Today I read this article about Google and its presence in China.
Google is considering withdrawing from China completely because of the continued internet censorship and China-based cyber attacks on human rights activists using its Gmail service. Google is the second largest search engine in China, and China has the largest number of internet users on the world. A withdrawal would be a values based decision. Google"s mantra is "Do no evil", and they went through a lot of soul searching during the process of entering China in the first place. The loss of immediate revenue would be considerable.
Values-based decisions such as this one make or break a company's ethical framework. All of us face our own similar dilemmas. Values based decisions create incredible strength and well being amongst the employees and customers. Both groups feel secure and proud to be associated with a brand that is based around a set of principles which it is prepared to stand by, even at the expense of short term profit.
Decisions like this are the opportunity to walk the talk, and the scale of the fall out increases the level of benefit in relation to brand loyalty and pride. On the otherside, there is the revenue loss. And the argument that Google might have more influence on freedom from inside China, even with censorship, than it will by being out altogether. These decisions are never easy.The discussions that are going on inside Google right now will be part of their on-going culture building process. Any leader, or consultant, can facilitate a values based discussion which looks at all the options from the perspective of the principles the organisation wants to stand for. Encourage everyone to speak, and to express their views in values terms. You will see that most things are not black and white. But in the discussions of the shades of grey, the group comes closer to a common interpretation of their own values framework. It"s a powerful exercise to schedule on a regular basis.
Carolyn is the CEO of Walking the Talk and author of 'Walking the Talk: Building a Culture for Success' (Random House).
Twitter @walkingourtalk or LinkedIn.