Thomas B. Hodel-Widmer and Ambros P. Luthi
Small, middle and large-sized companies have to face the challenge of adapting to the requirements of local and global networks. These digitally networked, ultra-modern structures in work, company and administration radically change our working – lives. According to this, a purely technical and economical approach is not sufficient in our view.
This paper analyzes the rapid development of networked computer systems from an ethical, technological and organizational point of view and illustrate it by empirical data. The main emphasis however is placed on considerations, from the point of view of computer ethics, on the conception of workplaces in the office, which are increasingly reduced to isolated interactions between humans, computers and networks. In order to make better use of these new technologies, ethical / action-oriented guidelines are proposed. In summary we argue, that the organizational structure of computer workplaces should consist of partially autonomous teams, supported by electronic communication tools. A team includes, in opposite of a work group, ethical values like community, excellence, integrity and respect of the individual within the team. The concept of the individual is undoubtedly one of the most important achievements in modern human history. But in our opinion, humanity has reached a point where this concept is rather an impediment to our vision of a ‘more harmonious’ society instead of promoting our aimed goals. Whether we like it or not, we are creatures in need of a certain community. This is why we have to create communities – real teams – in the companies, where we work and spend the most important part of our adult life. Hundreds of justified or unfounded arguments brought up against teams by the company can be minimized using networked computer systems. Flexibility of work-hours and -place can only be reasonably managed in autonomous or partially autonomous teams. Networked computer systems thereby make a reduction of social restraints possible and promote: information flow, decentralized systems, flat hierarchies, self-determination and the right to have a say thus reaching a peak never known or expected. This new dimension is linked to the search of a real community, excellence, personal integrity and respect for the individual. Humans and the environment get back a piece of identity and the companies thereby gain character, profile and a positive climate and culture.