Business value, ethics, and designers’ responsibilities.

Kevin Richard

Hi everyone, Kevin here.

This week I was synthesizing some work done during a session about Business Value definition and I came to think about this (roughly) this way:

Thinking in terms of the value requires to think about what is valued by whom in which circumstances.

This demonstrates that [things] have no intrinsic value, but rather those we give them.

In this respect, if these “higher goals” are to help prioritize what we should “act upon”, the “business value” is a form of ethics.

Interestingly, normative ethics, and its branch consequentialism, is really about that: in utilitarianism ways, the practical consequences of various policies are evaluated on the assumption that the right policy will be the one which results in the greatest happiness. A basic transposition of this in the business world is what is seen as positive is valued & promoted and what is seen as negative is avoided or diminished.

Nothing revolutionary here, but I wonder how much this is taken into consideration in the ongoing trend around “ethical design” and in the ongoing discussions about designers’ responsibilities [over what’s produced].

Business values impact the design as much as the org values or the HR ones impact the business (and vice-versa). Doesn’t it imply a strong relationship between all parts?

If a business values things (let’s say based on “good intentions”) that turn to be “bad”, is there a way for design to make ethical outcomes in such space? And where (and how) do we draw the boundary of the responsibilities?

Finally, if the outcomes are the result of the interactions between the parts of a system, isn’t the “problem” on another level?

Do you have strategies that promote virtuous behaviors as a whole? What do you do to take into account the interconnectedness of your organization that leads to the outcomes we see in the world?

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