I attended a talk on "Putting integrity into Finance - A positive Approach" by michael jensen on the 17th of September 2010 at Schulich School of Business and was propelled to share the ideas discussed.(http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=876312). Michael had a very interesting way of defining Integrity which was void of morality or ethics.
Drawing from the field of ontology he said that integrity is such a basic quality of a being that it cannot be termed as good or bad. An entity has integrity when it is whole and complete. For organizations to have integrity it is important that the design, the implementation and the use of the organization - all three are carried out in a manner which was intended and planned for.
He goes on to further say, that integrity can be maintained in two ways :
A. When the person (or organization) honors his promise in timely fashion.
B. If he is not able to honor the promise, then inform the other party well in time and be ready to accept consequences. There have been numerous cases where companies have gained customer loyalty at times of service failures just by ensuring that the company does everything in their power to amend their shortcoming.
Integrity comes when a person follows the rules and abides by the law of the land. Interestingly, integrity can also be maintained if a person chooses to not follow the rules but let everybody else around him know of his intention of not following them. He should accept all consequences openly and not have anything to hide. A shining example in this regard is Mahatma Gandhi who openly defied the government with his non-cooperation movement and accepted all the hardships.
Some of the interesting analogies he drew were :
1. Integrity compared to spokes of a bicycle : If some of the spokes of the bike are missing and we keep on adding weight onto it then the bike would eventually give in and fail.
2. Integrity as compared to gravity : Like integrity, gravity is neither good nor bad, it just is. Gravity keeps the atmosphere together or it is instrumental in causing death when a person walks off from the top of a building.
These ideas seemed revolutionary to me when I heard them.. I know I have been able to convey only a fraction of the enthusiasm I had when I attended the seminar itself but I would love to hear thoughts of people around this.