Entrepreneurial Institute

Ethical Entrepreneurship: Searching for Organization-Cultural Fit

Organization-Cultural fit: why it matters


This post is the first in a series outlining and exploring Ethical Entrepreneurship.


Ethical Entrepreneurship is the journey of intentionally creating a constructive organizational culture.


Photo by Samantha Sophia on Unsplash.comThe relationship between organizations and society is changing rapidly. Businesses are increasingly focusing on their impact on and contributions to the world. Preparing the next generation of leaders is taking on a crucial importance. Every day we see headlines highlighting lapses in corporate culture leading to negative results and increasingly employees activism affects the conduct of their employer. Try a doing quick search for Uber, Theranos, glass ceiling, gender pay gap, or algorithm bias to see examples. Being mindful of the need for ethics and intentionally creating a constructive culture during venture formation, can have critical long term benefits. A positive culture affects an organizations viability and success as well as society overall. Ethical Entrepreneurship explicitly sets out to intentionally design the Organization-Cultural fit.


Building a thriving culture from the beginning is easier than fixing a broken one later


The NYU Entrepreneurial Institute’s curriculum is largely based the Lean approach to venture formation. We’ve recently begun an exploration to outline applied and experiential thinking towards expanding/enhancing the methodology. The goal is to equip entrepreneurs with ideas, concepts, and best practices for addressing cultural considerations during the formative stages of their ventures. This new awareness helps realize tangible measurable benefits. Weaving ethics into how we form new ventures will lead the way to a renaissance in the startup world thus ushering in a new enlightened entrepreneurial era leaving the digital dark ages forged in Silicon Valley to annals of history.


Photo by Greg Bakker on Unsplash.comAt its core, the Lean Methodology is an approach to maximizing the efficient use of resources (time, people, money) in driving innovation. Ethical Entrepreneurship extends the Lean approach beyond efficiency to include a principled approach to the humane treatment and impact on people, and how scarce natural and other valuable resources are utilized. In addition, it explicitly includes the organizations long-term impact on and contributions to a sustainable society. The rapid advancement of new technologies like AI, machine learning, facial recognition, and the expansive data collection capabilities widely available is only making the challenge of creating constructive cultures that much more difficult.


Ethical Entrepreneurship teaches people how to create organizations that are more than simply validated business ideas based on sufficient product-market fit. In a world where every inefficient, ineffective or inappropriate allocation of resource is scrutinized, magnified and held up for inquiry, developing a culture that curtails these activities is both financially responsible and important brand management. It’s our intent to encourage new organizations (collections of people working towards specified objectives) to be constructive participants in society where they create specific value (e.g. profits, social good, etc.) while also helping make life and the world a better place for future generations.


The evolution of Lean – beyond resource efficiency to thriving organizations


Moving from idea to venture formation involves several measurable stages of progression. They include:


  • Idea plus sufficient motivation leads to the search for problem-solution fit.
  • If/when problem-solution fit is validated, the search continues for product-market fit.
  • If/when product-market fit is validated, it’s considered justified to create a new organization to execute on the vision.
  • To build a viable long-lasting organization, Ethical Entrepreneurship also requires sufficient experimentation to form Organization-Cultural fit.


Beyond understanding customer needs, market size, go-to-market strategy, etc., organizations now must account for numerous factors increasingly affecting their ability to thrive and grow. Some factors are technical in nature such as data and algorithm bias favoring one group of people over another, while others are human in nature such as policies (written and unwritten) that enable, if not outright support, sexual harassment, inequality of compensation, and stifling career advancement. Products today are worldwide by default. Developing a deep appreciation of the need and benefits of designing those products/services for a diverse multicultural world is a requirement now more than ever.

Weaving ethics into how we form new venture will lead the way to a renaissance in the startup world thus ushering in a new enlightened era leaving the digital dark ages forged in Silicon Valley to annals of history.


Applying ethics to entrepreneurship is a broad and ongoing initiative. There are a wide range of efforts considering the application of ethics is various domains - AI Now Institute, The Future of Life Institute, and the Center for Humane Technology are a few examples. Our work will focus on identifying emerging best practices for building awareness, communicating, and applying practical teaching tools and methods. It’s an incremental effort with the short-term goal of integrating emerging best practices into our curriculum while pursuing the long-term objective of creating a center of excellence bridging multidisciplinary domains. The initial stage focuses on forming a strategic framework which can be put to work now that will evolve as we learn.


Part two in the Ethical Entrepreneurship series outlines the main aspects of Organization-Cultural fit.