Monday, June 11, 2012

Article on Dan Ariely's new book about Lying

I haven't read the book yet, but this piece in The Economist makes it sound pretty interesting.

CONTRACT disputes seldom produce courtroom drama. But the battle between BSkyB, a broadcaster, and Electronic Data Services (EDS), a software firm, was an exception. Mark Howard, Sky’s barrister, cross-examined Joe Galloway, an EDS executive, about his MBA from Concordia College in the US Virgin Islands. Mr Galloway recalled his student days in loving detail, from the college buildings to the hours he had spent sweating over his books. A few days later Mr Howard presented the court with an MBA certificate that his pet schnauzer had earned from the very same diploma mill. The clever schnauzer had even earned a higher mark than the EDS executive.
People have always lied and cheated. And businesspeople may have lied and cheated more than most: in a survey of American graduate students, 56% of those pursuing an MBA admitted to having cheated in the previous year, compared with 47% of other students. Cynics will not be surprised that people in ties sometimes tell lies—remember Enron? Plenty of executives have overstated their educational qualifications: Scott Thompson recently lost his job as boss of Yahoo! for it.

Lying and cheating in the business world is more common than one would hope. The standard view is that dishonesty must be deterred by harsh punishments. However, self-policing may be more effective, using much less dramatic incentives. Or, why not some combination of the two?

I'll have to take a look at the book once I get a little further through my reading pile.

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