Ethical Decision Making

“Everybody has a plan until they punched in the face.” – Mike Tyson

This is a quote I think about often. I think it’s really important to have a plan, and I also think that plan is most likely going to fail.

In our conversations around ethics and building an ethical framework, this Mike Tyson quote has been echoing in the back of my mind. Particularly because his answer is in response to a question he received about his upcoming fight with Evander Holyfield–an opponent he ended up loosing his heavy weight title to.

I’ve been thinking about my framework really in the context of working for a company after my time at AC4D. It’s in three parts. First, how can I set myself up for a job, career, or situation where the decisions being made are starting from solid ethical ground.  After a lot of introspection around the companies I’ve worked with or consulted for, I’ve summarized that first step like this:

Ethical Framework 2

When a company has a clear mission (both internally and externally), when they are building products that actually align with that mission, and when the financial incentives are aligned for the customer and the company, I’ve seen that there is a much more stable scenario for ethical decision making.

That’s my plan, knowing that even if I follow that exactly, I’ll be punched in the mouth. So, the second layer of my ethical framework involves weight absolutes on a scale. For example, “this is only harming people-this is only helping people” or “I am designing for one-I am designing for all”.

At the bottom of my framework, and something powering the entire thing is my brain. To make the best decisions, and decisions I personally believe to be ethical, I think a grounding reality is that my brain needs to be operating at its highest possible level. Mental health, physical health, and a commitment to constantly learning feed my brain at its best.

An abstraction of my framework as it currently stands:

framework 5