In a previous life, I worked as an advertising copywriter. Aside from being paid to write (which was cool), I spent my days trying to understand the motivations that drove a consumer to buy what they bought (which was really cool). The larger the purchase, the more critical it was to understand the underlying psychology that factored into the individual’s purchase decision.
Much like a pair of sneakers, a car, or a pint of ice cream, compliance is a product
I bring this up because, much like a pair of sneakers, a car, or a pint of ice cream, compliance is a product. As compliance professionals, we’re charged with selling that product. And just like the advertiser has to understand the mind of their consumer, so too does the compliance professional. The question is: How?
Ethicability: How to Decide What’s Right and Find the Courage to Do It
Roger Steare is the Corporate Philosopher in Residence and Professor of Organizational Ethics at Cass Business School in London. As such, he has some keen insight into the moral challenges that people and organizations face day in and day out. In addition to giving you the framework to make more ethical decisions, Ethicability was written to help you understand the moral philosophy and social psychology that drive the root causes of our actions and how we rationalize them.
Conspiracy of Fools: A True Story
The story of the Enron collapse is one of the more fascinating case studies in business. When the dust settled, billions of dollars were lost, the 7th largest company in the U.S was bankrupt, and one of the world’s most venerable accounting firms was no more. It was also the catalyst that brought about every compliance officer’s favorite piece of legislation. Kurt Eichenwald’s, Conspiracy of Fools, is a masterful deconstruction of the events and actions that led to the largest accounting fraud in history.
Man’s Search for Meaning
In 1941, Viktor Frankl was practicing psychiatry in Vienna. In 1944, he was a slave laborer at the Kaufering concentration camp. While there, he sought to understand what gave men the strength to endure such hopeless circumstances. The answer, you might have concluded, was through the meaning he ascribed to his life. Give a man meaning and he’ll persevere. Remove it and he’ll give up. But one’s sense of meaning, or lack thereof, influences more than their will to press forward through unyielding hardship, it also influences whether or not they’ll live their life as a principled individual.
I believe that most people are good. But I also believe that even the best people will compromise their principles when their sense of purpose and meaning is stripped from them. Want to create a more ethical culture? Help your employees find their meaning.
Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life
In 1967, psychologist Martin Seligman originated the theory of learned helplessness. The experiments that led to his discovery are covered at length in his book, Learned Optimism, but the Cliff Notes’ version is that through a conditioned response to negative stimuli, a person eventually becomes unable or unwilling to avoid the negative stimuli even if they have the power to do so. In other words, they become so accustomed to negative outcomes that they give up their power to control the outcome: They learn to become helpless.
Much like the individual can become conditioned to accept negative outcomes, so too can an organization if it doesn’t protect employees who report misconduct. The flipside of this is that we can also become conditioned to accept and expect positive outcomes. By setting the proper “tone at the top” and implementing processes and policies that encourage doing the right things above all things, an organization can foster a more positive and ethical culture. And while it sounds simple enough, recent headlines indicate that many companies continue to find it easier said than done.
Happy reading! Do you have any favorite books to add to the list? Let us know!