Richmond Home


A newsletter focused on organizational excellence 

April 11, 2019

Why We Need Ethical Thinking

Linda Fisher Thornton, Adjunct Associate Professor

"The twenty-first century will be the century of complexity." -Physicist Stephen Hawking

Increasing complexity is a pressing challenge. "'Complex problem solving' is listed by the World Economic Forum as the top workforce skill for 2020 – as it was in 2015.” At the same time, social media shines a spotlight on values as disgruntled customers share experiences and describe details of ethical mistakes. In this environment of radical visibility into frontline decisions and actions, ethical values have become a critical factor in organizational success

As work becomes more complex, ethical challenges do, too, and the leaders handling them are not always prepared. Janice Burns, vice president of product development at DDI, says, “Business decisions once made by senior management have gotten pushed further and further down the organization, putting more pressure on front line leaders.” ("Get Ready for the New World of Frontline Leadership Development!," ATD). Burns shared a recent study showing that two-thirds of frontline leaders felt unprepared, with their biggest transitional challenge, “thinking strategically,” including managing high risk situations.

To succeed in this high-stakes, high-visibility environment, leaders need to learn how to think through the ethical implications of their daily challenges. Traditional thinking and decision making will not be enough. Nick Petrie, from the Center for Creative Leadership, says, “While simple thinkers see situations through one perspective, complex thinkers can see the same situation from many different angles."

Many leaders know their values, but they need more than that to handle complex issues in a socially-connected world. Learning ethical thinking will help them understand complex issues at a higher level. The American Management Association points out that "the reasons for running ethical businesses are only going to get more compelling—as well as more complex—over the coming decade." Applying ethical thinking and understanding the impact of decisions on multiple stakeholders will help leaders meet the complexity challenge.  

If you or members of your team are interested in developing ethical thinking skills, check out this new Executive Education class:

Ethical Thinking through the 7 Lenses | May 22, 2019 | Learn More

Upcoming Programs

PMP Preparation for the Practitioner | April 23 - June 6 | Learn More 

Summer Business Institute | May 13 – 24 | Learn More

Ethical Thinking Through the 7 Lenses | May 22 | Learn More  

Train-the-Trainer | June 24 – 28, 2019 | Learn More 

Mini MBA | September 9 - December 9 | Learn More 

Hot Topics

The Case for Lifelong Learning

One of my all-time favorite quotes is from American writer and futurist Alvin Toffler: “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.”

"Why ‘perpetual learning’ will help you thrive in the changing world of work" makes the case for “a model that allows for perpetual, renewable skills development” to keep pace with the speed of change.

But when employees are already doing more with less and “the urgency of work invariably trumps the luxury of learning,” how can you make time to keep your skills sharp? Deloitte’s Josh Bersin explores ways to "Make Learning a Part of Everyday Work" in his HBR post.

Reach out to your marketing department to help you spread the word about what learning opportunities are available. According to LinkedIn’s 2019 Workplace Learning Report, “it’s time for L&D leaders to think like marketers to increase learner engagement.” Check out this short video and see how LinkedIn uses marketing tactics to create a buzz and drive learner engagement.

Still looking for more ways to increase learning opportunities for those in your organization? If you’re in the Richmond area, check out the Greater Richmond Association for Talent Development’s April event, Creating a Learning Network: The Power of Peer Learning. Learning doesn’t have to come from a formal training session. Peer learning gives colleagues the opportunity to share their knowledge, perspectives, and experience. Come explore ways to leverage this powerful resource in your organization. (You do not need to be a member of ATD to attend this event.)

Open-Enrollment Programs


Through regularly offered Open-enrollment programs, area professionals can acquire new knowledge and skills to act quickly and with confidence in their day-to-day responsibilities. Register for upcoming programs to further your professional development. 

Summer Business Institute

summer business institute

Do you know a rising college junior, senior, or graduating senior? The Robins Summer Business Institute is a two-week immersion for non-business majors attending any college or university, and it complements any liberal arts degree. Classes are taught by the same faculty who teach in the Robins School of Business undergraduate and graduate programs, making it ideal for students wanting to gain valuable business understanding and enhance their career potential.

Executive Education


102 UR Drive
University of Richmond, VA 23173
(804) 289-8019 

Find us on Social Media

fb  t  li  flickr    

Past Newsletter Issues