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Incorporate Ethics by Design Concepts

Learning Objectives

After completing this unit, you’ll be able to:

  • Explain how Consequence Scanning can be used to get started in Ethics by Design work.
  • Run your own Consequence Scanning workshop.

Now that you know why it’s important to ensure ethical use of technology as a company, and you’ve seen examples, let’s talk about how you personally can help foster a culture of Ethics by Design and embed ethical use principles into your company’s day-to-day work.

In this unit, you explore a process called Consequence Scanning. We use this process at Salesforce. It allows companies to systematize their approach to measuring the potential ethical impact of product decisions. 

Embed Ethics by Design Through Consequence Scanning

Consequence Scanning was developed by UK-based think-tank Doteveryone, which was founded in 2015 to advocate for responsible technology and innovation. Salesforce continues to implement frameworks and processes created by Doteveryone in the work led by our Office of Ethical and Humane Use of Technology. 

Unintended consequences chart showing six categories.

Image Credit: Doteveryone 

Unintended consequences often fall under six main categories, which Consequence Scanning helps mitigate.

  1. Imbalance in the Benefits of Technology
  2. Unforeseen Uses
  3. Erosion of Trust
  4. Impact on the Environment
  5. Changes in Norms and Behaviors
  6. Displacement and Societal Shifts

How does Consequence Scanning determine these weak spots? It purposefully inserts productive friction into the product development process. Here, productive friction just means checkpoints where folks are nudged to pause and consider the impact of the products or features they’re building. This helps mitigate negative or unintended consequences and identifies opportunities for impact.

Run a Consequence Scanning Workshop

Consequence Scanning takes the form of a workshop. The idea is to build up “moral muscle memory” in our product development process. We do this to make sure we are living our values, and to develop features that identify and mitigate ethical risk for customers and end users. 

We’ve created a guide that distills the Consequence Scanning framework, including insights and slight tweaks we’ve learned through applying it. Review it to learn how to host your own Consequence Scanning workshop. 

You’ll learn everything from how to structure the agenda of the workshop to questions to ask to help teams think differently, such as:

  • “Have you considered security, reliability, support, monitoring, and ease of comprehension for your users?”
  • “What could this mean for well-being and relationships?”
  • “How would the communities you operate in be affected if everyone in the world were doing this?”
  • “How could this affect different markets and people in their professional lives?”

Like any other habit, ethical awareness must be practiced to be maintained. Eventually, it will become second nature to question our beliefs and assumptions about the impact of our choices. When we all slow down, even if it’s just for 45, 60, or 90 minutes to consider, “What if?” we are able to take part in the important work of reshaping our systems and societies so that more people are protected from harm.

Sum It Up

Business can be a powerful platform for social change. It's a power that you can start flexing with simple exercises like Consequence Scanning. In this module, you explored the importance of incorporating ethical and humane use in technology, saw some examples that Salesforce has modeled in our own work, and how you can bring ethical and humane use in technology back to your organization. We're excited to see what you come up with in yours. Get to it!


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