Dec 11, 2019

Providing education ethics & sustainability Q4/19

In our efforts to support and develop ethical literacy in society, we had another successful fourth quarter of 2019:

1. PhiloBrunch 'the ethics of leadership in turbulent times' with Dr. Kreuser on Sat., Nov. 23rd. 

2. Support of a Conference on Dec 10th, 2019 at the University of Applied Sciences Munich Campus Pasing. Topic: READING - No Thanks? Challenges of Digitality -

See details below: 

1. PhiloBrunch: "the ethics of leadership in turbulent times"

Our work-life is changing, for some quite radically - individualization, diversity and inclusion can be quite challenging. Traditional hierarchies have eroded, giving way to participation and cooperation. Collaboration has become more virtual. New work in all places. Lines between free time and work have become blurred, individualized working time, non-stop reachability. Meaning, enjoyment of work and success are brought into direct relationships.

If this is to be sustainable, then it needs a stable, clarified foundation, built on values. Otherwise, leadership and cooperation can quickly become arbitrary or opportunistic.

Leadership ethics deals with a binding set of values and moral norms  that affect leadership.

Leadership is becoming a co-production of leading and following by all members in a team or company. So the more leadership is exercised by all members of the team, the more relevant management ethics becomes for all participants. 

Dr. Karl Kreuser * shared his findings from a current research project on the "ethics of the professions" with the participants of the PhiloBrunch. As usual in PhiloBrunches, Dr. Kreuser presented not only his findings, but also real-life, practical cases from his work as a coach and consultant.

In the keynote introduction, some points on the subject were introduced with meaningful maxims:

  • "rose-colored glasses are not leadership instruments"

  • "Morality is a bad-weather virtue", as an indication that the true moral attitude of a person shows in the life#s difficult situations

  • "Lead morally and confidently"

  • "Moral evaluation always depends on the context", for example: one person has injured another with a knife. Hearing this without proper context, one may come to a false ethical evaluation. Of course, if you later find out that the former is a surgeon, you would evaluate that act differently.

The following question was raised for discussion: "Is frustrating another person morally acceptable?"

The case was about two equally deserving employees who each have children and both want to go on holiday at the same time. However at least one of them needs to be present for operational reasons. How a leader could handle the situation was tested in a short role-play. Would it be right for the leader to escape the uncomfortable situation by granting both employees leave and covering for them himself?   During the discussion the meaning of a clarifying conversation became clear and the duty of an executive to make decisions, to communicate these to the coworkers in a clear and comprehensible way, without feeling the need to justify himself, but also without dodging responsibility, simply leading.

If you don't walk the talk as a leader, you lose credibility, in short: "between intention and action lies credibility."

"Leadership is attitude", you need to learn to reflect upon your actions, i.e. to strengthen "the ability of reflexivity".

Following the keynote speech a case study was discussed in groups of two, with the goal of coming to a moral solution. The scenario: one co-worker 'stole' the wife of a colleague. The betrayed husband has found support and sympathy from his colleagues. This went so far that this group turned to the head of the department and demanded to remove the "cheater" from the department.

The groups of two discussed very passionately and very different solutions were developed and then briefly presented. An important note from Dr. Kreuser from his years of practice was that as a leader, you should not "outsource morality". In this context, this means that no advisor can take the decision for the manager. In the process of seeing what is important  and what alternatives manger has, seeking advice is ok, but in the end the manager must make the decision.

This certainly was a PhiloBrunch,  where knowledge/experience was  shared and horizons were  broadened, in a very stimulating and exciting way.

Many thanks to Dr. Kreuser!

* Dr. Karl Kreuser is a managing partner of the advisory group SOKRATeam. His work focuses on advising and supporting projects on talent, potential and competency management as well as on retention management. In addition to organization-specific concepts, he develops learning architectures for self-organized competency development. He also works as a mediator and systemic structure developer for business, public and social organizations, as well as family businesses.


2. Conference: "READING - No Thanks? Challenges of Digitality"

Current debates are often shaped by the sweeping changes that technological innovations are creating in nearly all areas of our society. Digitality is changing the world and how it is perceived - with regard to reading, issues such as: What significance will reading have in our society in the future? Will print media be completely replaced by digital media? What effects do screen media have on the process of reading (learning)? Will we even be reading books in ten years, or will autonomously interacting readers connect and exchange information and stories in line with users' needs and reading habits? Will readers vote on alternative ends of a multi-sensory novel per App? Will educational institutions such as schools, colleges and universities have to introduce children and young people to reading differently in the future?

The search for the answers seems to be less a question of technical possibilities than one of inner attitude and stance. It is important to develop a willingness to take responsibility for yourself and others. In the sense of "media competence" we have to decide how we want to behave towards the media and live in a digital world.

But it is also about an attempt to understand what contribution literature can make, especially in such a world, to the formation of humaneness.

Representatives from science, cultural and educational practice as well as the world of literature, but also all other interested parties were invited to a professional exchange and an open discourse about challenges for cultural technology Reading in the sign of digitality.




Sep 13, 2019

Providing education ethics & sustainability Q3/19

Survey Results: Case Study on Practical Ethics - A 'Gift' for Children? 


This summer we set up another survey concerning a hypothetical ethical dilemma and published the result.
This time the hypothetical was: Katharina was stuck in a dilemma after receiving a large donation from the company Berger Construction that has a very bad track record in terms of business ethics. She ponders: should I accept the donation, knowing that at least part of the money was illegally earned? Or should I put the well-being of the children and the ability to continue to employ Anne who takes care of the children (which is only possible with this donation) in the foreground and put my doubts about the legality/morality aside?

These were the possible answers that we offered in the survey:

a) The donation is Berger Construction's attempt of 'whitewashing its reputation'; Katharina should not allow herself to be instrumentalized by the donation. 
b) It is all about the outcome: With the donation many children can be helped, therefore Katharina should accept the donation. 
c) Katharina should notify the local press about the donation, but accept the donation. 
d) If Katharina makes the donation transparent and at the same time distances herself from Berger Construction, she can accept the donation. 
e) Katharina can accept the donation, but make it dependent on conditions that improve Berger Construction's corporate culture. 
f) The donation clearly shows that Berger Bau is prepared to make a positive change; Katharina can therefore accept the donation. 
g) Katharina may one day have to justify why she accepted 'dirty money', so she should reject the donation.

In fact, no participant chose response g). The thought of perhaps later having to justify oneself morally for something and only for this reason not accepting the donation, was not seen as an acceptable train of thought. The mere fact of being blamed later does not seem to be sufficient to decline this shady donation. One would only act in this way (non-acceptance) to avoid this possible consequences. Such thinking would also ignore the application of ethical principles.
Responses a) and f) were accepted by 8% of the participants.
In response f), it is assumed that Berger Construction Bau regret their past, want to change and that the donation payment is a first step into a more ethical future. So they should be given a chance to "make amends".
With the response a) however one does not accept Berger Construction's sincerity. Instead, the donation is rather seen as a purely insincere donation for PR reasons, without the genuine desire for change toward a more ethical behavior. Therefor the donation should be rejected.

8 % of respondents also opted for response c) would accept the donation, but make it public to the local press and thus ensuring transparency regarding the origin of the donations. Ethical considerations related to the origin of the money do not seem to play a role in the "acceptance or refusal" decision-making process.
23% chose answer b). These participants focus on the "good" that can be done with the donation, no matter where the money comes from. The fact that the money comes from obviously ethically questionable business practices is ignored and only the ethically valuable use of the donation is looked at: the good overrides the bad. 
another 23% selected e). The donation is accepted, but under the condition that Berger Construction not only changes its so-called Compliance Policies, i.e. the company's governance and ethical framework for dealing with business partners, but also implements them in a way that questionable business practices will no longer occur. Regardless of the question as to how Katharina could make such a change comprehensible and enforceable in practice, one sees in this answer that ethical considerations also played a role. One does not want to be misused, but insists on a change in Berger Construction's code of conduct as proof of a sincere wish to change.
Response d) was chosen most frequently: 31 %. Here Katharina accepts the donation and makes the donation of Berger Construction transparent in order to document that one has nothing to hide and stands by the acceptance of the donation, although the origin of the money is questionable. At the same time she also distances herself from the Berger Construction, in which she acknowledges the  questionable origin of the money and thus makes it clear that the donation will nevertheless be accepted and used for ethically valuable purposes. She makes it clear that the purpose is decisive for the decision in this concrete case and not the origin of the funds.
One participant had another idea on how to come to a decision for this dilemma: making the dilemma accessible to a public discourse by a public voting (yes or no), and making the results publicly transparent . The "moral burden" of the decision is thus distributed among all those participating in the vote.
As with all our questionnaires on ethical dilemmas: there is no right or wrong response. We always point out the following:
We all have our own moral and ethical compass - our "conscience", which he has to face every day. The case studies, however, serve to compare our conscience with the conscience of others. Above all we get to know our own conscience and can adjust it by dealing with possible solutions to a concrete dilemma. One cannot avoid dealing with oneself, one's thoughts and the inner psychic forces that produce these thoughts. We cannot avoid questioning ourselves and our trains of thought. The solution of the dilemma that we consider right for ourselves, possibly "adjusting" it equates to working on our humanity.  
Those who want to develop humanity in themselves will not be able to avoid dealing with themselves and will first have to get to know themselves. The case studies should help in that respect. 
Jun 17, 2019

Providing education ethics & sustainability Q2/19

In our efforts to support and develop ethical literacy in society, we have had another successful second quarter of 2019:

1) Philobrunch ""The history of the future - digitization and industry 4.0. Why it's about the people behind the technology now" in April

2) a short follow-up to a previous Philo-brunch - further developments within the Bridge of Hope Foundation

 See details below:


1) PhiloBrunch with Erik Händeler: "The history of the future - digitization and industry 4.0. Why it's about the people behind the technology now".


Picture by Wolfgang List 

Who wouldn't like to take a look into the crystal ball? Erik Händeler somehow always carries one with him, but his prognoses for the future are not spiritual, but are based on sound research. His assumptions are based on the Kondratieff theory of long structural cycles. Erik Händeler is a futurologist. In our Philobrunch on April 13th he showed us the world of tomorrow. 

A historical paradigm shift 

Past changes to life and work, were for example the steam engine or electricity. Today it is digitalization that has ushered in a paradigm shift. But what's next? In order to make a projection for the future, it is first necessary to look into the past. According to the Kondratieff theory, innovations occur cyclically, in so-called long waves. These phases are triggered by disruptive technologies that increase productivity and thus lead to economic growth. When the productivity growth is exhausted, stagnation occurs. This consideration of the economic upswing and downturn is referred to as a Kondratieff wave. The first Kondratieff wave was generated by the steam engine, followed by the railway and electrical engineering. The 4th period was characterized by the automobile, today we are in the 5th cycle, the information technology*.

But how did these world-changing inventions come about? According to Händeler, there is always an economic necessity for innovation. Because when something becomes scarce, there is a need for something new. For example, the railway was invented because of logistical bottlenecks. Looking back, it all sounds very logical. But "what is the next bottleneck in developmental history", to put it in Handeler's words. The days when computers made the world more productive are long gone. And so the question is: 

What will the history books refer to as the 6th Kondratieff wave?
According to Händeler: Health and dealing with knowledge.

According to the futurologist, this is not about working harder, but about classifying knowledge. Big data is almost is already old-school in business. Data and knowledge multiply inexorably. The challenge is being able to deal with that and process the information acquired. There is no longer anything like the universal scholars of the past. In order to master the complexity of unstructured knowledge, we need people with a very broad general education on the one hand and specialists with deep niche competence on the other.

"Rubber hierarchies" are becoming more and more important

The reason is simple: thanks to globalization, a high-performance computer with exactly the same productivity can be located in many different parts of the world. Because it is able to perform the same calculations from any location. But the decisive difference are the people behind it. Those who can make more out of the results/knowledge will survive in the competitive environment. And one person alone will be able to do less and less. Interdisciplinary teams working on topics at eye level are the key to more productivity.

Personal sensitivities, power thinking and status orientation are counterproductive. More than ever, "rubber hierarchies" (as Händeler calls them) are needed. Today you are part of one team, the day after tomorrow you move to a different project. We need to dissolve rigid structures in order to increase productivity again, and knowledge exchange must take place bilaterally. Given today's information flood you cannot have your knowledge bearers only at the highest hierarchical level. Together rather than against each other is becoming more than ever a key success factor.

Scarcity is the driver of change. According to Händeler, mental and physical health is increasingly becoming a rarity.

The individual as part of a team becomes more and more important. If the construction worker used to lack the strength, he was provided with a jack hammer to boost productivity. Today we increasingly work in an "thought world" in which planning, consulting and organizing are essential tasks. The skills of the individual are no longer so easily replaceable. The shortage of skilled workers is becoming ever greater and special skills are in high demand. However, the best education won't help if you cannot utilize your competence due to a lack of health.

Looking to the future: focus on people

Summarizing the two future prognoses "Dealing with diffuse knowledge" and "Health", it becomes clear how much the the individual is moving into the foreground. Companies that universally act ethically (those that treat people with dignity) will be successful. Mobbing and the dog-eat-dog mentality were yesterday - today it is about appreciation and investment in health.

Participants raised the question whether we run the risk of neglecting people if we only focused on productivity?  Putting people's health into the foreground, is indeed economically justified: burnout is not productive, so we should work to eliminate it. That is only rational. The fact that the individual benefits from increased efficiency is just an additional positive side effect. But Händeler also emphasizes that this is not the ultimate purpose. Our actions ought to stem from an ethical motivation. Acting economically entails social responsibility. But not only the company founder has a charitable mission. In order to promote a healthy environment, each and every one of us can contribute, e.g. by taking responsibility for our fellow human beings, and being willing to reconcile and cooperate. Health is always a combination of body and mind.


The higher the degree of digitization, the more important the person behind the technology becomes.

Whether you have a crystal ball at home or not, one thing is for sure: it is obviously worth being a caring, cooperative and attentive person in the future. For in addition to being a true human, ethical action will increasingly become a success factor.


2. a short follow-up to a previous Philo-brunch - further developments within the Bridge of Hope Foundation

At the end of 2018 we hosted a PhiloBrunch with Arnd Weil: "Life was good to me; it's time to give something back!" In the meantime, Arnd's Bridge of Hope foundation has taken further steps towards the promotion of education in Tanzania:
- there is a new website and

- a social media presence, on Instagram (#bridgeofhopestiftung) and Pinterest (Bridge of Hope)

- a Facebook presence is coming soon.

Arnd Weil never cut corners when he was a manager and never regretted his decision to leave his former stressful manager life. Quite the contrary: after leaving he has used his time to start a master's course in development aid and continues to build the foundation and drive its projects forward - theory and practice!


He was in Tanzania with his family and met the children in the schools that his foundation supports. They learned a lot about the children's needs, dreams and wishes. And what it takes for them to grow up in a safe environment and enjoy a quality education in order to one day be able to assume social responsibility within their community.

One of the most fascinating experiences was the fact that the local community not only made its own contribution to development, but they were so enthusiastic that they were always ahead of their schedule. This can certainly be attributed to the extremely positive effect of the ethical principle of "helping others to help themselves", which emphasises respect for others, personal responsibility and thus the joy of achieving a common goal. A concrete and good example of this is the Karama School. It was the task of the community to burn 45,000 bricks for the construction of four new classrooms.


With the speed displayed by the community, the new school building was completed after only four months! Arnd Weil: "I have never seen such speed in the construction of a public building in Germany..."

We will continue to accompany Arnd Weil and his foundation on their journey.
Should you be interested in contributing, be it financially, be it in the longer term by taking over a scholarship from one of the children in Karama, or perhaps you even want to visit one of the Foundation's projects in Tanzania, you can contact Arnd Weil via the Foundation's homepage.


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