Ethics and Innovation Research Paper

Excerpt from Research Paper :

Rule breaking, innovation or ethical dilemma?

Annotated Bibliography

People often think that in order to run a business, or be a leader, one must adhere to all the rules. But the old saying "Some rules are made to be broken" rings true. Many successful entrepreneurs have had to make decisions that would ultimately be seen as rule breaking, even at times, illegal. That is just how the world works. People must make tough decisions in order to make it in the tough worlds of business, politics, and even medicine.

This paper focuses on several articles along with an annotated bibliography to demonstrate the effectiveness of rule breaking in reaching one's goals in business and entrepreneurial endeavors. So many greats like Bill Gates, Bill Clinton, etc., have broken rules in order to get to where they are now. In fact, wise leaders often take risks to get things accomplished. Any entrepreneur will say that if they followed the rules to the tee, they would not be an entrepreneur. The article demonstrate investigations on rule breaking and the innovations that result from it. Public managers, adolescence, and entrepreneurs are all examined to see if rule breaking is deemed a good or bad quality.


The ethics of entrepreneurship is receiving a lot of attention recently. Researchers want to see if taking risks, delivering behavior, typical of that of someone who break rules, yields success or ruin in a business. Many entrepreneurs are known for rule breaking. Numerous examples appear in academic and popular literature from Bill Gates to Richard Branson. However, how may this be unified into an account of the ethics of entrepreneurship?

One answer may come from the legality of their actions. If an entrepreneur breaks a rule and it results in an illegal action, than they what they did is wrong and should be condemned. Nevertheless, most entrepreneurs who do participate in rule breaking do so in an ethical manner. They do not perform illegal actions but do things that could be seen as morally wrong and part of the creative process and destruction that brings economic gain (Brenkert, 2009, p. 1).

The truth of the matter is most of the rule breakers in business do so because those in charge or those responsible for other aspects of a business are blind to unethical behavior and may even willfully encourage it. In fact cognitive biases alter ethical decision making. What people perceive as being an ethical decision may be different than making a business decision. Entrepreneurs might see a business decision as a means to an end, for instance profit or lower cost, but will not consider it ethically, for instance hiring migrant workers and offering low pay. Ultimately rule breaking is fuelled by desire to achieve more and spend less.

Business leaders are constantly looking to find new ways to do just that, spend less, earn more. Innovation comes to mind when entrepreneurs break the rules. They design new ways to do things, resulting in different and interesting methods of production, sale and so forth. So then how it is applied to ethics and what kind of implications would it arise? The answer is found in a series of articles that investigate what happens when people break the rules to meet their objectives.

Research Question

Can rule breaking be an innovative decision and what would be the ethical implications?

Literature Review

It is important to examine research in entrepreneurship and see why researchers contend that numerous entrepreneurs are rule breakers for them to find success in their venturing processes. But can it be traced back to negative behavior during adolescence. In an interesting study that hypothesizes modest rule breaking in adolescence leads to entrepreneurial status in adult hood. Very few studies have done or investigated such a connection.

As Zhang & Arvey (2009), explain: "Few studies have examined the longitudinal relationship between negative forms of rule breaking in adolescence and entrepreneurial status in adulthood" (Zhang & Arvey, 2009, p. 436). The method they used relied on Willis' two dimensions of conformity -- nonconformity. This type of theory on nonconformity helped the authors hypothesize as mentioned before, a positive relationship between an individual's modest rule breaking in adolescence and entrepreneurial status. The results validate the hypothesis as such: "support this hypothesis and also show that modest rule breaking serves as a mediator in the relationship between risk propensity and entrepreneurial status" (Zhang & Arvey, 2009, p. 436). These results have significant connotations for entrepreneurs' ethical decision making.

Moreover, this study helps make a connection that ethical behavior rooted in youth may also be re-enacted in later years in the business world making the rule breaking that happens in the business world have some footing within the real world. People always wonder why entrepreneurs, and leaders in general make the decision that they make. Now research is linking it to personality, past choices and experiences. More research will help shed light to this complex background of the mind of the entrepreneur.

Entrepreneurship is not the only place where researchers investigate rule breaking and innovation. One aspect of the debate is heading over to New Public Management concerns public-sector entrepreneurship. As Borins states: "Critics see entrepreneurs as people prone to rule breaking, self-promotion, and unwarranted risk taking, while proponents view them as exercising leadership and taking astute initiatives" (Borins, 2000, p. 498). People who view rule breaking as good leadership see it as a means of completing an objective by any means necessary. As the cutthroat business world shows, most of the time businesses have to compete against all odds to make it and profit.

The author analyzes to applications to see which views they were more consistent with in regards to rule breaking. "This article examines two samples of the best applications to the Ford Foundation -- Kennedy School of Government innovation awards, one between 1990 and 1994 and the other between 1995 and 1998, to see whether they are more consistent with the critics' or proponents' views" (Borins, 2000, p. 498). The two samples were similar in there results. The study revealed evidence that supported the proponent's views stating that rule breaking makes for wise leadership and helps create innovators.

Innovators are creatively solving public-sector problems and are usually proactive in that they deal with problems before they escalate to crises. They use appropriate organizational channels to build support for their ideas. They take their opponents seriously and attempt to win support for their ideas through persuasion or accommodation (Borins, 2000, p. 498).

Leaders need to be good at not only business decisions but how they carry them out. Leaders who take risks are also not afraid to fight and stand for what they believe for. They know how to deal with emergencies and close calls. Businesses everyday need to handle unexpected situations and problems. Having someone there who can get it fixed, can get the job done is typically more desired than someone who does everything by the book.

Several critics of entrepreneurs are quick to note that public entrepreneurship has been linked to precepts and practices which are not consistent with democratic values. In an article by Deleon (1996), the author examines the "meaning of entrepreneurship as defined in bath the public and private sectors, suggesting that some attributes of entrepreneurs that commonly are deemed undesirable -- egotism, selfishness, waywardness, domination, and opportunism -- actually are functional for entrepreneurial activity" (DeLeon, 1996, p. 495). DeLeon sees entrepreneurship as playing a major role in addressing a specific kind of policy problem. The author didn't exactly describe the issue but stated: "those where goals are ambiguous or conflicting and where the means to achieve them are unknown or uncertain" (DeLeon, 1996, p. 495).

One special noteworthy part of this article was the methods introduced to suggest encouragement for ethical entrepreneurship. One such thing was problem solving. It helps assist in making objectives achievable without sacrificing ethics or morality. The first step would be raising awareness of the existence of the problem, then defining and analyzing it.

From there, alternative solutions should be generated followed by decision-making. Decision making enables choosing the best solution from among viable alternatives. And finally, the article suggests solution implementation. Following these techniques should minimize reliance on unethical practices to fulfill business goals and objectives.

Another article by Morrison (2006), explores and introduces the construct of pro-social rule breaking. "Pro-social rule breaking is rooted in a desire to promote the welfare of the organization or one of its stakeholders" (Morrison, 2006, p. 5). The first two studies utilized information derived from interviews that identified three primary types of pro-social rule breaking: "rule breaking to perform one's responsibilities more efficiently, rule breaking to help a subordinate or colleague, and rule breaking to provide good customer service" (Morrison, 2006, p. 5). The third study utilized a scenario-based laboratory experiment in order to test their hypothesis. The results led to findings that the possibility of pro-social rule breaking was positively connected to job autonomy, coworker behavior, and risk-taking…

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