Reflecting on the speed with which the Greek financial collapse has an impact on much of the world, Thomas L. Friedman observed IHT 14 May 10) that we live in "an increasingly integrated world where we’ll all need to be guided by the simple credo of the global nature-preservation group Conservation International, and that i "Lost there, felt here."
Conservation International coined that phrase to remind us that our natural world and climate constitute a tightly integrated system, and when species, forests and ocean life are depleted in one region, their loss will eventually be felt in another. And what is true for Mother Nature is true for markets and societies. When Greeks binge and rack up billions of euros of debt, Germans have to dig into their mattresses and bail them out because they are all connected in the European Union. Lost in Athens, felt in Berlin. Lost on Wall Street, felt in Iceland.
Yes, such linkages have been around for years. But today so many more of us are just so much more deeply intertwined with each other and with the natural world. That is why Dov Seidman, the CEO of LRN, which helps companies build ethical cultures, and author of the book How, argues that we are now in the ‘Era of Behavior.’
Of course, behavior always mattered. But today, notes Seidman, how each of us behaves, consumes, does business, builds or doesn’t build trust with others matters more than ever. Because each of us, each of our banks, each of our companies, now has the power to impact, for good or ill, so many more people’s lives through so many more channels " from day-trading to mortgage-lending to Twitter to Internet-enabled terrorism.
"As technology has made us more interconnected with others around the world, it has also made us more ethically interdependent with others around the world," argues Seidman.
[. . .] our values and ethical systems eventually have to be harmonized as much as our markets. To put it differently, as it becomes harder to shield yourself from the other guy’s irresponsibility, both he and you had better become more responsible.
But that hasn’t been the trend. We’ve become absorbed by shorter and shorter-term thinking-from Wall Street quarterly thinking to politician-24-hour-cable-news-cycle thinking. We’re all day-traders now. We have day-thinking politicians trying to regulate day-trading bankers, all covered by people tweeting on Twitter.
So more and more of us are behaving by, what Seidman calls, "situational values": I do whatever the situation allows. Think Goldman Sachs or BP. The opposite of situational values, argues Seidman, are "sustainable values": values that inspire in us behaviors that literally sustain our relationships with one another, with our communities, with our institutions, and with our forests, oceans and climate. Of course, to counter this epidemic of situational thinking, we need more and better regulations, but we also need more people behaving better. Regulations only tell you what you can or can’t do in certain situations. Sustainable values inspire you to do what you should do in every situation.