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IECO brings together experts on trust in organizations at Harvard

Around thirty academics and professionals from the Boston area took part in the first IECO-RCC International Colloquium to discuss the process of building trust based on ethics, values, and human dignity.

On April 4, 2013 the Institute for Ethics in Communication and Organizations organized the First IECO-RCC International Colloquium on the Harvard University campus. Entitled “Building Trust in organizations: the role of ethics, values and dignity”, it was attended by around thirty managers and academics from the Boston area.

The speakers at the colloquium were William English, from the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University, Donna Hicks, from the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs at Harvard University, Mary Gentile, from the Giving Voice to Values Program at Babson College, Robert McNulty, from the Center for Business Ethics at Bentley University, and Manuel Guillén, Tenured Professor at the University of Valencia and IECO Director. The round table was moderated by Michael Hoffman, Director of the Center for Business Ethics at Bentley University.

The debate revolved around the question of why it is so difficult to achieve trust in organizations. Professor Guillén argued that trust is primarily to do with ethics, since it is a free human action: “By trusting we become vulnerable to the other, and this entails a judgment about their competence, their intention and honesty; the ethical dimension is thus an essential aspect of the logic of trust.” In his talk, the University of Valencia professor also looked at how to recover trust when it is lost within an organization. William English, from Harvard University, stressed in his speech that research in this field shows that trust in organizations relies more on the personal relationships of its members than on the policies implemented in companies.

The speakers also discussed issues such as the basic role of trust in the management of public and private organizations, the ways in which trust is built and destroyed, its relationship to economic performance, and the ethical foundations that underpin trust relationships. The audience then contributed to a lively question and answer session.

Professor Guillén believes that the colloquium has been “a great opportunity to share ideas and learn from our American colleagues who have interests that are very similar to ours. The discussion that came out of the questions asked by participants, people with great experience in the world of business management, was also very rewarding.

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