Cultures of Conduct: Doing it “Right”
Consider how ethics, law, and policy interrelate

Tim Stone and Joe Goldberg presented a session on Wednesday afternoon during which they discussed that the only way to prepare for the future is to foster a culture where unethical conduct is considered not only bad behavior, but also damaging to the bottom line.

States of disruption do not permit “doing anything at any cost,” rather, great cultures embrace disruptions to enhance their competitiveness with innovative best practices.

In today’s world of social networking, the propensity for new security leaks means the intelligence world can find out almost anything it wants to know about not only your competition, but you as individuals.

What is meant by “intelligence?”

Intelligence: Knowledge and foreknowledge of the competitive environment—the prelude to decision and action.

The intelligence process is the organizational means by which info is systematically collected, analyzed, processed and disseminated.

Intelligence builds and evolves using decision-making buildings blocks that lead to strategic action.

Not everyone can be an intelligence person, Goldberg notes.

How do leaders use CI?  It is used by corporate leadership, business leaders, marketing and sales departments, strategy directors, manufacturing leaders, and others.

Views of CI are that many do not understand it, don’t realize they need it, question if it adds value, and wonder if its implementation may put the company at risk.

Cultures of conduct are developed on a spectrum ranging from the clearly illegal and corrupt to very permissible ways using public domain information.

The gray area of the spectrum reflects on your organization.  Are you comfortable using something that comes by questionable circumstances?  Take shortcuts?

Cultures of conduct are good, bad, and ugly.  Good cultures know what is right and act accordingly.  Realistic policies consistent with applicable laws and take innovative approaches to CI.

Bad cultures have overly restrictive policies, often not followed.  They reference SCIP guidelines but their conduct is often “unethical but not illegal.”

The ugly cultures will do whatever it takes, whatever it costs.  “Do it, just don’t get caught.”  They fail to document and take shortcuts.

The cultures impact our behaviors.  Consider how ethics, law, and policy interrelate.  Which restricts actions the most?

The audience indicated ethics are very influential and dictate personal behavior.  The corporation does not have ethics—people do.

Policy is also influential, and there may be a debate on “what am I allowed to do, what do I want to do?”

Does it matter where you are on the spectrum?  If you move from one company to another with varying levels of acceptance, does that make you or them less ethical?

Speakers divided attendees into groups and assigned specific case studies based on real-world examples.  Participants considered aspects of the situation to arrive at their own conclusions surrounding code of conduct.


  • It is unethical to purchase unapproved, “test phase” equipment that appears on eBay—risk to the company is “stolen equipment” in addition to acquiring a non-FDA approved system; however, intent in acquisition is influential.
  • Posting information on your company’s intranet from a competitor that is accidentally obtained is unethical. Related to the company “unknowing” something—you can’t be expected to forget what you’ve seen, but you cannot use it either.
  • Pretending to be interested in job at a competitor with intent to gain information is unethical. The interview process itself is not problematic, but the intent to find information to relay to a CEO at the official’s request is unethical.  Further sharing this information to the C-Suite is a problem.  The hiring company did not obtain an NDA, and they should have.
  • Two years elapsed before it was discovered a newly hired expert obtained information and “sat” on privileged information he went on to share. It is a patent infringement case.  This is unethical.  The legal department has a duty to reveal this finding with the source company.  Transparency is required—cover up is worse than the crime.
  • How long should confidentiality agreements be in force? Information tapped outside an NDA time-period becomes a gray area.  Using this information is unethical.
  • CEO of a company expects a CI team to engage in questionable practices to obtain information–a conundrum of policy vs ethics.
  • “Creeping” liability—mining online conversations for information based on misrepresentation of identity is unethical; continuing to engage in ongoing conversation via social media on the issue at the urging of one’s company is an example of a growing unethical problem.