I recently had a meeting with PARN to discuss the early findings of their CPD Consortium Project. PARN is a not-for-profit membership organisation for professional bodies. Before we started leafing through the results of the CPD project we made some CPD small talk. A big part of that was ethics and whether or not we are focusing enough on it as professionals.

Of course there is always the argument, "I am professional and therefore ethical." But is that enough? Personally, I think not. The questions remains, how can we provide evidence that we understand ethics and act ethically?

And things change, so how can we continue to ensure we're continuing to behave in an appropriately ethical way? I don't mean to suggest that over time we lose sight of how we should behave. I just believe that with ever changing and dynamic working environments there is always something new to learn. For example, new technologies bring with them new ethical dilemmas. Which is why continuously challenging my ethics is so important to me.

Some of the reticence to include ethics, explicitly in CPD comes from the question of how to learn or study ethics? If I were to define (professional) ethics for myself it would be, "Do I understand the appropriate and professional course of action in difficult situations?" The only way I can answer that question is to find examples and test myself.

Engaging with ethics for professional development can be as simple as reading a scenario and thinking through how you would (and indeed should) act in that situation. Even better if you can get your colleagues involved to join the discussion. You may be surprised how much conversation and debate gets sparked. I find questions of ethics are always like that. I remember I once bought my co-worker a book for her birthday, The Pig That Wants to be Eaten: And Ninety-Nine Other Thought Experiments, and we both had so much to say about each single question (though I wouldn't advocate this particular book for CPD!).

It struck me in my meeting with PARN that if silly ethical questions can provoke so much debate, think about all that can be learnt, and how much we could develop professionally, just by taking a situation and working through how to go about solve it.

As part of accountingcpd.net, Nelson Croom publish a range of online Ethics courses designed for CPD. All of them are designed not only to make you think, but also to provoke that discussion with other professionals. If you’re interested, you can try one for free here.