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Business Ethics Isn't An Oxymoron: Jonathan Haidt On Morality At The Office
Politics | April 08, 2013

Business Ethics Isn't An Oxymoron: Jonathan Haidt On Morality At The Office

As political speaker Jonathan Haidt tells CBS, the lessons he learned while writing his New York Times bestseller The Righteous Mind made a drastic impact on his political orientation. Haidt, a social psychologist by trade, says that researching the moral principles guiding both sides of the political spectrum realigned his views. "I tried so hard to see morality from everyone's point of view that I actually came to respect conservative and libertarian ideas, as much as liberal ideas," he says in the CBS interview. "By the time I finished writing chapter eight, in which I tried to articulate conservative notions of fairness and liberty, I realized that I could no longer call myself a liberal. I am now a passionate centrist." In his book, Haidt argues that the left-right divide is tearing America apart—and can only be rectified if we learn to respect and understand the viewpoints of the opposing side.

In the book Haidt explores how moral convictions developed over time contribute to our political beliefs. Now, as he tells CBS, he is planning to take what he's learned about morality and apply it not only to the world of politics—but to the business space as well. Haidt claims that "business ethics" is not an oxymoron. He admits that moral concerns are often pushed to the background in favor of practical problem solving methods in business schools and boardrooms. "My goal is not to teach MBA students to be ethical, but rather to apply the ideas in The Righteous Mind to teach future leaders how they can set up organizations that will end up producing more ethical behavior by indirect means," Haidt explains, "and will therefore be less vulnerable to the ethical meltdowns that destroyed so many companies in the last 13 years, and harmed so many millions of people around the world." This new direction coincides with a recent move to the NYU-Stern School of Business, where Haidt is navigating the ethics of capitalism and applying his work more broadly to the world of industry.

In his books and keynotes, Haidt presents a refreshingly candid perspective on why we get along—and, more importantly, why some of us don't. Whether it's politics or business, Haidt's moral approach to complex global issues grants a new understanding of human nature. While we don't have to agree with people who have opposing viewpoints, it is important to understand them. By doing so, we can get to the heart of issues that are dividing the country—and begin to see the world from another point of view.

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