Monday, July 7, 2008

Ethical Mind

The Ethical Mind.
Harvard Business Review,
Mar 2007, Vol. 85, Issue 3

A Conversation with Psychologist Howard Gardner

What is an ethical mind?

In thinking of the mind as a set of cognitive capacities, it helps to distinguish the ethical mind from the other four minds that we particularly need to cultivate if we are to thrive as individuals, as a community, and as the human race. The first of these, the disciplined mind, is what we gain through applying ourselves in a disciplined way in school. Over time, and with sufficient training, we gain expertise in one or more fields: We become experts in project management, accounting, music, dentistry, and so forth. A second kind of mind is the synthesizing mind, which can survey a wide range of sources, decide what is important and worth paying attention to, and weave this information together in a coherent fashion for oneself and others. [For more on the synthesizing mind, see "The HBR List: Breakthrough Ideas for 2006" (February 2006). ] A third mind, the creating mind, casts about for new ideas and practices, innovates, takes chances, discovers. While each of these minds has long been valuable, all of them are essential in an era when we are deluged by information and when anything that can be automated will be.

Yet another kind of mind, less purely cognitive in flavor than the first three, is the respectful mind: the kind of open mind that tries to understand and form relationships with other human beings. A person with a respectful mind enjoys being exposed to different types of people. While not forgiving of all, she gives others the benefit of the doubt.

An ethical mind broadens respect for others into something more abstract. A person with an ethical mind asks herself, "What kind of a person, worker, and citizen do I want to be? If all workers in my profession adopted the mind-set I have, or if everyone did what I do, what would the world be like?"

It's important to clarify the distinction between the respectful and the ethical mind, because we assume that one who is respectful is ethical and vice versa.

In his new book, Five Minds for the Future (forthcoming from Harvard Business School Press in 2007),Gardner cogitates on what it takes to develop an ethical mind-set.

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