10 COVID-19 Trends: Our Inner Space

By Linda Fisher Thornton

It seems that we’re all getting more in touch with our “inner space” during the COVID-19 pandemic. The extensive time in isolation has given us the time and opportunity to face our truths – our beliefs, our impact and our choices.

Here are 10 trends we’re seeing during COVID-19 that show better self-awareness, other-awareness and moral awareness.

  1. We’re more aware of the importance of science in our lives
  2. We’re more aware (in our households, families and workplaces) that we are “all in this together” and each decision we make impacts everyone else in the group
  3. We’re more aware of how our actions (or inactions) can harm others
  4. We’re more aware of the importance of moral awareness in leadership
  5. We’re more aware of societal economic disparities
  6. We’re more aware of societal racial disparities
  7. We’re more aware of our global connectedness
  8. We’re more aware of what our travel lifestyle does to the planet
  9. We’re more aware of the risks others take for our benefit and well-being
  10. We’re more aware of the importance of taking responsibility for our actions, even under the most difficult and inconvenient circumstances

In my lifetime, I have not seen a time when we have had to come face-to-face with our own beliefs the same way we are having to now. Poor thinking is literally a health risk in these challenging times when failing to wear a mask at the wrong time can lead to illness or death.

Nancy Gibbs, Harvard Kennedy School, says about the impact of the pandemic on our thinking and leadership: “This is real. This has been a moral autopsy. Look for the common humanity. Look for the complexity, get past attributing bad motives to the ‘other side.'”

While it’s always easier to criticize others than to face our own limitations, it’s our own thinking and actions we should be examining now.

Click the cover to read a free preview!

LeadinginContext.com  

©2020 Leading in Context LLC

 

Minimum Standard Leadership

By Linda Fisher Thornton

I tell my students that if you go through life just reaching for the minimum standard, you end up with a minimum standard life. The good things in life, including success and happiness are more likely to happen when we reach higher than the baseline that is expected of us.

Growth

Growth happens beyond the baseline requirements. If we aim too low, we may be content with a job that doesn’t bring out our full potential. Stretching to grow into a more demanding role, we find out what we’re capable of, and we grow. We become capable of more, which opens up new opportunities.

Opportunity

People are often tapped for new projects and promotions based on their current performance and their willingness to learn new things and take on additional responsibility. Doing these things makes them deeply valuable assets to groups and organizations.

Leadership

Minimum standard leadership doesn’t inspire others to greatness and build great organizations. It just keeps the cogs turning.

Leadership opportunities require stretching beyond the minimum standard because leaders need to do their own work and support the work of others. That means that their most important supporting tasks are evolving, not finite and collective, not individual. Leaders must embrace growth and adapt to change, setting an example for the people they lead and support.

From Minimum Standard Performance to Potential

I have been stretched beyond my comfort zone almost continuously over the past decade. I remember times when I felt like “coasting” because I was so exhausted by change and wanted things to be easier.

Overcoming that tendency to want to keep things as they are is important for breaking out of self-imposed limits on our potential and achievement. Every new opportunity will likely pull us beyond our comfort zone, stretching and expanding what we are comfortable with.

When we break away from a desire to keep things as they are, we are much better prepared to take advantage of all the good that life has to offer. And we are much better prepared to be good leaders.

Click the cover to read a free preview!

LeadinginContext.com  

©2020 Leading in Context LLC

 

Good Leadership Serves, Respects and Uplifts

By Linda Fisher Thornton

This is an updated version of a post that has been a long-time reader favorite.

What is the ultimate goal of leadership? This question seems simple enough at first, and then begins to get tricky because it can’t be answered in one simple statement.

  • Is the goal of leadership to provide direction and model the performance we expect from others?
  • Is it to respect and serve?
  • Is it to support others and remove obstacles?
  • Is it to teach and mentor?
  • Is it to help bring out the best in those we lead as we work toward a common purpose?

Of course, leadership is about all of those things and more. So what is its ultimate goal? Here are four very different ways of thinking about the ultimate goal of leadership. Each one is shared with a suggested theme song. As you read, think about how many of these theme songs describe your leadership.

Profit

Using the Profit perspective, the goal of leadership is to ensure that the organization makes a profit so that it can continue its work. A theme song for this perspective might be “For the Love of Money” by the O’Jays (theme song for the U.S. version of The Apprentice).

People

Using the People perspective, the goal of leadership is to bring out the best in people through respect and care, and continual support for their success.  A theme song for this perspective might be R.E.S.P.E.C.T” by Otis Redding, sung by Aretha Franklin.

Service

Using the Service perspective, the goal of leadership is to serve others in ways that uplift lives and communities. A theme song for this perspective might be Lean on Me” by Bill Withers.

Greater Good

Using the Greater Good perspective, the goal of leadership is making choices that ensure a good life for future generations. The theme song for this perspective might be We Are the World” by Michael Jackson and Lionel Ritchie.

The question is not “Which one of these perspectives is right?” because they are all important ways of thinking about the goal of leadership. They are part of a bigger view that incorporates many dimensions of leadership responsibility. The question is “How can we honor all of them?” 

In my book, 7 Lenses, I explore all of these concepts in a framework of 7 important perspectives on what responsible leadership includes.  A 7 Lenses Book Club Discussion Guide is available to help groups discuss what they have learned and how they can apply it for individual and organizational improvement.

Here is an introduction to all 7 Lenses.

Leadership is multidimensional. We need to learn how to see it in multiple dimensions. If anyone tries to tell you that the ultimate goal of leadership is “one thing,” they’re missing the big picture.

Click the cover to read a free preview!

LeadinginContext.com  

©2020 Leading in Context LLC

 

Leadership: Evaluating Ethical Awareness

By Linda Fisher Thornton

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Ethical awareness may have been considered private in the past, but it has become easier to observe in a society that is always socially connected. Since ethical reputation is a defining element in individual and organizational success, it is time that we consider ethical awareness as a key element of experience when selecting leaders for our businesses, community organizations, governments, and nations.

Our level of ethical awareness is the rock on which we build our relationships, decisions and actions. It drives our choices and how we treat others. It informs our priorities and budget allocation. It tells us what to pay attention to and how we will handle it.

But when choosing a leader, how do we know how solid that leader’s rock is in terms of ethical awareness? To find out, we need to understand the job candidate’s worldview. How does the leader perceive the world? What does the leader consider most important? What is the leader’s definition of “good leadership?”

Assessing a Leader’s Ethical Awareness

Questions to explore by interview and observation:

We need ethically-aware leaders in every leadership role at every level. The pandemic has taught us that our well-being is in the hands of the leaders we have chosen. Choosing the most ethically-aware leader will lead to the most ethical long-term outcomes. We need to take the time to look under the rock.

Click the cover to read a free preview!

LeadinginContext.com  

©2020 Leading in Context LLC

 

17 Leadership Paradoxes

By Linda Fisher Thornton

COVID-19 has brought us many challenges including balancing economic and human factors, moving quickly but taking time to show compassion and so on. This Center for Creative Leadership video succinctly introduces 6 paradoxes in the essential leadership skills required in a post-COVID world. You can visit their website to download the related white paper.

The PWC publication “Six paradoxes of leadership: Addressing the crisis of leadership” shares 6 more paradoxes of leadership and notes that “learning how to comfortably inhabit both elements of each paradox will be critical to your success.” The paradoxes are expanded on in this COVID-19 related article “The urgent need for sophisticated leadership.”

And I’ll add these 5 paradoxes from my post Building Trust: Paradoxical Qualities to Cultivate

Cultivating these qualities in ourselves and our organizations helps us build a high trust workplace where people can do their best work:

Be Dependable and Open to Change

Be Fully Present Right Now and Think Ahead

Be Crystal Clear About What’s Expected and Open to Hearing Input From Others

Be Confident and Humble

Be Decisive and Flexible

Great leaders possess seemingly paradoxical qualities. They know when to use each end of the spectrum, depending on what is most needed to move individuals and groups forward.

Building Trust: Paradoxical Qualities to Cultivate, Leading in Context Blog

Leaders need to be be adaptable good thinkers to work their way through all of these paradoxes at the same time. The pandemic simply raises the stakes on us to get it right.

Click the cover to read a free preview!

LeadinginContext.com  

©2020 Leading in Context LLC

 

Who’s Accountable For Ethical Artificial Intelligence?

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Who is accountable for ethical artificial intelligence? How do you build accountability into your organization’s use of AI? I was recently invited to answer those questions in a guest blog post published on the EDUCAUSE Professional Development Commons and EDUCAUSE Review.

There is more to think about when implementing AI than just efficiency and time savings. There are ethical implications at every step in the process. This article includes an overview of those ethical implications and steps organizations can take to build ethics into current and future AI projects.

“Determining who is responsible for ethical AI turns out to be more complicated than identifying the person who created the program. There are potentially multiple responsible parties, including programmers, sellers, and implementers of AI-enabled products and services. For AI to be ethical, multiple parties must fulfill their ethical obligations. IT departments should be ready to assess and manage ethics before, during, and after AI deployment.”

Linda Fisher Thornton, Artificial Intelligence and Ethical Accountability, EDUCAUSE Professional Development Commons and EDUCAUSE Review.

While the article was written for higher education IT professionals, the principles apply to any IT department in any industry that is directly or indirectly (through vendors) using AI.

The article is governed under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND 4.0 International License.

Share this article with your team to establish a baseline understanding of ethical accountability for AI, and to incorporate key steps into your planning and implementation processes.

This article was originally published in the EDUCAUSE Professional Development Commons (blog) and EDUCAUSE REVIEW, Artificial Intelligence and Ethical Accountability, EDUCAUSE Review, July 31, 2020.

Click the cover to read a free preview!

LeadinginContext.com  

©2020 Leading in Context LLC

 

How to Be Human (Together)

By Linda Fisher Thornton

This week I’m sharing an edited compilation of three previously published posts that are relevant for leaders and organizations wanting to honor human rights in chaotic times. The first addresses the risk of excluding any humans from our organizational statement of inclusion. The second explains why values transcend borders and boundaries, and the third explains that how we perceive people who are ‘different’ impacts our behavior and our ethics.

Inclusion: The Power of Regardless

Some inclusion statements begin with “we respect all people and treat them fairly, regardless of…”  and then include a long list of differences that we should overcome. These lists are hard to communicate, difficult to remember and ever-changing as we expand our understanding of human rights. 

Why not aim for where the statement is going, rather than where it’s been? We can keep adding to that “regardless” list until it becomes too unwieldy to use, or we can simply say now:

“We respect all people and treat them fairly, regardless.”

That’s the message behind the UN Global Declaration of Human Rights, championed by Eleanor Roosevelt. 

I know what you might be thinking. Not everyone is ready to make this leap all at once. What we can do is make sure that we are moving our organizations in this direction with all due haste, knowing that this is the leadership mindset that is required of us in a global society, regardless.

Seeing Beyond Borders and Walls

When you make a commitment to ethical values and ethical choices, boundaries and walls only indicate the boundaries of new places to apply those ethical values and choices. Beyond them, ethical values matter just as much as they matter within your own walls. You could argue that they matter more, because you are stepping into other cultures and ways of life and need to take special care to show respect.

Any argument that we can be disrespectful or harmful to others who live outside of our borders is based on flawed thinking, self-interest, myopia and a lack of moral awareness.

Ethical leaders see beyond walls. They don’t dehumanize people to improve their own position.

Ethical leaders think beyond themselves on a global scale. They don’t excuse their own or anyone else’s bad behavior or unethical choices

Ethical Leadership: Perceptions of “Different” Impact Our Behavior

How we think as leaders directly impacts our behavior by compelling us to act based on the value judgments we make. Today’s post focuses on how we perceive “different,”  how our perceptions change our leadership, and how our leadership changes the work environment in ways that may lead to unethical behavior.

Unfortunately, we don’t always use the word “different” to describe things and people and ideas that are new to us. We often use less friendly words that indicate that the person or idea is wrong, misguided or harmful. Let’s check our thinking about “different” for a moment, and consider how our perception impacts our behavior and our ethics.

If we are one of the leaders who thinks that “different” ideas and people are interesting/good/essential, then we will be open to new ideas and new information and will want to surround ourselves with people who represent different ways of thinking. We will see the value in differences of opinion. We will tolerate some level of chaos and see it as part of the natural process of getting great work done. Opportunities will be quickly recognized and acted on, leading to competitive advantage.

If we are a leader who thinks that “different” ideas and people are dangerous/bad/wrong, then we will be closed to new ideas and new information and will want to surround ourselves with people who think and act very much like we do. We will see differences of opinion as threatening the fabric of the organization. Our organization will begin to become obsolete as groupthink sets in. We will discourage new and different perspectives and will see them as blatant insubordination.  Employees will leave as they find they are not able to do their best work in the “copy me” culture. Missed opportunities and complications from employee resistance to “not being allowed to think for themselves” will take a toll on the profitability and viability of the business. Employees will be more likely to make unethical decisions in the restrained environment that does not allow for discussion of grey areas during ethical challenges.

Which type of leader engages employees? Inspires the best work? Is rewarded in your organization? Which of these two approaches is ethical?

Click the cover to read a free preview!

LeadinginContext.com  

©2020 Leading in Context LLC

 

“Ethical Thinking Isn’t Automatic”

By Linda Fisher Thornton

“For ethical leadership to stick, the culture needs an infrastructure that consistently supports acting on stated values…Ethical cultures treat ethical thinking as something that must be cultivated, demonstrated, and practiced over time.”

My article, “Ethical Thinking Isn’t Automatic,” featured in the August issue of the Talent Development Journal, describes five culture gaps that inhibit ethical leadership. These culture gaps are common problems that organizations should watch for and avoid.

You won’t want to miss this article. It includes advice to organizations wanting to build ethical cultures, and is grounded in decades of experience and observations about where cultures often fall short.

“Companies fall into five common traps on the way to building an ethics-rich culture: no active focus on values, oversimplification of complex issues, lack of behavior boundaries, lack of integration, and ignoring the learning curve.”

Linda Fisher Thornton, Ethical Thinking Isn’t Automatic, Talent Development Journal

Ethical thinking doesn’t happen without the infrastructure to support it. Does your organization have it in place or is it burdened with one of the five culture gaps? Read the full article to learn how to identify and resolve five common culture gaps that erode ethical leadership.

Subscribe at LeadinginContext.com/Blog.

Click the cover to read a free preview!

LeadinginContext.com  

©2020 Leading in Context LLC

 

Human Leadership is the Leadership We Need

By Linda Fisher Thornton

As we struggle with compounding challenges around the world, people are more and more frequently seeking information about human or humane leadership. Why is the topic so timely? I believe it’s critical now because in a crisis we need a leader who can make people feel safe, respected and protected.

Here are some inspiring quotes about important elements of human leadership:

“Human leadership is grounded in self-respect and unconditional love. It comprehends and honors all people’s equal right to equity, dignity and integrity. It recognizes all people for who they are, accepts their unique contribution, treats them with respect and recognizes their value.” 

Sesil Pir, Human Leadership: What It Looks Like, And Why We Need It In The 21st Century, Forbes

As our understanding of what “good leadership” means continues to change, we are incorporating more of what it means to be human into the ways we lead.

“Businesses have started to treat employees like human beings, rather than workers whose only relevant wishes are company related.”

Daniel Ross, Six Ways Leaders Can Humanize an Organization, SHRM’s Executive Network, HR People + Strategy

“The task of leadership is not to put greatness into humanity, but to elicit it, for the greatness is already there.”

— John Buchan

Being human with others and leading them with zeal won’t be enough. Our leadership must demonstrate the highest character.

“Leadership consists not in degrees of technique but in traits of character.”

— Lewis H. Lapham

“Humans will probably always need the help of especially gifted moral leaders in order to extend the bonds of caring and trust beyond the easy range of the family and the face-to-face community. Such bonds have become essential to the future of humanity.”

—Paul R. Lawrence, Driven To Lead: Good, Bad, and Misguided Leadership

Ethics is at its heart about treating other people well. Human leadership is based on essential ethical principles, with ethics treated as central, not as an afterthought.

Ethical principles help us bring out people’s best and create a positive environment, and when they are central to our thoughts, words, and actions we can nurture a workspace that is human-friendly.

Click the cover to read a free preview!

LeadinginContext.com  

©2020 Leading in Context LLC

 

Leaders: Is An Insider Mindset Ethical?

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Leaders focus on the good of their teams, organizations and communities. They work to achieve challenging goals and outcomes and they handle day-to-day crises. HOW they do that is shaped by their mindsets.

What Is An Insider Mindset?

One leader mindset that does not guide leaders to ethical choices is the “insider mindset.” When we think of the word “insider,” we may think of “insider trading” (having an unfair advantage) or “insider information” (possessing knowledge that provides a special advantage). According to Merriam Webster, the word “insider” means “special privilege or status” and has these synonyms: connection, contact, big shot, bigwig, somebody, VIP.

At the core of ethics is thinking beyond ourselves. When we use an insider mindset, though, we place ourselves in the “special seat” and from that point of view it is easier to discount the needs and concerns of others. Applying an insider mindset, it is tempting to ignore the laws and protections that keep us from taking advantage of others.

What Does It Lead To?

Using an “insider mindset” a leader might think it perfectly fine to share “insider” information with a select few in the inner circle for their own benefit. The leader might refuse to share the information publicly even when confronted, since sharing it would take the leader out of the “special seat” and spread the VIP advantage around to everyone else.

Is It Ethical?

Good leaders know that the power of leadership is in its ability to bring out the best in others, which in turn brings out the best in the leader. The leader’s power, then, is not reliant on any special inside information or advantage since it resides in the potential of every member of the team.

An insider mindset has a critical flaw when it comes to ethics. It conveniently “overlooks” the leadership responsibility to protect and serve others before ourselves. It “looks away” from responsibilities that are at the core of good leadership. For these reasons, there is no place for an “insider mindset” in ethical leadership.

Click the cover to read a free preview!

LeadinginContext.com  

©2020 Leading in Context LLC

 

Leaders: Manage Job Loss During COVID-19 With Care

By Linda Fisher Thornton

I was asked to weigh in on several important questions about the economy and job loss during the COVID-19 pandemic for an article about unemployment that appeared at WalletHub.com.

Leaders may feel that they are somewhat powerless to help when people are laid off. There is a sense that their options are limited by the constraints of the situation and the business’s current economic challenges. I believe, though, that even when job loss or reduction in work hours is inevitable, there are still things leaders can do to help meet people’s deepest human needs.

“Those who find themselves unemployed during the COVID-19 pandemic need to be treated with respect and allowed to maintain a sense of personal dignity...Leaders can acknowledge that what people are experiencing is devastating for them and their families.”

— Linda Fisher Thornton

Even if jobs are no longer available, leaders can offer respect, care and support. Those important leadership roles can be extended at no financial cost and they make a significant difference for the people impacted by COVID-19 related job loss.

Leaders can handle any job loss or reduction in hours in ways that help people retain their dignity and regain their footing during difficult times.

To learn more about what leaders can do to support people who have lost jobs during COVID-19, read my advice in the article Cities with the Biggest Growth in Unemployment Due to COVID-19 by Adam McCann, Financial Writer at WalletHub.com.

Click the cover to read a free preview!

LeadinginContext.com  

©2020 Leading in Context LLC

 

Ethical Leadership: Beyond Insight to Action

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Have you had an insight while attending a conference? While listening to a speaker, you hear a new idea that strikes you as important, and you jot it down to follow up. But do you ever follow up?

As a follow up to speaking at the recent CUPA-HR Virtual Conference, I wrote a post for the CUPA-HR Blog about ethical leadership and moving from insight to action.

Author Richard Bach says that “any powerful idea is absolutely fascinating and absolutely useless until we choose to use it.” In other words, ethical leaders don’t just talk about insights, they act on them.

Linda Fisher Thornton, Three Ways to Put Ethical Leadership Into Action at Your Organization, cupahr.org

When we get a spark of inspiration and suddenly see something more clearly, the most important thing we can do is put that insight into action in our organizations.

The insights that take our thinking to a higher level will fall flat if we don’t use them to change people’s experience of our leadership.

Read the Full Article at cupahr.org

Click the cover to read a free preview!

LeadinginContext.com  

©2020 Leading in Context LLC

 

10 Things Ethical Leaders Believe

By Linda Fisher Thornton

While dealing with the catastrophic COVID-19 pandemic, we need to remember that good decisions are always made based on values. To confirm what those values are that should guide our choices, this week I’m sharing my Manifesto What Ethical Leaders Believe.

This Manifesto frames ethical leadership in clear language, and is shareable under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License. It includes 10 Things Ethical Leaders Believe that transform their leadership and their organizations.

Click the cover image above to download What Ethical Leaders Believe and share it with your colleagues and friends (the download link is at the top right of the page). It includes an introduction to the philosophy behind my work and it previews the ethical leadership book 7 Lenses.

There is no check-box for ethical leadership. It is an ongoing individual and organizational journey.

Linda Fisher Thornton, What Ethical Leaders Believe: The Leading in Context Manifesto, ChangeThis.com

Take a moment to focus and ground your leadership in the 10 Things Ethical Leaders Believe in this timely Manifesto. I hope it will help you make the difficult choices you face in the coming days and weeks.

Click the cover to read a free preview!

LeadinginContext.com  

©2020 Leading in Context LLC

 

5 Ethical Dimensions of IoT Leadership (Part 6)

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Part 1 in this series on 5 Ethical Dimensions of IoT Leadership focused on the importance of Ethical Foresight. Part 2, Part 3, Part 4 and Part 5 explored the dimensions of Ethical Design, Legal Compliance. Human Impact. and Evolving Ecosystem. Part 6 will conclude the series with the final dimension – Public Good.

5: PUBLIC GOOD

Assistive technology will make people lives easier, and it is profitable, but The IoT was meant to do much more than just make money. The problem is that our contributions to the IoT have no inherent morality and no contribution to the public good until we build them in. In addition to having no inherent morality, Gérald Santucci argues that the IoT creates the risk for “objects” to become “subjects” (they get the agency to take decisions) and for (human) subjects to become “objects” (we just behave by adopting and implementing the performance criteria of our objects: efficiency, productivity etc.). A simple example of this is wearing a fitness band that directs our behavior to increase movement and to direct when we should move. In this example, the fitness device is directing human behavior, not the other way around.

The scope of the shift in our role to that of subject is invisible unless we step back and look at it with an ecosystem view. “Things will be able to autonomously manage their transportation, implement fully automated processes and thus optimize logistics; they have to be able to harvest the energy they need, they will configure themselves when exposed to a new environment and show “intelligent/cognitive behavior” when faced with other things and deal seamlessly with unforeseen circumstances; and finally, they might manage their own disassembly and recycling, helping to preserve the environment, at the end of their lifecycle” (Dr. Ovideu Vermesan and Dr. Peter Friess, et. al., Internet of Things, Global Technologies and Societal Trends,  Chapter 2) Will we simply become caretakers of the processes they create? Who’s really in charge in this scenario?

If we are able to manage the evolution of the IoT at a high enough level, it has the potential to accelerate our progress toward improving the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. In “using IoT to create a future we want” in the report” IoT Policies Toward 2025: Benefitting From the Opportunities” Maarten Botterman points out that “The Sustainable Development Goals that have been agreed by the UN General Assembly in September 2015 represent global norms, and include a clear call for connected technologies to contribute to achieving them. Please note that the SDGs also insist on “inclusive” use of connected resources.”

The IoT Is A Platform For Advancing The Public Good   In the end, pride of engineering must include a deep regard for ethical practices that should guide our actions and our obligations to the society we serve. Vint Cerf, The Ethics of the Internet of Things Ecosystem, The Marconi Society

“IoT devices placed strategically throughout even the most complex global supply chain can give managers deep, real-time insight into any problems, even before they arise.” The Internet of Things: Benefits and Risks, AIG

 In “Harnessing the IoT For Global Development,” the International Telecommunications Union and Cisco partner to make a powerful case for how advances in the IoT can move us forward on a global scale. Three of the areas where they predict IoT will have the highest potential impact include disease containment, agricultural yield and economic prediction.

Connecting the dots using disparate pieces of data collected by IoT devices can help us resolve some of society’s biggest problems. Arafat Kazi, UMass Amherst, describes the higher purpose of the IoT in “Life, The Universe and The Internet of Things: “Ultimately, IoT’s biggest transformative power lies in what it can do for the greater good… Creating new pathways for us to help each other and contribute to the good of humanity—that is IoT’s ultimate goal.”

It is our job to carefully manage our participation in the IoT as it grows so that our contributions can serve the greater good of society, individually and collectively. This means designing for SAFETY, WELL-BEING, and creating a BETTER LIFE for future generations.

Seeing The Whole Ethical Picture

“As cars begin to drive themselves, who should be responsible for accidents? As systems take on more decisions previously made by humans, it will be increasingly challenging to create a framework for responsibility and accountability” (Francine Berman and Vinton G. Cerf, Social and Ethical Behavior in the Internet of Things, Communications of the ACM). We can carefully design our contributions to the IoT so that they actively benefit society and improve the public good. The catch is that to do this well, we will need to understand and carefully manage the ethics of all of the dimensions discussed here – Ethical Design, Legal Compliance, Human Impact, the Evolving Ecosystem and the Greater Good.  The table below includes key ethical questions and global protocols for each dimension.

1 ETHICAL DESIGN

Global Protocols

Think Through Ethical Issues Up Front
Aim For Everyone in the Ecosystem to Win
Design in Safety and Privacy Protection
Protect Devices and Data From Interference/Tampering


Guiding Documents

“All actors should engage in a strong, active and constructive debate on the implications of the internet of things and its derived big data to raise awareness of the choices to be made.” Mauritius Declaration on the Internet of Things

“A complex web of stakeholders is forming around IoT products: from users, to businesses, and everyone in between. We design so that there is a win for everybody in this elaborate exchange.” IoT Design Manifesto 1.0, creative industries fund NL

“Privacy by design and default should no longer be regarded as something peculiar. They should become a key selling point of innovative technologies.” Mauritius Declaration on the Internet of Things

A simple firewall is no longer sufficient. One way to minimize the risk to individuals is to ensure that data can be processed on the device itself (local processing). Where this is not an option, companies should ensure end-to-end encryption is in place to protect the data from unwarranted interference and/or tampering. Mauritius Declaration on the Internet of Things  
  2: LEGAL COMPLIANCE

Global Protocols

Ensure Compliance With Laws
Honor the Values Behind the Laws
 

Guiding Documents

“Ensure compliance with the data protection and privacy laws in their respective countries, as well as with the internationally agreed privacy principles. Where breaches of the law are discovered, they will seek appropriate enforcement action, either unilaterally or through means of international cooperation.” Mauritius Declaration on the Internet of Things  

“Companies need a mind shift to ensure privacy policies are no longer primarily about protecting them from litigation.” Mauritius Declaration on the Internet of Things

3: HUMAN IMPACT

Global Protocols

Protect Human Life, Safety and Well-Being

Protect Human Identity, Privacy and Data
Disclose Data Gathering Practices
Be Transparent/Clear About How Data is Used


Guiding Documents  

“It is not possible to focus solely on the technologies, at the risk of ignoring the human context in which these technologies must work. There are many difficult trade-offs involved — only some of which are technological… The purpose for which technology and applications are developed does not always end up as the sole — or even major — purpose for which they are actually used.” “Strategies to protect privacy must take a range of risks into account from a variety of different sources as well as adapt to local regulations;” Mr. Houlin Zhao, ITU Secretary-General, in Foreword of Harnessing the Internet of Things for Global Development by ITU and Cisco as A CONTRIBUTION TO THE UN BROADBAND COMMISSION FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT

“Considering that the identifiability and protection of big data already is a major challenge, it is clear that big data derived from internet of things devices makes this challenge many times larger. Therefore, such data should be regarded and treated as personal data.” Mauritius Declaration on the Internet of Things  

“Transparency is key: those who offer internet of things devices should be clear about what data they collect, for what purposes and how long this data is retained. When purchasing an internet of things device or application, proper, sufficient and understandable information should be provided.”  Mauritius Declaration on the Internet of Things
4: EVOLVING ECOSYSTEM

Global Protocols

Be Trustworthy and Reliable Actors in the Bigger Ecosystem  

Guiding Documents

“More than ten speakers commented on the need for applications of IoT+Big Data+AI to be trusted and “trustworthy” (and how many different steps are needed to foster trust). These include protecting privacy and personal data, enhancing cybersecurity, being transparent about problems, respecting human rights, giving users alternatives if they find one service or application unsatisfactory, “design for safety,” and “design for diversity.”    Internet Governance Forum, IGF Best Practice Forum on Internet of Things, Big Data and Artificial Intelligence

“It is a joint responsibility of all actors in society so that the trust in connected systems can be maintained. They should eliminate the out-of-context surprises for customers. “ Mauritius Declaration on the Internet of Things

“IoT devices will have the biggest societal impact where they are used together in larger, inter‐connected, systems. At the macro‐level, two of the areas of greatest IoT development and investment are smart cities – where infrastructure and building systems will improve the efficiency and sustainability of a whole range of urban activities – and smart power and water grids.” Regulation And The Internet of Things, GSR Discussion Paper, ITU

5: PUBLIC GOOD

Global Protocols

Use The IoT to Improve Society For All  

Guiding Documents

“The emerging IoT paradigm has the potential to create an efficient, effective and secure ecosystem taking advantage of connected devices for managing the major global challenges faced by this, and future generations.”   Internet of Things Declaration to Achieve the Sustainable Development Goals

“Connecting up devices or robots (whether they are bridges, fridges or widgets) is only a means to an end — the really interesting part arises in terms of what can be done with the data obtained, and the learning outcomes for improving our future.”  Harnessing the Internet of Things for Global Development by ITU and Cisco as a A CONTRIBUTION TO THE UN BROADBAND COMMISSION FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT

IoT technologies could make an important contribution to global challenges such as improving public health and quality of life, moderating carbon emissions, and increasing the efficiency of a range of industries across developed and developing economies.” Regulation And The Internet of Things, GSR Discussion Paper, ITU

The IoT is increasingly thinking and evolving in organic ways. To harness its potential for enhancing human life and furthering the public good, and to diminish its potential for systematizing harm, we need to accept the challenge to do the ethical thinking now.

Looking at the Ethics of IoT through different perspectives one at a time, we will never be able to respond quickly enough to the ethical issues generated by its rapid evolution. We can choose, instead, to see the dimensions of the ethical picture as a whole. That broad picture will help us more easily predict where problems will happen in the future and create ethical solutions. It will assist us in global discussions about protocols, processes and laws.

Many organizations are working together to define AI ethics to ensure that it contributes to overall human well-being.  The IoT can transform HUMANITY, evolving into a powerful ECOSYSTEM that advances the global ECONOMY and enables and supports the PUBLIC GOOD. These desired results will need to be achieved with a keen awareness of the ethical issues and a relentless commitment to ethical thinking and choices. For advances in technology to improve our lives they must be matched with corresponding rapid advances in ethical design. Only then will the results be positive and lasting.

Contributors:

Gerald Santucci and Rob van Kranenburg served as reviewers and contributed substantial feedback that helped shape this paper’s coherence and usefulness.

About the Author:

Linda Fisher Thornton is an author and leader in the field of ethical thinking and leadership. She helps executives, leaders and groups learn how to lead using the 7-dimensional model described in her book 7 Lenses: Learning the Principles and Practices of Ethical Leadership. Linda is an Adjunct Associate Professor of Applied Ethics and Global Leadership for the University of Richmond SPCS. Her website is www.LeadinginContext.com.

Click the cover to read a free preview!

LeadinginContext.com  

©2020 Leading in Context LLC

 

5 Ethical Dimensions of IoT Leadership (Part 5)

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Part 1 in this series introduced 5 Ethical Dimensions of IoT Leadership and the importance of ethical foresight. Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4 explored the dimensions of Ethical Design, Legal Compliance. and Human Impact. Today’s post explores a new dimension – Evolving Ecosystem.

4: EVOLVING ECOSYSTEM

The IoT is evolving organically, like our planet. Like our planet, we must think about it as a complex ecosystem, not a random collection of parts. The ecosystem we call “the Iot” is a rapidly growing collective that includes computers, devices, networks, the internet, data and communications as well as software and product designers, companies, regulators and consumers. All of these players in the IoT ecosystem have the power to change it through their decisions and actions.

The evolving IoT ecosystem is not just a complex tactical and technological system of systems. As Gérald Santucci explains, it is “a new social contract between humans, machines, and the immediate surroundings and everyday objects.” What can happen if we literally “put our daily lives into the hands” of this evolving ecosystem? In a complex ecosystem, the concept of “direct control” is absent. In other words, one action does not directly cause the intended reaction because there are so many actors and variables changing the dynamics at any one time.

The IoT is an evolving GLOBAL NETWORK, not a collection of INTERFACES, NETWORKS AND ENGINEERS. It is a globally connected community, with human and non-human actors and interfaces directing each other’s behavior. That makes it a new type of challenge that needs a high level, values-based response.

“Recent advances in disciplines such as biotechnology, nanotechnology, and neuropharmacology entail a ‘dual-use dilemma’ because they promise benefits for human health and welfare yet pose the risk of misuse for hostile purposes”  (MIT, Innovation, Dual Use and Security, Book Overview). Unless ethics is a key factor driving device design and programming, we may not even have the option to keep IoT devices under control. Machine learning adds an “actively thinking and learning” element to the ecosystem, generating additional risks that require ethical design. Even if ethics is a key factor in design, some impacts from the connectedness and interdependence of IoT devices will be outside of our control.

“The danger of the increased vulnerabilities is not being addressed by security workers at the same rate that vendors are devoting time to innovation. Consider how one might perform security monitoring of thousands of medical nanobots in a human body.” Misty Blowers, USAF Research Laboratory, Jose Iribarne, Westrock, Edward Colbert, ICF International, Inc. , and Alexander Kott, US Army Research Laboratory in The Future Internet of Things and Security of Its Control Systems

The IoT is A Complex, Organic, Evolving Ecosystem With No “Owner” and No Limits
“From self-driving cars on public roads to self-piloting reusable rockets landing on self-sailing ships, machine intelligence is supporting or entirely taking over ever more complex human activities at an ever increasing pace.” Moral Machine, MIT  

“Any thing – even a human body, if equipped with the right electronic parts – can become part of IoT, so long as it can collect and transmit data through the Internet.”   Marc Jadoul, The IoT, The Next Step in Internet Evolution, Nokia

“In the IoT, everything becomes an access point on the network, which creates new security and privacy challenges. To protect your network, you must understand how that data will move – from device to device, across data centers, and even across borders – and develop security and privacy protocols that will reliably collect the data in compliance with regulatory obligations.” The Internet of Things in the Cognitive Era, IBM

“We can’t treat IoT devices like cattle any more, we have to treat them like pets that live in people’s homes and get very, very angry when they don’t get fed. One day, if we’re not careful, we are going to put JavaScript into, I don’t know, an IoT kettle and light somebody’s house on fire because “undefined” is not a function.” Emily Gorcenski, The Ethics of the Internet of Things, JSConf EU 

How will we keep our smart devices “under control” in this seemingly uncontrollable evolving ecosystem? Here are some key success factors.

  1. We will need to imagine an ethical IoT and govern and guide its evolution accordingly.

“What kind of digital planet do we want? Because we are at a point where there is no turning back, and getting to ethical decisions, values decisions, decisions about democracy, is not something we have talked about enough nor in a way that has had impact… And sticking with the environmental metaphor, we really are at a choice point where we could build a forest, a rich ecosystem, something that supports life. Or we could end up very quickly with a clearcut, where there’s not much of anywhere to live and not much around at all.” Mark Surman, Are We Living Inside an Ethical (and Kind) Machine?, re:publica

  • IoT organizations will have to work together. (Note that even if they do, the challenges will be great).

“The ‘mission’ of the entire IoT ‘system’ was not pre-defined; it is dynamically defined by the demand of the consumer and the response of vendors. Little or no governance exists and current standards are weak. Cooperation and collaboration between vendors is essential for a secure future IoT, and there is no guarantee of success.” Misty Blowers, USAF Research Laboratory, Jose Iribarne, Westrock, Edward Colbert, ICF International, Inc. , and Alexander Kott, US Army Research Laboratory in The Future Internet of Things and Security of Its Control Systems

  • Monitoring and safety innovations will have to keep up with product innovation and the evolution of the IoT ecosystem. (Note that we are using the systems we want to control to manage the security of the IoT, reducing the human ability to impact the ecosystem even further).

“As automation increases in IoT control systems, software and hardware vulnerabilities will also increase.”  “Automated security monitoring will be essential as control systems grow to exceed the capacity of humans to identify and process security logs and other security information.”

Misty Blowers, USAF Research Laboratory, Jose Iribarne, Westrock, Edward Colbert, ICF International, Inc. , and Alexander Kott, US Army Research Laboratory in The Future Internet of Things and Security of Its Control Systems

  • Physical security will have to increase its scope and vigilance in response to new risks. (Note that in addition to the risks in the virtual realm, the IoT also creates tangible objects that can be used to harm).

“As self-healing materials and 3D printers gain use in industry, supplychain attacks could introduce malicious effects, especially if new materials and parts are not inspected or tested before use.” Misty Blowers, USAF Research Laboratory, Jose Iribarne, Westrock, Edward Colbert, ICF International, Inc. , and Alexander Kott, US Army Research Laboratory in The Future Internet of Things and Security of Its Control Systems

  • We will need to upgrade our understanding of human rights to govern in this realm. (Note that whatever is decided about robot rights will add to the complexities of the ethics of the IoT).

“Many people assume the rights and protections we enjoy in democratic society are applicable to the IoT realm. Is this not the case? Whether we’re dealing with rights and protections in existing scenarios or new ones, the IoT will be a brave new world. We will need to conceptualize, extend, or re-establish a working notion of individual rights and the public good.” Francine Berman, Toward an Ethics of the Internet of Things

  • We will need to build trust, transparency and accountability into the system

“An important element of loT Good Practice is its supporting mutual trust amongst all the components of loT ecosystems: human, devices, applications, existing institutions and business entities. Trust is boosted by a recognition of personal needs; by transparency in how things are organized-namely in a way that clearly shows that relevant measures have been taken to meet those needs-; and by accountability in ensuring that responsibilities are clear, and if someone responsible (person or organization) fails to live up to what is promise or required, they will be made accountable, thus assuming a principles based front end (“ethical”) and harms based backend (accountable).”

Working Paper: IoT Good Practice Paper, Dynamic Coalition on the Internet of Things (DC-IoT)

We need to program smart devices to think ethically about the ethical implications of their choices, but when we do, will that be enough? It is clear that our currently used protocols are insufficient and that we will have to imagine solutions at a much higher level of complexity. If we don’t, the very ecosystem we want to “control,” will continue to evolve, and by evolving, will determine its own direction. That direction can quickly lead us toward outcomes that are not conducive to healthy lives and communities. Dealing with ecosystem-level questions now, we may have some ability to guide the outcome, but that window is closing fast.

This is Part 5 in the Series “5 Ethical Dimensions of IoT Leadership.” Watch for Part 6, scheduled for next week.

Contributors:

Gerald Santucci and Rob van Kranenburg served as reviewers and contributed substantial feedback that helped shape this paper’s coherence and usefulness.

About the Author:

Linda Fisher Thornton is an author and leader in the field of ethical thinking and leadership. She helps executives, leaders and groups learn how to lead using the 7-dimensional model described in her book 7 Lenses: Learning the Principles and Practices of Ethical Leadership. Linda is an Adjunct Associate Professor of Applied Ethics and Global Leadership for the University of Richmond SPCS. Her website is www.LeadinginContext.com.

Click the cover to read a free preview!

LeadinginContext.com  

©2020 Leading in Context LLC

 

%d bloggers like this: