  hands are smaller’.  The effect of this screen is that more women are hired as musicians.

boston-audition-243x180 (1)

Installing the screen is an instructive  example of how to counter  System 1. As we can never completely erradicate priming effects  we have to find creative ways to neutralise them. We have to find organisational equivalents of the screen.

Banking without any reference to money is not a realistic option. We can’t do without the word ‘money’. But we can and should be aware of the priming effects. Given the power and subtlety of priming, this awareness should be ongoing.

Let’s start by paying attention to the words we use and  the questions we ask.

 

 

 

Banking with integrity. Mission: impossible?

Christine Lagarde

When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle.” E. Burke

“To restore trust, we need a shift toward greater integrity and accountability.”             C. Lagarde

In their speeches during the Conference on Inclusive Capitalism in London (May 28th), both Christine Lagarde (Managing Director, IMF) and Mark Carney (Governor, Bank of England ) made a plea for ethics and integrity  in the financial system. (You can find Lagarde’s speech here.)

Christine Lagarde advocated  the position that “We need a stronger and systematic ethical dimension. … Ethical behavior is a major dimension of financial stability.”

To my relief, she developed a broad perspective on ethics. Ethics is more than enforcing regulation and supervision: it is also about creating cultures of integrity.  She is very much aware of the fact that this requires sustained attention to education and leadership.

Mark Carney stated that capitalism is doomed if ethics vanishes. He encourages bankers  to adopt high ethical standards. The necessary changes will be brought  “through a combination of tougher regulation, reform of compensation and the willingness of bankers to realise that it is in their own long-term interests to behave more responsibly.”

They both agree that focusing on integrity is essential to regain trust. Both are aware that creating a culture of integrity is a never ending process. It is hard, but not impossible.

Banking

That combining banking and ethics is possible is  shown in ‘Banking with integrity. The winners of the financial crisis?’ The authors (Spitzeck, Pirson, Dierksmeier) describe how some banks (e.g., ABN Amro Real, Triodos, Cooperative Bank of Chandia,  Banca Poplare Etica, Banca Prossima, …) were able not only to survive the financial crisis, but even managed to grow. Looking for their recipe for success, the authors  saw that these bank were able to resist  opportunistic behavior by holding on to their moral perspective and being loyal to their moral principles.  This protected them from short-term thinking and narrow-minded profit-maximalisation that ended too often in selling complicated and toxic products. These banks didn’t enter the expanding bubble. They stayed out of it. Instead, they focused on staying close to clients and stakeholders, involving them in corporate governance mechanisms and exercising strict risk management practices.

As a contact of mine, a manager in a medium-sized bank, said: “One of our core values is ‘simplicity’. This value is part of our cultural DNA. It withheld us from products that were so complicated that nobody understood them really.”

Banking with integrity.’ teaches furthermore that  major financial crises in the past always were followed by new regulations to prevent future catastrophies. These efforts were not successful …

Most ‘normal’ banks  suffered (suffer?) from a condition that is coined by Goodpaster as ‘teleopathy’, or the unbalanced pursuit of purpose. (From the Greek, ‘telos’, for ‘purpose’.)    In his book ‘Conscience and Corporate Culture‘ he identifies  three symptoms of teleopathy:

  • Fixation or singleness of purpose; leading to
  • Rationalization; leading to
  • Detachment.

Goodpaster

Detachment leads to moral indifference and apathy. No need to explain that these are prerequisites for immoral decisions and behavior. Teleopathy lowers the threshold for opportunistic behavior.

Goodpaster’s remedy for teleopathy is conscience.  He describes conscience as thoughtfulness, awareness and as moral insight. He elaborates the idea that there is parallel between the decision-making dynamics of individuals and of organizations. “Teleopathy bears some ressemblance to the ‘pre-moral’  stages of child development. The unbalanced pursuit of purpose is the most significant obstacle to adulthood – but also the most significant obstacle to a healthy organization and a healthy market economy.” Conscience, in his opinion, is not merely subjective but forms a clear vision and strength in a culture.  In the second part of his book he descibes  the moral agenda of leadership that accepts the challenge of building a corporate conscience.  It is hard work, but not impossible.

It is important that people as Lagarde and Carney talk about integrity. Even if their ideas are met with skepticism and even cynicism. After all, Carney is a former Goldmann Sachs banker.  Nevertheless, I think their speeches are essential in creating the right climate for necessary changes.

What is even more important is that their speeches open up new levels of thinking about ethics and integrity. Integrity is also about culture. But there is more to it. Culture has to be guided by a moral conscience. Not every culture is based on ethical values and driven by moral thinking. As Goodpaster shows, promoting and embedding  integrity really starts with moral insight. Ethics challenges culture,  integrity has the power to create  cultureshifts. “Culture,” as Peter Drucker once said, “eats strategy for breakfast.” “Moral thinking,” I say, “eats culture for lunch.”

Of course, eloquent speeches are not enough. More work has to be done to successfully start a process that lifts integrity beyond compliance and integrates ethics in the Moral DNA of a company.

I talk a lot with people in the financial sector, mostly compliance and ethics officers or managers  responsible for education and formation. I’m doing research on how financial institutions train and educate their people in ethics. This research includes questions as “How do you define integrity?”, “What kind of ethics training do you provide?”, “How would you describe the conscience of your organization?”,  “What is your moral compass?”

Most of my interlocutors are aware that promoting ethical behavior  and educating people is about  more than compliance. And that  it definitely is not just a matter of a one-day training on ethics, an inspirational speech from the CEO or a flashy values document.

But managers are very insecure when it comes to integrity beyond compliance. They feel kind of lost when entering the realm of ethics. Let me show you some of their concerns.

Firstly, some say that defining  integrity is the most challenging element of managing integrity. Integrity and ethics are concepts that are vague. They have been and are used in a variety of interpretations. How can you be sure that a given definition of integrity is correct?

Secondly, being familiar with the traditional  compliance approach, they think ethics and integrity beyond compliance aren’t manageable. Integrating values in an organisation is considered  feasable and achievable. But changing culture based on moral thinking makes them feel uncomfortable.  “If I don’t know what it is, how can I manage it? How can I build a culture of integrity if I don’t know what the touchstone of integrity is?”

Thirdly, imagining that they would accept the challenge,  “How do we guarantee the quality of this moral endeavour?” they ask. “I don’t want to spend my rare resources in a undirected attempt to do ‘something’ with ethics.”

“I realize that these are deeper questions than economists and policymakers are normally comfortable talking about,” Lagarde says. But they need to be asked. And just as she does in her speech – she turns to Aristotle – we should look towards philosophy to help managers to overcome this hurdle.

Defining integrity,  managing integrity beyond compliance, thinking about the true purpose of banking, developing a corporate conscience and moral thinking demand philosophical skills.

This reminds me of a saying: “Do you know who is even more helpless  than a philosopher who has no managerial skills? … A manager who has no philosophical  skills.”

These managerial concerns should be taken seriously. But managers should not avoid these fundamental questions. At least, if they aim at implementing a long-term vision  on ethics and integrity in their organisation. By the way, they shouldn’t worry too much. Philosophical skills can be trained. There are even courses ‘Philosophy for Children’.   You only need a curious mind, the ability to think critically and independently  and some patience to stick with the given questions. And if you really don’t like to do the thinking yourself: hire a Corporate Philosopher!

But for now, let me end by returning to Christine Lagarde’s challenge to build  cultures of integrity.  Hopefully the following  free advice adresses also some of the aforementioned  managerial concerns.

1. Develop a concept of integrity that is challenging,  positive, stimulating and that matches the professional self-image of your staff.  A shift towards an integrity-driven culture starts with this quest.

2. Teach and stimulate employees to make moral decisions carefully. Train the moral competence of your staff. Develop their capability to recognize moral issues, to identify people who are affected by these decisions, to carefully weigh arguments. The moral decision-making skills of each employee are the foundation of a culture of integrity.

3. Enable your staff to talk about their moral concerns. Communication is key. Organize moral consultation. Breach moral muteness.

4.  Invest in the development of your organizational conscience through building up moresprudence. Moresprudence refers to a collection of knowledge and experience on how to deal with all moral aspects of work.

5. Develop a strong organizational moral compass. Use it! The culture, structure and strategy of your organization should be in coherence with this compass. Aligned, they form a formidable force.

Every great undertaking starts with the belief  that it is possible to achieve or that it is the only right thing to do. Changing corporate culture is such an adventure. Especially in the financial sector. The more believers there are, the sooner we reach the necessary tipping point. Christine Lagarde and Mark Carney are believers. Goodpaster is a believer. And so am I. Believers should associate.

Imagine people taking ethics seriously.

 Atticus, he was really nice.” 

“Most people are, Scout, when you finally see them.”

 Harper Lee – To Kill a Mockingbird.

 Atticus-Finch-and-Scout

 

Travelling from and to my clients is time-consuming.  Last Monday I had a training in Amsterdam. I was going to train judges in moral judgement. As it takes me 4 hours to get to Amsterdam, I left home Sunday evening.

I don’t mind the long journey. I travel by train. That gives me plenty of time to read. This time I read Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. “You, of all people, you should read this book!” my daughter told me. “Especially if you are going to train judges.”

The day before a training I normally go to bed early. I need to be fresh and sharp the next day. But this Sunday night I couldn’t put the book away.  My last conscious thought was that tomorrow I would just read the book to the judges. That would do the job just fine.

On Monday, the training itself went well. I couldn’t help thinking that Atticus and Judge Taylor were there with me. Approving our efforts to decide what is the right thing to do.

When I travelled home on Monday evening I finished the book.  Still sitting in the train, in the company of my unknown fellow travellers I wrote the following text. Full of pathos – hopefully not too  pathetic. Those who have read the book will hopefully recognise the voice of Harper Lee.

“Imagine people seeing the humanity in the accidental passer-by or fellow traveler as  naturally as they accept the humanity in themselves.

Imagine people seeing the customer, employee, stranger or refugee as an individual with his own rights, interests, desires and wishes. 

Imagine people looking in the mirror and seeing mankind in the depths of their own eyes. Imagine people experiencing harming the other as harming themselves and  helping the other as helping themselves.

Imagine people seeing their personal lives and the history of humankind  as one gigantic connected  quest towards a more and more humane and just world.

Imagine people framing  this connection and this resemblance as a wake-up call to solidarity and care. Imagine people upholding a strict moral code for themselves and a compassionate and empathic attitude towards one another.

Imagine people having the mental flexibility and moral imagination to empathize and think from the standpoint  of the other. Imagine people nurturing  their sensitivity to the plight of the other.

Imagine people having moral awareness and sensitivity to see the ethical issues in everyday life and overcome moral blindness.

Imagine people seeing all this as real and realistic possibilities, and not as irrelevant daydreams.

Imagine people having the intelligence and love to ask questions such as: ‘Who is part of my moral universe? To whom am I responsible? How can I define my personal responsibility?’

Imaging people having sufficient self-worth to see these moral questions as important questions, as questions that matter.

Imagine people defining these  moral questions as essential to what it means to be a human being.

Imagine people experiencing themselves as active moral agents capable of making autonomous and independent choices.

Imagine people accepting and even embracing this moral challenge  as a personal challenge.

Imagine people  avoiding black and white thinking. Imagine people having enough  patience to live with these questions and don’t run into fast answers.

Imagine people having the endurance to overcome  initial and fundamental differences of opinion.

Imagine people not only fighting and debating over moral issues, but finding the inner peace and balance  to probe into ethical questions in a dialogue among peers.

Imagine people forming groups  and communities of ethical inquiry. And in doing so,  developing their moral compass and finding their moral high ground.

Imagine people having the honesty and humility to admit when another point of view is more valid and more relevant than their own.

Imagine people having enough willpower to find means to overcome  moral muteness. Imagine people living their lives wide-awake, freeing themselves from conventional scripts, inherited or imposed. Imagine people finding courage to live by their own moral beliefs.

Imagine our CEO’s and managers having enough imagination to build their organizations driven by this  moral awareness. Imagine how they would not instrumentalize ethics in a convuslive and transparent attempt to polish  their image, but take the ethical question all the way into the DNA of their company.

Imagine that our politicians would do the same. How they  would govern in the service of the public interest.

Imagine our teachers not telling our children what to think but teaching them how to think.  Imagine how they would nurture the moral and spiritual capital of present and future generations.

Imagine our bankers  banking with integrity.

Imagine how they  would all create organizations of integrity. And how these would be the breeding ground for passion and creativity, meaningfulness and purpose.

Imagine  your colleagues, your leaders, your board, your community, your region, your country taking up this challenge.

Imagine the world we would live in.

Imagine, just imagine.”