The Case for Active Goodness

By  Ric Rhinehart

It was in 2000 that Google employees Paul Buchheit and Amit Patel first wrote a phrase on a conference room whiteboard, three little words that would become the unofficial statement of corporate values for the company: “Don’t Be Evil.”

The phrase, akin to the medical version of “First, do no harm,” was initially a plea to the cadre of newly hired “business types” who were gaining prominence at the rapidly growing firm, where the culture had been largely driven by quirky engineers and programmers. Eventually, Google endorsed this phrase as the most memorable and succinct expression of the company’s values when filing their IPO in 2004.

While “don’t be evil,” is an admirable goal and an easily embraceable value statement, the question arises of whether it is adequate. Is it enough to simply not “be evil?” Don’t humans and the companies they run have a more active role to play in doing good?

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