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In the fall of 2016, Samsung Electronics experienced a massive public relations disaster when its Galaxy Note 7 smartphones started exploding due to faulty batteries and casings. Initially, the company denied there were any technical problems. Then, when it became obvious the exploding phones posed a safety and health threat (they were banned from airplanes), Samsung accused its suppliers of creating the problem. In reality, the rush to beat Apple’s iPhone 7 release date was the most likely reason corners were cut in production. Samsung finally owned up to the problem, recalled more than two million phones worldwide, and replaced them with new, improved Galaxy Note 7s.
The company’s response and its replacement of the phones went a long way toward defusing the disaster and even boosting the company’s share price. Whether management knew it, its response was Kantian. Samsung focused on the end (i.e., customer safety and satisfaction) with the motive of doing the ethically responsible thing. Although some might argue the company could have done far more and much more quickly, perhaps it still acted in accordance with the categorical imperative. What do you think?
How might the categorical imperative become a part of organizational culture? Could it ever work in business?
Do you see the categorical imperative as applicable to your own interests and hope for a career?