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Navigating the ethical maze through design action research

Carole Tansley (Nottingham Business School, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK)
Susan Kirk (Nottingham Business School, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK)
Colin Fisher (Nottingham Business School, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK)

European Journal of Training and Development

ISSN: 2046-9012

Article publication date: 27 May 2014



The purpose of this study is to identify how ethical stances can be used to develop a frame set in the design of a web-based decision support system (DSS) for ethical decision-making and to test both the efficacy of these frames and the potential of such a tool for individuals and groups in both leadership development situations and organisational practice. Unethical behaviour by executives is a frequently cited reason for erosion of trust with other stakeholders.


Utilising action research, by choosing ethics frames such as heuristics, a web-based ethics DSS designed to enable users to explore ethical issues from multiple perspectives was constructed and this was beta-tested with a major UK bank and a global oil company.


In orchestrating constant revisions of the ethics frames in the tool, learning from each research cycle was identified, a new form of action research, a design action research, which emphasises the importance of collaboration in the design of such decision-making tools, was offered and the tool for management development and other applications was successfully beta-tested.


It was demonstrated to management developers how web-based systems might be designed by non-information technology professionals; the framing literature was added by demonstrating the value of engaging in dialogue about ethical issues of concern to managers and their organisations and thus improving decision-making; and additions were made to the literature on ethics and Information systems (IS) and contribution toward action research in the fields of IS and ethics was done.



The authors would like to extend grateful thanks to the editor and two anonymous reviewers whose advice enabled them to critically review early editions of the paper.


Tansley, C., Kirk, S. and Fisher, C. (2014), "Navigating the ethical maze through design action research", European Journal of Training and Development, Vol. 38 No. 5, pp. 456-482.



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