A few months ago I attended a talk entitled “The Hidden Power of Integrity and Access to Vast Increases in Performance” by Michael Jensen of the Harvard Business School. I was interested because I knew Michael Jensen from when I did my MBA at the Simon Graduate School of Business that University of Rochester. (Actually, I knew of him is more like it. I was a plebian MBA student. He was an academic superstar.) He is an interesting and eclectic guy – and was one of the founders of Agency Theory which, if you’ve studied Accounting or Finance, you probably know about. Since he was going to be giving a lecture on Integrity at UBC, I thought it would be interesting to hear what he had to say.
His lecture was a pleasant surprise. He wasn’t talking about integrity in the context of ethics (i.e. good or bad), but rather he was talking about integrity as something being “whole” or “complete”. He argued that a system, organization or person cannot achieve their full potential unless they have integrity in this sense. And then he went on to explain that being in integrity means to “honor your word”. And he provided simple definitions for what is meant by “giving your word” and what is meant by “honoring” your word. I was expecting a talk on integrity from an ethical perspective, but instead he provided objective definitions of an integrity framework that could be put to work immediately – and to great effect. Ethics should include this form of integrity, but integrity is so much more than ethics, and is really a prerequisite for full organizational effectiveness.
I encourage you to learn more about Michael Jensen’s integrity framework. You might start by reading the following article from SSRN “Integrity: Without It Nothing Works”. If this resonates with you, take the time to watch a video of the lecture from March 26th: “The Hidden Power of Integrity and Access to Vast Increases in Performance”. (Unfortunately, the lecture is nearly two hours long – but it is interesting, and will definitely be time better spent than watching Mad Men or Game of Thrones). The slides from his lecture can be found here.
Anyway, Mr. Jensen’s simple and straightforward integrity framework is a breath of fresh air. I hope you are enticed by it as much as I have been.