Beyond Deterministic Thinking Embodiment of Ethics in Process Design and Execution

Beyond Deterministic Thinking Embodiment of Ethics in Process Design and Execution

Louis Sanzogni (Department of International Business and Asian Studies, Griffith Business School, Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia)
Copyright: © 2018 |Pages: 12
DOI: 10.4018/IJIDE.2018040102
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This article maintains that a strong sense of ethics and ethical awareness is essential to help promote and cultivate adequate and appropriate (human sensitive) approaches during the development, implementation and execution of business processes. Businesses and their corresponding processes, and science in general have leaned on tenets of deterministic philosophies which gave rise to mechanistic thinking. As such technologically-based proposals and/or enactments—like modern business processes to a point—do not have within themselves the means to be ethically self-aware. It is in a technologically driven culture where mechanistic/deterministic approaches may trivialise the dignity of humans, ethics are able to mediate technology by helping to reflect on its purpose and usefulness. The authors propose a model that is a more holistic approach—including an ethical review phase—during the design, implementation, and execution of computer-based business processes so as to avoid an overtly mechanistic approach that devalues humans.
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In introducing the debate, we begin by noting the role that technology plays as a support tool for the design, implementation, and execution of business processes. We do this since technology (in most cases) acts as a platform from which business processes are executed. Educators (whoever they might be) are not excluded from the critique, as we believe that most, if not all of the responsibility for instilling ethical or moral judgement in our past, present, and future generations’ lies squarely on their shoulders. In a recent article Roca (2008) highlighted the need for practical wisdom in business schools, specifically management education, by arguing that developments therein have negatively impacted society. Reflection on Roca’s comments when considering the global financial crisis and the role (direct or indirect) business schools have played in it, reinforce the point well.

Others, such as Johnson and Daugherty (2009) and Cajas (2000) have pointed towards the need to develop problem-solving skills in and around technology education. Arguably, such qualities are distinctly ‘ethical’ in nature because they draw on the ability of the human to judge and act based on known perspectives. Other authors such as Moberg (2007) have also voiced similar concerns noting that discussions on aspects of practical wisdom in business disciplines are almost non-existent. More to the point, the lack of discussion of ‘practical wisdom’ and the requirement of a “moral sense” in business is also missing (Carroll, 1987). So, what of the current trends towards technological solutions in industry? More to the point, what of the core ethical concerns in business process design and implementation? As Teston (2009) argues, ethics should be something educators are exposed to, by nature of the subject. There are ethical implications and we argue that these should be included as most scholars would.

Johnstone (2007) highlights this concern by calling for a ‘humanising’ of technology education in business, hereby highlighting the human conception instead of a technical one, and the responsible use of technology. Such recent concerns as Kuhn (2007) who contrast the modern phenomena of blogging, in which interactivity and open critique are promoted, have opened the case for developing an ethical standard for technology education. Of particular interest to us is the decentralising effect of open critique that the modern phenomena of blogging has on the role of technology. At the heart of this phenomenon is the idea that technology supports open ‘free’ inquiry instead of distorting it or using it in an oppressive manner. This philosophical shift argued by Kuhn highlights the move from a mechanistic use of technology to one that reflects the use of technology to shape and support community values; one that ultimately supports the human desire to communicate meaning and share understanding.

This is all well and good and “appears” to work, although the “broadband divide”, cyber bullying, internet censorship, etc., fight against it and need to be acknowledged. However, our concern does not lie with seemingly neutral applications of technology but with those imbued with particular business doctrines that are purpose driven, rigid or have at best limited plurality, are ethically naive, and are most obviously vulnerable to misuse. In other words, technology can be bent to suit our whims.

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