One thing that stuck with my from college came from a philosophy class at San Diego State University. It was taught by Jack McClurg who retired the year after I graduated and passed away about 12 years ago. This was one of those classes you took to be around a whirlwind of intellectual thought developed to fine tune your mind, with no hope of getting better than a C (at least for me). I took his classes every chance I got, knowing I was going to be intellectually stimulated but that my GPA would get hammered. Dr. McClurg taught the Analects of Confucius, specifically the concept of Li, or deliberation. He was a self identified Confucian and taught this subject best.
It has been 25 years since then, so if it sounds garbled it's on me, but basically you develop a moral competence through deliberation. You spend a great deal of time asking difficult questions within a framework of developing morality. Once you deliberate, you act, and you're done. You live with your answer and move on. The moral development gets questioned and developed, the decision does not. If the foundation is strong, the decision is sound. People are often haunted by their decisions, but not if you're a Confucian. There's a freedom through such deliberation.
Once you have this moral competence developed, it's easier to make better and quicker decisions based on your training and track record. This has a direct application to business, as we too want to develop a moral framework from which to act. We are, theoretically, centered around the happiness of our employees and customers. What this means, how we go about this wisely and not foolishly, is our moral training. It you're a jackass, this won't fix that, although the Analects of Confucius will try to set you straight. If you're legitimately trying to help people, it's a powerful tool.
It's what most of our retailer discussions online are about. How would you handle this questionable situation in satisfying a customer or employee need? We develop our moral competence through such discussions. We share our thoughts. We often realize our peers are not on such a moral road and break off with those who are. Decisions are made. We live with them. We seek out the next challenge. That's it in a nutshell. The Analects talk about how to go about all this, with the guidance focused on reinforcing relationships within family and society. You can't get more pro business than that.
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