How does a code come to life within an organization and how exactly does it help when it is mission-oriented and values-based? Companies still require online training (and code certification) but the limitations of this by itself are being recognized. These limitations can be addressed by more engaging, blended learning approaches to code education and communications. With a blended learning strategy, the emphasis shifts from individual to social learning. Discussions of ethics issues become normalized as managers and employees grapple with gray-area situations encountered in the workplace. In this context, a living code is less the “last word” on correct behavior, and more a resource that promotes frank, honest conversations about what it takes to “walk the walk” when obvious answers aren’t available.
When it comes to values and ethical standards, employees take their cue from managers. A strong ethical culture is shaped most effectively by exemplary role models who encourage their teams to share their values and concerns openly (i.e., to practice parrhesia).To foster “tone in the middle” and a culture of speaking out, the best blended learning programs include leader-facilitated sessions that encourage employees to explore the legal and ethical issues raised by a scenario from different perspectives, and to reflect more deeply on their own responsibilities. These case discussions bring the code to life by showing how principles translate into practice. Interestingly, they also reveal how heavily people rely on their intuition and emotions when making ethical decisions, and how heavily influenced they are by leader and group expectations. Living codes are more social than we realize.