Wednesday, 30 September 2009

ethics in entrepreneurship

Two stories came my way recently and it made me think about what is or is not ethical in entrepreneurship.

One is somewhat trivial - the hissing and fizzing of pop stars about whether or not they support illegal downloads. What I liked within the article on Lily Allen's views is the statement by music critic John Dee that it seems the only thing that unites some pop stars into any kind of passionate debate is "the one that concerns their own personal fortune",news,lily-allen-quits-music-as-music-piracy-abuse-gets-nasty

So, what goes through my mind is ofcourse that as part of entrepreneurship education, especially for the next generation how does one position ethical attitudes and behaviours in the pursuit of entrepreneurial careers when the mainstream illustrations are about whether or not artists can make money from illegal downloads and how the music industry can survive.

These are important; reflecting changes to oligopolistic contracts between consumers and the industry. They are being shatered by fragmented responses based on emerging technology. Southwestern, Ryanair and Easyjet to name a few airlines have capitalised on breaking up monopoly behaviours in the airline industry. Firms that cannot or do not respond to such changes are eventually killed off. Meanwhile consumers have benefited from being able to travel around much more easily and in more affordable ways.

I am sure the music and film industry needs similar thinking and this is on its way. In other words it is time to be creative about solving a problem rather than trying to control it or complaining about it.

But to be honest - this debate does not fire me up very much although the underlying debate about how free - free markets are supposed to be is the more philosophical argument to have.

The story that does get me really angry is based on a very fundamental question posed by Aristotle back in 350 BC (approx - I was not there at the time) - Is a Doctor a maker of money or a healer of the sick? This question still has no real answer. I was reminded of the question by a story from one of my family who lost their son recently. A young man of late 30s early 40s went into hospital with Swine Flu symptoms and sadly died there. This was at the Apollo Hospital in Hyderabad. I do not have the full story due to the distressed condition of the family - but in essence the Hospital management refused to allow the body to be taken away in one of their vehicles, insisting that the family take away the dead son in their own car or hire a taxi. Whether this is due to swineflu panic, cost management, crass stupidity of the staff on duty at the time is all not clear. But one thing is for sure - Aristotle - if he were in India today and saw the conditions of healthcare for the poor and the profit centred hospitals for the rich - he would certainly have something to say.

As always values play such a strong role in entrepreneurship. What are your own positions on such topics?


DiscoverLearnPlay said...

Interesting post. My colleagues and I face similar decisions regarding ethics and education (it just so happens to be in music). We are passionate about music education but have felt the profession has been under appreciated for far too long. Our goal is to elevate the profession so that (like Doctors) future passionate educators will join our fraternity not as a philanthropic or pro-social venture, but as a smart and lucrative career option.

To that end, we have developed a software program that takes students through 20 sequential lessons on any instrument. This program downloads easily, can be used by any computer literate person or parent, and comes complete with support.

We could easily 'give' this program away by making it available free online but what good would it do our profession? Music education has been 'given away' for years in our schools...and to what end? Programs are constantly being cut and our profession is being decimated from within as fewer and fewer musicians choose education as an option - and who could blame them?

It seems a wiser choice to create a healthy, competitive 'market' for music education. Everyone knows it's an important part of a well rounded education and endless studies prove that it is healthy for mind and soul. Why not elevate the profession to its rightful place by creating for-profit community centers that attract clients of all ages and abilities who simply want access to great music education.

If successful, we (like Doctors) can make our services available to those less fortunate. Until then, let's put the health of our profession first.

Anonymous said...

An erudite article. Ethics and entrepreneurship do indeed make interesting bedfellows. The article below raises questions about how 'risk free' entrepreneurship should be and who should pay the price of failure. If the penalty for failure is too draconian entrepreneurship will be reduced yet is it right to force others to pay for mistakes? A dilemma.