On this day of Diwali, while we celebrate the victory of good over evil, I’d like to present a framework for ethical decision making for Dharmic (ethical) leadership.
While researching on two different projects that I am working on, the first being mapping the Industry 5.0 on Wardley maps and the second one researching the notion of Dharma and ethics from the Bhagavad gita for a paper, I started wondering how these principles of ethics and dharma from the Gita can be implemented in the organisations for making organizations more ethical, responsible, transparent and inclusive decisions.
Interestingly all laws such as the AI act, GDPR regulations, CSRD directive are all mediums of standardising ethics through reporting. However as humans we have difficulties in taking systemic decision that are ethically sound specially when in a dillema with conflicting interests.
Whole of Indian philosophy is based on the notion of Dharma and law. These laws go from microcosmic laws of svadharma (individual duty) to macrocosmic laws of nature (Rta natural law such as laws of physics, gravity…)
And the sum of all theses actions and decisions determine your Karma score for the current life and the next one (for those who believe in rebirth). There is a great complexity in the notion of Dharma, as there are some laws that are inhereted (like someone born into a meat eating family, is not ethicaly wrong eating meat) while other laws are situational (if one is a vegetarian and has eaten meat without knowing or has to eat meat because the situation demands, it is still ethical). To add to the complexity, at the end of the day for some of these laws, its subjective and we are the ones to evaluate it.
Here is a 10 point framework for ethical decision making in organizations:
- Law of non-violence (Ahimsa)— Translate as ethical use of technology to ensure automation and AI are used in ways that do not harm employees, society, or the environment. Prioritize worker safety and well-being. Consider the impact of the decision on individuals and society.
2. Law of Truthfulness (Satya)— Maintaining transparency in operations and communication, data management with all stakeholders, employees and customers to build a relation of trust. Avoiding deceptive practices in advertising and product claims.
3. Law of Righteousness (Dharma)— Righteousness should guide decision-making, ensuring that business practices align with societal welfare.
4. Law of frugality and non-possessiveness (Aparigraha)— Implement sustainable practices that reduce waste and environmental impact and excessive resource consumption. Encourage the circular economy and resource efficiency. Examine the decision for any excessive accumulation or possession of ressources.
5. Law of cause and effect (Karma)— This law prioritizes long-term sustainability and positive societal impacts. Every action has its consequences and it bares a fruit. It requires analyzing the potential consequences of and action or decision over time. Often one can prioritise short term gains (preyas) versus a long term gain (shreyas) with short term discomfort.
6. Law of Equality — Promoting equality in the workplace. Ensure that advancements in automation and AI benefit all employees, regardless of their roles. Avoid biases in AI algorithms and data that can lead to discrimination. Evaluating the decision for any biases or discrimination. Ensuring that it promotes equality and fairness among all stakeholders.
7. Law of Individual Duty (Svadharma)— Acknowledging the individual duties and responsibilities of employees and leaders. Encouraging them to contribute their unique skills and talents to further the ethical goals of the organization based on the individuals core values. Determining whether the decision respects individual rights and autonomy.
8. Law of Service (Seva or Nishkama Karma)— Embrace corporate social responsibility (CSR) and actively serve the community through sustainable and socially responsible actions. Use technology to address societal needs and improve lives. Assess how the decision contributes to the well-being of others and society as a whole. Ensure that it serves a greater purpose. Contributing to local prosperity.
9. Law of Self-control (Samyama)— Exercising restraint in the application of new technologies. Avoid overreliance on automation and AI, especially in critical areas that require human judgment and compassion. Considering whether the decision demonstrates self-control and moderation. Avoiding overreactions or excessive actions.
10. Law of Non-violence as the Highest Duty (Ahimsa Paramo Dharma)— Recognizing non-violence as the highest ethical duty. Ensureing that new technologies are used to enhance human well-being, minimize harm to the environment, and promote peace and sustainability. Reflecting on whether the decision reflects the highest duty of non-violence and ethical conduct.
While making decision, this could act like a checklist to see which laws can be applicable and what bias could be playing in decision making.
There exist many similar models for conscious leadership or similar laws in other cultures and religions based on ethics which are being explored in this age of AI, and hopefully also inspire humans to be more righteous.