Institutional Corruption

In August of 2009 Lawrence Lessig started as Director of the Edmond J. Safra Foundation Center for Ethics at the University of Harvard.

"His current work addresses "institutional corruption" relationships which are legal, even currently ethical, but which weaken public trust in an institution."

In his opening must-watch-lecture he explains what his definiion of institutional corruption is. Lessig tells us how it effects peoples' trust in these institutions and what some of the causes are. As a true scholar and scientist he then explains why it is important to study the phenomenon, how he intends to do that and last but not least how that may/will benefit all of us.

The interesting, or worrying point - whatever your perspective might be - he makes is, that the problem of institutional corruption not only affects all of us (does not matter where you live!) but starts with us.

"Nobody picked up the phone and told the captain commanding the ship was drunk!"

While Lessig focuses primarily on public institutions, there is a lot to learn for organziations from what he has to say about this today and undoubtedly even more in the near future.

When people:

  • look the other way,
  • when the interests of a few trump the interests of many,
  • when decisions are no longer based on facts but on fads,
  • when nobody picks up the phone

then there's a heap of trouble waiting for us.

So what can we do about it? We need:

  • Courage
  • Cultural change
  • Governance

Next time we'll look a bit more in depth at ways to address this problem from an organizational perspective.

Now sit back and enjoy the excellent lecture. (Note that Lessig does not adhere to the 1 slide per 3 minutes "rule".)

Short Version of Lecture

Long Version of Lecture