Originally published September 12, 2019
Here is an excerpt from the interview:
Is Theranos emblematic of a cultural trend or an anomaly of unethical behavior?
My initial impression was that Theranos was some very bizarre one-off scandal. But as I started to review thousands of startups, I realized that there is quite a lot of unethical behavior in tech. The stories may not be quite as grandiose or large-scale as Theranos’, but it was really common to see companies lie to investors, mislead customers, and create abusive work environments. Many founders lacked an understanding of how their products could have negative impacts on society. The frustration of seeing the same mistakes happen over and over again made it clear that something needed to be done about this.
How has your experience at Theranos helped shape your understanding of the link between ethics and culture?
If the company had effective and ethically mature leadership, the company may not have used underdeveloped technology on patients without their consent. If the board was constructed in a way to properly challenge the product, perhaps it would have been developed. If employees weren’t scared and disillusioned, perhaps constructive conversations about novel solutions could have arisen. On rare occasions are these scandals a sort of random surprise or the result of an unexpected disaster. They are often an accumulation of poor ethical decisions. Having a culture where, at every stakeholder level, people can speak-up and be properly considered when they see something wrong is crucial. It makes the difference in building ethical organizations and preventing large disastrous events from happening.
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