business career entrepreneur success

So Boring, Yet So Important: On Ethics and Cultural Context

Most ethical dilemmas are about truth, loyalty, and fairness, and they often involve money, work, friends, or relatives. In business, you come up against ethical dilemmas all the time. Having a good understanding of ethics can help you find answers to ethical problems.

There are common misconceptions about what ethics means. Some people believe that ethics includes personal feelings about right and wrong. Others think that ethics is based only on religious beliefs. And some think that being ethical simply means obeying the law, where others believe it means doing what society expects.

Do those misconceptions sound familiar? Think about your own understanding of what ethics means. How would you define ethics?

So what is ethics? Your response may have included a statement that ethics is a set of moral principles that helps you tell the difference between right and wrong actions. Ethics is based on values, but it’s also about more than just your own feelings, the dictates of religion, or the law.

Laws play a role in workplace ethics. They require companies to behave ethically in certain situations. For example, in somecountries it may be illegal to consider people’s race or religion when deciding whether to hire them.

But simply obeying the law is not enough to ensure your behavior is ethical. Sometimes the moral thing to do is not covered by law. 

For example, in many countries, a business is not legally required to take its employees’ religious holidays into account. But ensuring that project deadlines don’t conflict with employees’ personal faith is the moral thing to do.

Ethics includes both legal and moral behaviors. For example, it’s illegal, immoral, and unethical to murder someone. Arson too is illegal, immoral, and unethical.


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Writing, Revising, and Editing Your Draft

Writing with confidence

Your goal in writing the draft, the fourth step in the writing process — is to get your ideas down on computer. Don’t expect perfection. Few people can communicate their ideas clearly the first time, so don’t be surprised to find yourself backtracking and making changes. Many people feel this is the biggest writing chore. However, the hardest work — the outline — is behind you.

Have you ever been stuck for words when trying to write? This is writer’s block — the inability to cultivate ideas. There are different degrees, from a total inability to write to an inability to write on certain subjects. The key to overcoming this is to be relaxed and confident. A writing process helps too. For example, you may prefer writing in the evening rather than during the day.

There are four tips to help you become more confident and “unblocked” about writing. Tips for better writing include breaking it into chunks and starting where it feels most natural. It also helps to use your outline to begin writing. Last, if you’re suffering from writer’s block, freewrite about your topic.

You might have recognized that breaking your writing into chunks is useful if your writing task is especially large.

Just knowing you don’t have to write the entire document at once often gets you writing, one chunk at a time. This also eases you into the writing task.

It helps to set deadlines for completing each chunk and reward yourself for meeting those deadlines. Perhaps you could schedule a break after each chunk.


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Gathering Information and Organizing Your Writing

Gathering information

The first step in the writing process is generating ideas. This involves three steps: identifying the purpose of your writing, identifying your audience, and creating a freestyle list of ideas. The output of this step is an unstructured set of ideas that you can take as input into the second step in the writing process: gathering information.

You need to gather information on the ideas you generated during the first step. Often, you’ll know what you need to write about from experience. But sometimes you need to do additional research. If your writing task is similar to another of your documents, consider using that other document as a source of information. However, overusing previous sources could stifle your writing skills.

You can conduct two types of research to gather information — primary research and secondary research. Primary research is information gathered firsthand — by you or others — by conducting interviews, making observations, or reading source material such as customer letters.

Secondary research relies on getting information by analyzing existing primary research material. Sources of secondary research include newspaper reports, product evaluations, and marketing material.

There are drawbacks to both approaches. Primary research is time consuming, so this avenue may not be an option if deadlines are tight. Primary research may also be skewed by your own biases. Of course, if you rely on secondary research, you may be subject to the biases of others.

Imagine this scenario. Joan is the marketing manager for a computer graphics company. She wants to write a proposal to develop an innovative new web application. Her ideas list includes ideas such as features and functions, programming languages, and development effort. She now wants to research her ideas in detail.

Let’s see each idea to learn how Joan researched it.

  • Features and functions — She conducts primary research into innovative features and functions the product should have by interviewing the engineering manager and his team.
  • Programming languages — She conducts primary research into the programming languages to be used by interviewing the engineering manager.
  • Development effort — She conducts primary research into development by interviewing the head of the program office. She wants to understand the cost, time, and complexity involved in product development. She also reads past product proposals to get an idea of how much effort was needed for similar products.
  • Market window — Joan carries out secondary research into the market window for the new product by reading marketing analyses from the Marketing Department. Her research shows that the new product needs to be on the market by the end of the year.
  • Customer acceptance — Joan conducts primary research on customer acceptance when she interviews several potential customers regarding features, support issues, and product pricing.
  • Performance — She conducts primary research into expected system performance by interviewing the engineering manager.


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The 3-step Process to Generate Writing Ideas

Identifying the writing purpose

Have you ever felt daunted at the thought of writing a business document to a tight deadline? It’s hard not to feel anxious in such situations. Most people find it difficult to write under pressure and often feel dissatisfied with their results.

There’s a five-step process that’ll help you produce quality results when writing under pressure. The first step involves generating ideas. The second step is gathering information, and then organizing your ideas. The fourth step is writing the draft. The final step involves revising and editing the draft. You’ll find this approach useful because each step builds on the previous one. 

The steps aren’t lengthy or difficult. And you can ease yourself into the task by starting with the basics and working toward a final draft.

The first step in the writing process is generating ideas, which involves three steps: identifying the purpose of your writing, identifying your audience, and creating a freestyle list of the main ideas.

But, let’s see each step of generating ideas to learn more about it.

Identifying purpose of writing

Identifying the purpose of your writing is important because it enables you to target your efforts as you generate ideas.

For example, a marketing director says the purpose of a proposal document is to get resources for new product development.

Identifying audience

Identifying your audience helps you visualize who you’re talking to. This helps your words flow. It also helps you identify what to write.

The marketing director identifies the executive team as the audience for the proposal. To address his audience, the director includes themes such as “market share,” “profitability,” and “return on investment.”