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University of Virginia Darden School of
Professor Mary Gentile knew something
wasn’t adding up.
the time she left Harvard Business School as a faculty member and one of the architects
of the school’s ethics and corporate values curriculum, she had interacted with
thousands of MBA students who, by and large, had strong ethical values that
could guide them in their careers. And yet, Gentile kept witnessing a cycle of
major business scandals, often with MBA graduates involved at some level —
either directly or indirectly.
problem, she concluded, wasn’t that business people lacked ethics and values,
it was that they needed the skills to effectively act on their values and stop unethical
behavior. Further, it wasn’t that ethics and values couldn’t be taught through
MBA programs, but that B-schools were focusing exclusively on ethical analysis
instead of ethical implementation.
revelation ultimately led Gentile to develop Giving Voice to
(GVV), the pioneering business curriculum for values-driven leadership that is
now hosted at Darden.
Voice to Values is about asking and answering a new question. Once we know the
right thing to do, how do you get it done effectively?” Gentile said. “Instead
of ‘what is right,’ the question becomes ‘how do you get the right thing done?’”
path from Harvard to GVV was hardly that easy, though. Gentile said she had a
“crisis of faith” about the value of teaching ethics before stumbling onto some
intriguing data from Columbia Business School students about their experiences
with ethical dilemmas in the workplace.
read thousands of their responses and learned that almost all of them had been
asked, at some point, to do something that felt wrong to them,” said Gentile, who came to Darden from Babson College.
“They were asked to inflate billable hours or exaggerate the capabilities of a
product. The scenarios came up repeatedly, but their responses differed.”
fact, their actions broke down into three categories:
those who tried to do something, a significant number said they tried and
succeeded in righting the unethical situation. Gentile wanted to know what made
this subset so different, and began to look for research that might shed light
on this question.
further interviews with practitioners and scholars, she began to conclude that
“rehearsal” — pre-scripting, action planning, peer coaching — would be an
effective way to influence behaviors. Essentially, Gentile realized that
students need to practice values-driven leadership. They needed scripts for
what to say and do when something in the workplace was not in keeping with
that scripting is the heart of Giving Voice to Values, Gentile said. In the
same way people practice self-defense until protecting themselves becomes
instinct, so, too, do students and business leaders in courses that use GVV
cases and curricula learn to implement ethical behavior.
and analysis are essential objectives for business ethics education, but
they’re not enough,” Gentile said. “What we really need is a third ‘A’ — action.”
the GVV curriculum is designed not just to be taught by ethics faculty, but
instead allows professors in areas from business operations to marketing to use
the language of their discipline, the use of GVV resources has spread with
tremendous speed. GVV has been piloted in more than 920 educational and business
settings on all seven continents, well beyond just the graduate business school
setting for which it was originally designed. Lockheed Martin, Unilever, Prudential,
Australian Financial Markets Association and Inter-American Development Bank are just a few of the organizations that have
used the GVV approach in training.
addition to cases and curricula, which will now be available through Darden Business Publishing, Gentile has also
authored the award-winning book “Giving Voice to Values: How to Speak Your
Mind When You Know What’s Right” and partnered with Nomadic.fm to launch
six online interactive social cohort-based modules around GVV.
Professor of Practice at Darden, Gentile not only brings GVV to the School, she
also adds a leading voice on ethics and values to Darden’s top-ranked faculty. In
2015, Gentile was named one of the 100 Most Influential in Business Ethics by Ethisphere and won a lifetime
achievement award for her thought leadership from Trust Across America-Trust
Around the World.
The University of Virginia Darden School
of Business delivers the world’s best
business education experience to prepare
entrepreneurial, global and responsible leaders through its MBA, Ph.D. and
Executive Education programs. Darden’s top-ranked faculty is renowned for
teaching excellence and advances practical business knowledge through research.
Darden was established in 1955 at the University of Virginia, a top public
university founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819 in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Sophie ZunzDirector of Media RelationsDarden School of BusinessUniversity of VirginiaZunzS@darden.virginia.edu+1-434-924-7502
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