Ethics in Motion
By Justin M. Paperny
APS Publishing, 2010
[powerpress: http://gsbm-med.pepperdine.edu/gbr/audio/spring 2011/book_corner/Ethics_Mallinger.mp3]
Justin Paperny, the author of Ethics in Motion, is a felon! Having served just over one year in federal prison in California, he knows about incarceration and shares that experience with readers. He was found guilty of antifraud and security registration violations. However, the primary focus of the book is not the time spent behind bars, but rather the importance of remaining truthful to self and recognizing that temptation acted upon can result in significant negative consequences.
The book is comprised of a series of absorbing stories about individuals who were caught up in schemes that led to their demise. What is compelling is they were not necessarily evil-doers, but allowed their moral compass to go astray in an attempt to find riches and/or fulfill egotistical pursuits. The content is likely to seize the reader’s interest because the stories are captivating and, in many cases, the actions of the guilty parties are just one or two steps beyond how we all might behave. Each chapter describes the circumstances surrounding a criminal offense. Readers are told about the person’s background and the events leading up to the crime.
The preface offers a gripping account of what it means to be marked as a lawbreaker. The rights that are lost and the labels that result from such behavior provides a strong underlying message—”I don’t want to ever be in that position.” Paperny provides a clear picture of the implications of committing a federal crime, not only the jail time, but the damage done to family relationships and loss of respect from others that, in many cases, is likely to be permanent.
The book incorporates the pearls of wisdom from philosophers such as Aristotle, Kant, and John Stuart Mill. Capturing the words of these honored men, Paperny makes a case for “doing the right thing.” He also includes a set of frameworks readers can refer to in order to assess options when faced with ethical dilemmas. For example, in Chapter One, Paperny refers to a five-step model for encouraging values-based decisions (Resources→Activities→Outputs→Outcomes→Impact). He describes “resources” as an assessment of what we have to offer—our strengths and competencies. “Activities” refer to ways in which we can put our resources to the highest potential use. “Outputs” are actions we take that result in teachable moments. An “outcome” is an evaluation of our actions, and “impact” is the extent to which self and others have benefited from our efforts. Although Paperny uses the model to describe his behavior and links it to his purpose in writing the book, it would have been useful had he carried through this process in the remaining chapters. Doing so would have reinforced the value of the framework and enhanced the learning point.
At the conclusion of each chapter, the author leaves us with a set of questions for the purpose of reflection specific to the content of story. This method can be useful to highlight learning and stimulate thinking, but it could be more beneficial if the questions raised self-awareness (i.e., “what would I do in this situation”) rather than a query about the story, “In what ways do executives in other companies make decisions that could expose them to criminal charges?”
I do recommend the book—readers will appreciate the visceral connection with each chapter and Paperny’s objective in getting the message across regarding consequences for unethical/illegal actions is very effective.