<< programme

Ethics and Innovation

A Triple Helix 5 Track proposed by

Guido Palazzo, Professor of Business Ethics, Ecoles des Hautes Etudes Commerciales (HEC), University of Lausanne, Switzerland
email: guido.palazzo@hec.unil.ch

The results of innovation have ethical implications. Since Ulrich Beck’s path breaking book on risk society and Hans Jonas’ discussion on the heuristic of fear and the priority of the prophecy of doom the link between (mainly technological) innovation and ethics is broadly accepted and discussed. Issues such as respect for human dignity of the actively involved and passively affected stakeholders, the public disclosure of the research goals and agenda, or the balanced analysis of harms and benefits have become key aspects of discussions on innovation. Innovations are loaded with meaning only by the society in which they happen and in which they lead to results.

However, the ethical dimension of innovation is not sufficiently covered by a thorough analysis of the output-dimension of innovation. Innovation has an ethical dimension in form of a cultural input, too. This ethical aspect of innovation has found less attention in scientific debates. Innovativeness emerges from the contexts in which individual actors and groups of actors are embedded and which influence their behavior. We normally refer to that context in terms of culture. Culture consists of what Alexis de Tocqueville described as the “habits of the heart”, which is the customs, habits, norms, values, and shared views of reality, expressed in a specific behavior of individuals and groups. Innovation results from the cooperation of individuals who have to bring in certain habits of the heart such as the disposition for collaboration, mutual trust or ego-transcendence. Innovation needs what Jürgen Habermas once called a “supportive spirit” of the lifeworld.

This will probably be especially true for the innovativeness of highly demanding cooperation in networks. Networks have been discussed as a form of organization that is favorable for innovation. It has been shown, for instance, that competing scientific teams need more time to come to results than networked scientific teams. These networks are favorable for innovation especially, if they integrate a broad diversity of knowledge and experience delivering the opportunity to integrate pieces of information that are more diverse. More and more co-operations in and between companies, of scientists or civil society activists are following the network logic, mashing more or less autonomous entities. Spanning a wide range of diverse localities, these network activities take place in a highly diversified local environment or directly in a virtual form.

The workshop will deal with the ethical preconditions of network innovativeness on the level of the individual actor and the organization. Proposals are invited that cover for instance the following questions:

  1. Autonomy, diversity, tolerance, courage and open communication have been discussed as promoters of innovativeness in networks. What are the moral predispositions of cooperating actors in a network that promote innovativess? How can virtue ethics contribute to a closer understanding of innovativeness or what might be the contribution of a Habermasian discourse ethics approach?
  2. Participative structures, flat hierarchies or group heterogeneity or a climate of trust have been identified as potential organizational promoter of a culture of innovativeness. How can organizational ethics contribute to clarify these preconditions of innovation?
  3. It can be assumed that the performance of a diverse team operating in transnational networks depends on their ability to create a shared framework of values, a shared goal and at least overlapping interpretations of the surrounding reality. How do transnationally operating networks establish these rules and values and what is the impact of shared standards on the innovativeness of cooperation?

Triple Helix Conference I Amsterdam, 1996 II New York, 1998 III Rio de Janeiro, 2000 IV Copenhagen, 2002 V Turin, 2005 VI Singapore, 2007 VII Glasgow, 2009 VIII Madrid, 2010 IX Stanford, 2011 X Indonesia, 2012 XI London, 2013
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