Reframe a Moral Dilemma with Just One Word

Harvard Business Review

Coulda Woulda Shoulda

Does “Could” Lead to Good? Toward a Theory of Moral Insight

Working Knowledge

When we’re faced with an immediate moral dilemma, most of us are so thrown off that we’re not exactly able to think in complete sentences. Once we’ve pulled ourselves together and we’re thinking more rationally, though, chances are we’ll ask ourselves something like “What should I do?” But there are advantages to making a one-word change to that question, turning it into “What could I do?” That’s because one of the difficulties of moral dilemmas is that they appear to force us to pick one path or another; the simple substitution of “could” allows us to think more expansively about possible solutions.

Harvard Business School doctoral student Ting Zhang, along with faculty members Francesca Gino and Joshua D. Margolis, report on a series of online experiments in which they asked participants to ponder such hypothetical dilemmas as whether to hire the (not very qualified) son of an important personage for an internship. They found that the “could” mental construction led participants to have better moral insight, enabling them to formulate solutions that resolved the tension between competing objectives. They generated solutions that didn’t simply select one path at the expense of the other (though we don’t get to hear how they would have solved the intern problem). —Andy O’Connell




Satisfaction Not Guaranteed

When Doctors Tell Patients What They Don’t Want to Hear

The New Yorker

There’s a lot of talk in American medicine about the value of listening to the “patient voice.” Patient-satisfaction scores now affect hospital reimbursements and even physician salaries in various inpatient and outpatient settings across the country. But as Penn cardiologist Lisa Rosenbaum points out in The New Yorker, there’s a disconnect between satisfaction and quality of care. Patients tend to become upset and extremely dissatisfied when doctors give them bad news or tell them to improve their lifestyles. In one study, the more patients understood about their poor prognoses, the less they liked their doctors.

Rosenbaum tells a great story of her own dissatisfaction with a doctor who informed her that the cure for her hamstring injury was to stop running for a while. She didn’t want to stop running, and pretty soon she started to notice the doctor’s faults: He typed with one finger. He had bad breath. She dumped him and found another who gladly injected her with steroids. Her satisfaction soared, until she realized—much later, when she still couldn’t run—that the bad-breath doctor had been right all along. —Andy O’Connell




Facebook = Tebow

Social Media Fail to Live Up to Early Marketing Hype

The Wall Street Journal

The race to gather as many Facebook followers as possible has ended, at least for companies. Last May, for example, the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company purchased ads that resulted in an avalanche of new fans. A few years ago, this would have been celebrated. But for the hotel's Vice President of Global Public Relations, Allison Sitch, the sudden increase wasn't positive at all. "We were fearful our engagement and connection with our community was dropping," she says.

And she's not alone. With new Gallup data showing that social media ads don't affect the buying purchases of 63% of people, companies are radically rethinking why they're on Facebook and how they can best reach and communicate with their customers. Reaching customers isn’t going to be easy: Facebook algorithm changes have resulted in an almost 10% drop in the number of fans who can see a company's posts, and posts are more likely to reach nonfans because of a premium placed on sharing. So what's a company to do? Monitor the heck out of what people are saying, as opposed to pushing content and ads. The NBA's senior vice president of digital media, for example, says her goal is to "give them more of what they're talking about."




Behind the Viral Story

A Job Seeker's Desperate Choice

The New York Times

If you're on Facebook, you've probably seen Shanesha Taylor's face. It's probably in mug shot form, her skin wet with tears. Taylor, of course, is the woman who left her kids in a car while she went on a job interview in Scottsdale, Arizona. She was charged with two counts of felony child abuse and suddenly became "symbol of both economic desperation and shirked responsibility." But she's a person, too, and in her first interview since the widely reported incident, Taylor describes her life: She had a good job as a mortgage loan officer until the economic downturn, and she exited the workforce in 2008 following the death of her grandmother. She was unable to recover, worked a series of low-paying jobs, and had two children. Then came the interview at a Farmers Insurance broker – and a babysitter she says wasn't at home. "Child care," explains the Vice President of the Institute for Women's Policy Research, Barbara Gault, "is often listed as the No. 1 challenge that gets in the way of women's work participation." Taylor describes her day this way: When the babysitter wasn’t available, she wondered, "What do I do now? What do I do now?"

Taylor is out of jail, but the charges are still hanging over her head. She finally has money — over $100,000 has been donated to her cause — and a three-bedroom home. But she doesn't have a job (which may be even tougher to obtain if she’s convicted) or her kids, who were removed from her custody. Nothing, it seems, will line up – even though, back in Scottsdale on that 71-degree day, it almost seemed as though things would finally come together for her.




It Could Happen to You

When Outsiders Oust Your Board: The Ramifications of ISS’ Influence on Public Companies

Chief Executive

As a provider of such things as proxy voting services and class-action claims-management services, Institutional Shareholder Services carries a lot of clout. (That’s putting it mildly — “Every public-company CEO is terrified of ISS,” Chief Executive’s Lynn Russo Whylly quotes crisis communications consultant Robert L. Dilenschneider as saying.) So a lot of attention was paid when ISS recommended that seven of Target’s 10 directors be replaced in the wake of the damage done to the retailer’s stock price by last year’s massive data breach. What to do? Whylly suggests Target take three steps: Reach out to ISS and try to work things out privately; remove the two or three directors it feels are most responsible and replace them with people who have some data-security experience; and do a lot more to acknowledge the problem and publicize the steps being taking to rectify it. Despite the obvious hit Target has taken, Whylly reports, infrastructure consultants do not feel that other CEOs are learning from its mistakes. —Andrea Ovans




BONUS BITS

Legalese

Thrown Out of Court (The Washington Monthly)
This Site is Building a Business on Making You Less Famous (Quartz)
Aereo and the Strange Case of Broadcasters Who Don’t Want to Be Broadcast (HBR)




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