One of the more popular business books in recent years is titled First, Break All the Rules. Executives at Adelphia Communications Corp., Enron Corp., Tyco International Ltd. and WorldCom Inc. may have taken that advice too literally.
Forthcoming offerings from business publishers seem to reflect the shift in the zeitgeist for 2003. For January releases alone, new books included An Introduction to Business Ethics, by Joseph R. Desjardins, and A Primer on Business Ethics, by Tibor R. MacHan and James E. Chesher. For those already in deep trouble, another January offering was Street-Smart Ethics: Keeping Your Job Without Going to Jail, by Clinton W. McLemore. This month, look for an ethics title that should have particular appeal to CIOs: The Ethics of Information Technology and Business, by Richard T. DeGeorge.
While it's tempting to attribute this concentration of business ethics books to recent events, that's misleading, says Dominick Anfuso, editorial director of The Free Press, a New York City-based imprint of Simon & Schuster that publishes business titles. The long lead time in publishing means those books were in the works long before the recent accounting scandals became public. Business ethics "has always been an important subject," he says. Apparently the advice in such books has been overwhelmed by the pressure for profits and short-term results.
Anfuso hopes the new crop of books--which includes his own company's January entry, The Trusted Leader, by Robert M. Galford and Anne Seibold Drapeau--will get a boost in sales from the current scandals, but he's not holding his breath. "We'll all put [ethics books] out and hope that something will take hold," he says.
Then Anfuso hits on a potential best-seller on business ethics: "It would be great to have a prominent figure, a businessperson, write a book about ethics instead of his life story." Instead of Welch's Jack: Straight from the Gut, perhaps something along the lines of Twain's The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg?
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