HOW TO Teach “Giving Voice To Values”?

Mary C. Gentile (Babson College)

 Abstract: For decades, integrating impactful attention to values across the business curriculum has been the “holy grail” of business ethics education, but it has been elusive for a number of very powerful reasons. Giving Voice To Values (GVV) addresses these obstacles by focusing not on whether to be ethical but “how” one may do so, effectively. The GVV pedagogy/curriculum is flexible and can be adapted in various ways to work within existing curricula and/or in stand-alone offerings.


Most people want to bring their whole selves to work. Yet, experience and research demonstrate that values conflicts will occur during the course of a person’s career—those times when what we believe and want to accomplish seems in opposition to the demands of clients, peers, bosses and/or organizations. Research also tells us that people often do not behave as they predict/hope they will when faced with such values conflicts.

For decades, business educators have tried to address this issue by approaching ethical challenges as if they were largely a matter of recognition and understanding. Ethical issues were approached with a focus upon Awareness and Analysis: that is, helping individuals to identify ethical issues when they see them and to think rigorously about them, in order to determine the best course of action. But this approach ignores a critical focus: Action. That is, understanding the “right thing” to do does not mean we know how to accomplish it, effectively and with minimal negative repercussions.

Additionally, just because a faculty member would like their students to become both skillful as well as ethical practitioners, does not mean that a professor of Accounting or Marketing or Finance would necessarily be comfortable addressing ethical issues in his or her classroom.

For both of these reasons — the need for attention to Action as well as the need to find an approach to ethics and values in business that is appropriate for faculty trained in specific business disciplines – we have developed a new pedagogy and curriculum called Giving Voice To Values (GVV). Focused on current and future business leaders, the GVV curriculum helps people build and practice the understanding and skills they need to recognize, speak and act on their values when these conflicts arise.


Giving Voice to Values is an innovative approach to values-driven leadership development that identifies the many ways that individuals can – and do – voice their values in the workplace and provides opportunities to build the muscles necessary to do so. Developed by Mary C. Gentile PhD and launched by The Aspen Institute and the Yale School of  Management, GVV is now based at Babson College. Drawing on actual experience as well as scholarship, GVV fills a long-standing and critical gap in the development of values-centered leaders.

GVV is not about persuading people to be more ethical. Rather GVV starts from the premise that most of us already want to act on our values, but that we also want to feel that we have a reasonable chance of doing so effectively and successfully. This pedagogy and curriculum is about raising those odds. Rather than a focus on ethical analysis, the GVV curriculum focuses on ethical implementation and asks the question: “What if I were going to act on my values? What would I say and do? How could I be most effective?”

Mary Gentile, GVV


It is easy to get started with GVV. There are hundreds of pages of cases and exercises, books and a series of interactive online social cohort-based modules, along with Faculty-only Teaching Notes,  and individual guidance is available from Much of the curriculum is free online (see below). Many faculty begin with an introduction to GVV and the two foundational exercises: “A Tale of Two Stories” and “Starting Assumptions for Giving Voice To Values.” These are often followed by introduction to the Scripting, Action-Planning and Peer Coaching that is at the heart of GVV; this can be done using the “Reasons & Rationalizations” exercise; the “Scripts and Skills” readings; and/or any of the GVV-style cases available online. There is also a written assignment based on scripting and action-planning for students’ lived experiences and the guidelines are available online.

Giving Voice To Values has been used successfully in companies, MBA, executive education and undergraduate settings, with hundreds and hundreds of pilots across all seven continents. Available materials (much of it free) include books, readings, short cases, exercises, online interactive modules, videos, teaching plans and annotated bibliographies. A customized curriculum or peer coaching program can be developed for business schools and companies.

On the education side, GVV has been used in undergraduate, MBA and executive education in hundreds of business schools around the world. It has been a featured part of the United Nations Global Compact PRME (Principles for Responsible Management Education) programming and the PRME has become a partner supporting GVV curriculum development on Anti-Corruption, with a recent pilot in India. Increasingly it is also being adapted for educational purposes beyond business (medicine, nursing, engineering, law, accounting, liberal arts, education). A recent book features chapters by a dozen faculty from different disciplines (economics, accounting, negotiations, HRM, etc.) sharing how they use GVV – Educating for Values-Driven Leadership: Giving Voice To Values Across the Curriculum, , 2013. GVV has now moved beyond academic applications to numerous corporate, NGO, public sector applications. And it is being piloted in secondary and even elementary school settings as well.



The curriculum is available for free download at There is a also Faculty-Only URL with teaching notes and B cases, available to faculty upon request from .

See for the book from Yale University Press, Giving Voice To Values: How To Speak Your Mind When You Know What’s Right (available in Spanish and in Chinese and soon in Korean), as well as additional articles, videos, interviews, etc.

A series of 6 online interactive, social cohort-based customizable modules are also available: visit and/or contact for DEMO.

A McKinsey Quarterly Video Interview with the Creator and Director of GVV is available at:


“Giving Voice to Values heralds a revolution in ethics education. .. It’s like a self-defense class for your soul.”

Dan & Chip Heath, authors of Switch & Made to Stick

“…a wonderful guide to help us enter an era of responsibility & leadership based on values.”

Walter Isaacson, CEO of Aspen Institute

“…the most significant contribution to business ethics I’ve experienced in my professional career. .. destined to shape the behavior of future generations in ways that should make us all much prouder of business as an entity and management as a career.”

Leonard A. Schlesinger, President, Babson College


Gentile, Mary C. Giving Voice To Values: How To Speak Your Mind When You Know What’s Right. (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2010).

Gentile, Mary C., Ed. Educating for Values-Driven Leadership: Giving Voice To Values Across the Curriculum, , 2013.

“Values-Driven Leaderrship: Where We Have Been and Where We Could Go” by Mary C Gentile in Organization Management Journal, 9, 1–9, 2012.