Monthly Archives: September 2015

Whistleblowing, VW’s Silence, and the Behavioural All Stars

Whistleblowing, VW’s Silence, and the Behavioural All Stars

Today’s guest post is by Wendy Addison, Founder and Owner of SpeakOut SpeakUp Ltd.

On the 2nd and 3rd of Sept 2015, I attended The International Behavioural Insights Conference in London. Hosted by the UK government’s ‘Nudge Unit’ (Behavioural Insights Team), the event included world-renowned speakers such as Steve Pinker, Dan Ariely, Max Bazerman, Richard Thaler and Daniel Kahneman.

I attended because in my experience, both as a whistle-blower, and as one who works in the whistleblowing arena, that to deal with whistleblowing only on the level of legislature, process, or within the halls of academia, is superficial. My advocacy has evolved to believe that we need to investigate what it is in the deep structure of the human mind that either drives whistleblowing, or hinders it, and to leverage that research for a fuller understanding of current whistleblowing issues.

To set the tone, Professor Richard Thaler, author of Misbehaving (link here) was asked to talk about the BIG problems within our societies, and I was not surprised to corruption at the top of his list, followed by tax compliance, terrorism, climate change and end of life health care. Here is a two-minute video of Professor Thaler making this point.  Crucially, he identified that the root of all of the big problems is behaviour, which can initiate or mitigate misconduct, with trust being critical to harness lasting change.

With corruption identified at the front and centre of social ills, I was particularly interested in exploring and understanding if social scientists considered whistleblowing as a mitigating behaviour to corruption.  Historically I had shared my own whistle-blower experience with Dan Ariely with the aim of understanding what lessons could be learned from a behavioural framework.  Once again, my desire to understand the behavioural component inspired the question I put forward to Dan on Whistleblowing – Watch the 3 min video here.

Whilst there is much to talk to within Dan’s three-minute response I’m going to focus on three areas:

  • Employee Loyalty and Whistleblowing
  • Altruistic cheating
  • Whistleblowing legislation and 50 Shades of Grey

I’d like to begin with the last thing Dan shares in the video: How do we create loyalty plus something that says there is a higher order?’

Most whistle-blowers, including myself, tell stories of shock and betrayal when we discover we are vociferously condemned as disloyal to our group and organisation, leaving us with feelings of shame and guilt. We all recognise that “Keeping one’s promises,” and honouring agreements are among the highest values we are taught to observe. But how does it come about that individuals in organisations, under certain circumstances, act as if those values are actually absolute, overriding other considerations that would appear to be extremely compelling?

Humans are herd animals. The threat of expulsion from a group on which our well-being and self-concept depend upon, often drives us to participate in or helps us to conceal behaviour we would abhor in the absence of that threat.   Furthermore, we have degrees of irrational acceptance of some unethical behaviours. Read my blog here.

This socialisation in the practice of keeping an organisation’s secrets gradually blinds us to moral ambiguities or conflicts. The consequence is that we may become less and less mindful with what is being demanded, as loyalty to the institution becomes implicitly superior to any other loyalty or obligation, including the interests of outsiders.  History is replete with examples where institutional secrets are kept which have greatly prejudiced the welfare and safety of others.

One only has to look at the current unravelling of the cheating at VW to see how groups value ‘secrets’ over the societal good. In the case of VW, our grasp of the consequences, including the significant costs to our health and the ecosystem, are just beginning to be known as the facts present themselves. In addition, beyond VW, our trust of businesses and brands will be challenged, given VW’s “commitment” to CSR.  It is a dramatic model of what happens to society when ‘those in the know’ remain silent.

Whistleblowing in business is often framed as ‘bad’ because it appears, incorrectly, that we are blowing the whistle on our team.  This is incorrect.  Individuals blow the whistle on a particular practice that is immoral and/or illegal.

Because companies have been able to get its employees to view themselves as part of a team, as in a sports team, it is easier to demand loyalty.  Thus, the rules governing teamwork and team loyalty apply.  But businesses are not games.  Victory in sports, within rules that are enforced by a referee (whistle-blower), is a socially developed convention, taking place within a larger social context that is different from competition in business.  One can lose at sport with few consequences. Losing at business has much greater consequences which permeate into society.

I believe that whistleblowing is not only permissible but ought to be expected when a company is harming society.  The issue is not one of disloyalty to the company but of whether the whistle-blower has an obligation to society, even if blowing the whistle brings them victimisation and retaliation.

I advocate re-framing whistleblowing as an act of a Good Samaritan. Would you condemn a Samaritan interfering in the prevention of a someone doing harm to themselves or someone else? Probably not. Furthermore,  there would be no need to justify such interference.   The same applies to whistleblowing.

Neatly stitched to Employee Loyalty is Altruistic Cheating, to which we are all vulnerable:

When people’s dishonesty benefits others, the others are more likely to view dishonesty as morally acceptable and, therefore, feel less guilty about benefiting from the cheating. Why?

  • Individuals cheat more when others can  benefit from their wrongdoing
  • Cheating increases with the number of  beneficiaries
  • Altruism serves as a moral justification for self-serving cheating
  • When cheating also benefits others, it involves less guilt

Whistleblowing legislation – Fifty shades of Grey

‘We find that every time there’s a grey zone, people abuse that grey zone. But every time we create this we create a danger” -Dan Ariely

The same applies to organisations and governments initiating legislation, both of whom have challenges of how flexible their rules should be. This applies to Whistleblowing in addition to codes of conduct and fiduciary responsibilities – the range of grey zones within them allows misbehaviour.

We often do not like very clear-cut rules because we can rationalise, reason and find the exceptions. However, as Steve Pinker has said, ‘We are not just brains on sticks’. Whilst we understand that we cannot create a good rule, good rules really help us.  Watch 2min here.

Synchronising Whistleblowing legislation and process with behavioural training for Courageous Conversations will help us to figure out for ourselves what is good in a pro-socially effective way. See here for more.

Wendy is a whistleblower who blew the whistle on what’s known as the biggest corporate collapse in South African history. She shares her vision and strategy for encouraging individuals to speak out before whistleblowing, on how to act on analysis and awareness and how to set the stage for transparency thereby avoiding reputational risk. She can be reached via  @beyondfreefall   or [email protected]

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Do We Really Need Another Anti-Bribery LinkedIn Group?

Do We Really Need Another Anti-Bribery LinkedIn Group?

A number of months ago, Paul Hamilton, KYC Cube Ltd, asked me if I wanted to be the group moderator on Linkedin of a new subgroup for his AML Knowledge Center, dedicated to anti-bribery compliance and best-practices. My reaction, ‘really?’ Another LinkedIn group? But after a few discussions with Paul, as I was not easily persuaded, I was finally convinced that a LinkedIn group based thoroughly on thought leadership, best practices, and  open discussion a could only be a success. I would like to share that discussion with Paul in a brief Q&A. More on the group at the end of our Q and A, but the link to the Anti-Bribery and Compliance at the Front Lines group can be found here. 

So, Paul, you have an interesting background. Do you mind introducing yourself?

Thank you, Richard, and I am really looking forward to seeing how your group develops. About me, well, after concluding a successful transition from professional sports, I spent 6 years in the financial services industry before shifting to the IT industry.  It was during this period of time that I developed a passion for supporting financial institutions in combating money laundering, and to help compliance teams unravel the complexity of AML software and to avoid unnecessary costs.  Therefore, we started the KYC Cube Ltd to help regulated companies minimize the risks associated with KYC, by offering a simplified and affordable way to train staff online, screen sanctions, peps and watchlists to protect organizations from becoming unwitting victims.

How did you get involved in starting your own Linkedin group?

A big part of what we do is the transfer of knowledge. Therefore, I established the AML Knowledge Centre on Linkedin. This platform isn’t about the constant uploading of news headlines nor is it about bashing financial institutions for compliance violations. However, it is about sharing AML best practices, creating awareness of money laundering schemes, and giving the community useful information on which they can gain knowledge.

Paul, it is a really engaging group, so why ask me to lead an anti-bribery group as part of the Knowledge Center?

Based on the success of the AML Knowledge Centre within a short period of time, I saw the demand for more engagement on Anti-bribery Compliance. Richard, I have always highly regarded your contributions to the AML Knowledge Centre and your passion for the topic, so you were my first ‘go-to’ with an idea of us forming an Anti-Bribery group on Linkedin.

Thank you, Paul. There are some really incredible Linkedin groups, and I am honored to be asked by you to be a group leader. I appreciate the work and dedication of the owners and moderators; as such, I hope to create a similar forum, even with a different perspective.  I think the first step is to invite others to join and post (here).  

So, here are the group  goals and guidelines:

  • Create and foster an open, professional and constructive environment where real-world corruption challenges that confront international teams can be discussed.
  • Bring in perspectives from the field with ‘lessons learned’ moments from both positive and negatives experiences. I want to move beyond textbooks, and enforcement action reports, into front-line reflections that are valuable and actionable, with the suggestions of ‘best practices.’
  • The group encourages those who are familiar with, either as author or consumer,  information and research relative to ethical decision making to share. The field of behavioral research has great relevance to anti-bribery compliance and I encourage members to any behavioral work that might resonate.
  • The group does not object to promotions if they relate to symposiums or speaking engagements.  By all means,  if your are attending, speaking,  or want to write about the forum afterward, share away!
  • The group is not  interested in “pitches” for consulting services, software, or otherwise. If you have something to share which will produce critical thinking, please be a part of the community.
  • Be nice! We all don’t agree but when you might disagree or challenge, do so in a way which is respectful and encourages the dialog and continued discourse. 

As to the mechanics, I will figure those out as I go, so please be patient!

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A Front-Line Interview With Author Dorie Clark

In the second of my Front Line interviews, I have the pleasure of engaging with  author and HBR contributor Dorie Clark, on how our thoughts and ideas can have a real impact “on the ground” beyond ‘clicks and likes.’ Dorie’s two books, Reinventing You (Amazon link here) and  Stand Out (Amazon link here), had a profound impact on my own trajectory, taking me from despair to optimism during my incarceration.  In this interview (pardon the pause at the 9:30 mark), Dorie discusses the importance of “seizing the narrative” and the real currency of “impact” when it comes to thought leadership. At 30 minutes, this interview can be watched in whole or in parts, but there are lessons to be learned throughout. To see more of Dorie’s work, visit her website here.

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Cartoons, Crime and Compliance

The full animation of “Why We Say Yes,” is now available by clicking on the above image. As a companion guide, here is my interview with  Nicole Rose ([email protected]), creative founder, and CEO of Create Training and The Centre for Excellence.

Hi Nicole, so first, how about sharing some of your background,  and how that brought you to the founding of Create Training?

NR: Well, Richard, thank you for inviting me to today’s Q and A and for bringing your story to life through Create Training and the Centre for Excellence. Your journey has really been a source of inspiration for us here, which we did not foresee when we started this project. My background is not as a traditional artist but as a lawyer working for 17 years in law firms and companies dealing with workplace crimes. However, my passion for art, animation and cartoons led to convert from lawyer to trainer and to “fighting workplace crime one animation at a time.”

Richard, it’s quite simple. I believe that animated training has the ability to take serious topics and make them palatable by attracting the learner’s attention and engaging deeper thought with more discourse and critical thinking.  I found through my career as a lawyer that the length of time, and lack of engagement with traditional online training, made significant issues a burden for employees, and hence led to lack of interest and consequential lack of compliance. That was a ‘lose-lose’ given the lack of attention, the expenditure of resources, and a failure to engage.

So, what does Create Training do in order to address those shortfalls?

NR: Create Training which I founded 2 years ago is a creative training company based in Australia working with multinationals around the world, turning workplace training into an animated, appealing experience not to be forgotten. We have an online licensed training portal of over 30 compliance and workplace-training topics all animated with personality, specifically designed to engage and stimulate individual and group learning. As to how, Richard, well, the case for the cartoon is a strong one.

People like to be entertained, and at the same time intellectually stimulated. Cartoons, allow serious issues to be presented in a manner that is not just funny, and hence more socially acceptable, but also designed to influence the viewer’s opinion. The explosion of political cartoons and animations in the First and Second World Wars is case in point of this. Today, you only have to open a newspaper to find the latest scandal or political issue turned into a cartoon.

What we do, is to tell important stories that people remember by using animation as the means to increase attention, focus, and to encourage discourse and dialog as a result of the training features. I saw first hand how employees would often turn on their online training course, go back to their work, and then simply document at the end that they completed the training, and maybe even answer a few elementary questions. That’s not training.

We have seen, through our own research and surveys, how animation increases interaction and connectivity between front-line employees and their supervisors by the absorption of information and positive framing of the message. It’s story telling taken to the front-desk and field in a way that is compelling. Richard, when you come visit us, you will be surprised at how often I can be found in front of a whiteboard pitching new ideas to clients or walking them through storyboards. As a lawyer, I get it, and I take these messages quite personally, as I know how they can make a difference, a real difference, in the field.

But Nicole, the ‘law is the law.’ Why should a company go through all this effort to share what should be obvious: ‘Don’t break the law.’

NR: Richard, my passion, along with art, is about changing behaviors. While I specialize in compliance, I am particularly interested in the behaviors that cause people and companies to take risks and ultimately end up on the wrong side of the law. Telling people, “the law is the law” is not enough. If it were, people wouldn’t take unnecessary risks. I passionately believe that if you help companies to identify and break these patterns of behaviors before it’s too late, then you can avoid unnecessary risks and unnecessary pain. That’s why our team created a collection of short animations focusing on how the brain causes us to make bad decisions at work and leads us to wrongly justifying our actions.  That would be pretty boring from a textbook, in animation it’s absolutely intriguing!

Nicole, I remember when you first approached me, it was “thanks but no thanks.” I equated animation with humor and didn’t think there was anything funny about bribery and corruption. Then I started talking to friends and colleagues, many of whom work for Fortune 500 multinationals, and who shared how their own organizations were using training animations. They all said the same thing: “get her back on the phone!” So, Nicole, “why me” and why this project?

NR: Richard, you are being modest about the impact of your experience, but I am thankful to all your friends who encouraged you to reconsider!

So I thought, what would happen if I combined the experience of one ex–offender who was imprisoned for foreign bribery, who now specializes in anti-bribery and compliance training, with a unique animation training company? Well, that would be the first ever animated, true-life story of a real person who had a real-world experience with the world of corporate bribery and corruption.

I wanted to turn your story of ‘good to bad to good’ into an animation. Richard, your story is not unique, but you certainly are, and those attributes caused me to pursue you relentlessly (sorry) until you would tell your story. Why? The temptation of a true story was too good an opportunity to miss. When people can hear and see it from the ‘horses mouth’ it  becomes far more meaningful and consequently memorable. Then you said “yes,” and when you introduced me to Robert “Bob” Appleton, who agreed to share his investigation of you while he was at the UN, this project turned into something much greater than we all first envisioned.

Richard, you don’t try to deflect, dilute or justify your conduct, you embrace it and do something far more interesting: you explain your mindset. You dissect your downfall into a number of behaviors and environmental elements. In essence, Richard, you are not just a walking case study about what can go wrong, you have turned it into a formula for how to go right! If we have a formula for criminal thinking, then we can have a formula for good.

Thank you Nicole, those are very kind words and are really well appreciated. So, if there were a sound bite for this animation, what would it be?

NR: It’s: Richard Bistrong: Why we say yes, a real life case study that demonstrates the dangers of rationalizing your actions to break the law and shows the formula that turns a good family man into a criminal. It includes the real-voice and appearance of Robert “Bob” Appleton, the UN Attorney and Investigator, who spells out the dangers of your behaviors, giving this animation an unprecedented dimension.

Richard, for the first time ever, employees can experience this true animated story narrated by the main characters involved. The best news is that they can experience it for free. While ‘Richard Bistrong: Why We Say Yes’ may not be the next blockbuster at the movies, I certainly hope it’s a ‘best seller’ for compliance organizations around the world

Thank you Nicole, and I have put the full animation right here on my website, but what if someone wants to know more?

For more information on this video or any other compliance or workplace training videos, contact [email protected] or go to

Also, Richard, perhaps your readers could take some time to complete this short survey to share their thought on the video by linking here. It would help us a great deal to hear everyone’s feedback.

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Can Anti-Bribery Compliance Be Animated?

Today’s guest blog is from Nicole Rose ([email protected]), the energetic (if I say so myself), creative founder, and CEO of Create Training and The Centre for Excellence.

Caricatures can be found as far back as the 14th Century with Leonardo da Vinci. Martin Luther extensively used drawings of a more editorial nature in the Reform movement, and by the 18th century, animation had become a standard means of commentary. Satire, via cartoons, allowed serious issues to be presented in a manner that was not only funny, and hence more socially acceptable, but also designed to influence the viewer’s opinion. Moving forward a few centuries, we have the proliferation of political cartoons and animations in the First and Second World Wars.

We now only have to look at a newspaper to find the latest scandal, political issue of the day, or celebrity being turned into a cartoon. Why? Because it engages us! People like to be entertained, and at the same time, intellectually stimulated. Animation has the ability to take serious topics and make them palatable by attracting our attention and engaging deeper thought. That’s why we use it in our training.

Ever since cave paintings, storytelling has been one of our most important communication methods. But as well as the historical context, there is a science as to why we feel more engaged when we hear a story as opposed to being told facts and presented with data. If we listen to a PowerPoint presentation, for example, the language processing parts of our brain (where we decode words into meaning) are activated. But that’s all. However, researchers in Spain found then when we are being told a story, not only are the language processing parts in our brain activated, but other areas of our ‘wiring’ that are used when experiencing the events of the story, are also activated. In other words, “stories, (as) this research is showing, stimulate the brain and even change how we act in life.”

In his book, “The Art of Changing the Brain,” Zull (2002) indicated that learning is deeper and more effective when we engage all parts of the brain. Scientifically, when our brain experiences an emotionally charged event, it releases dopamine into our system, making it easier to remember and recall with greater accuracy. Stories give participants’ brains an opportunity to attach new information to their prior knowledge;  this attachment facilitates long-term memory storage.

But, it gets even more fascinating. According to Uri Hasson (Associate Professor, Princeton), the brain of the person telling a story and the brains of the people listening to it actually synchronize, also known as neural coupling. So anything the narrator has experienced, the persons listening to the story can also experience. This is because storytelling mimics the narratives that we have with ourselves all day.

Whether it’s about work, groceries, the people in our lives, we make up (short) stories in our heads for every action and conversation. Kathleen Iverson (Chair Graduate Program in Training & Development Roosevelt University) refers to it as to how a story  activates parts in the brain that allows the listener to turn the story into their own ideas and experience.

The importance of creativity and storytelling is now seen as critical in schools, as is highlighted in the new Australian Curriculum.

“Recent discoveries in neuroscience have furthered theories about thinking, the brain, perception and the link between cognition and emotions. Theorists believe that learning is enhanced when rich environments contain multiple stimuli, stressing the importance of engaging the mind’s natural curiosity through complex and meaningful challenges.”

For the past two years, my company, Create Training, has been using the science and engagement of creativity to help global organizations communicate and learn about compliance. We have created over 100 animated training videos for clients on a number of compliance and workplace training topics including corruption and anti-bribery. A brilliant by-product of animation is that they are made using layers, which can be easily altered and calibrated to the needs of the client. This has also allowed us be able to build our animations in different languages and also respond to different cultures.

In order to make our training as accessible as possible, we developed a library of licensed training. The Centre For Excellence has a library of thirty compliance and workplace training related topics, all brilliantly and uniquely designed to provide a compliance training package: dedicated to engagement, retention and to encourage discourse and critical thinking.

People enjoy a good story, be it news, gossip or a real world rise and fall. So when I came across the journey of Richard Bistrong and heard him speak on a panel, I just knew I had to tell his story. However, I had to tell it ‘my way’ – by animation.

Richard’s animated story is more than just a reminder that breaking the law will get you in trouble. We all know that. That message of consequences on its own does not work, because people don’t always rationally calculate risk and ramifications when making a decision. While criminal deterrence is real, it’s also often abstract and ‘off the horizon’ at the front-lines of international business.

Richard’s animated story is an amazing real life case study that sets out the behaviours, circumstances and environment that can lead to people breaking the law and risking their own liberty. Richard’s message is not an attempt to justify his behaviour and actions. It is, in fact, entirely the opposite; Richard shares that he knew what he did was immoral, unethical and illegal when he did it. It’s a story of why someone who was well educated and compensated would risk it all to engage in bribery and corruption. As Richard shares, “it’s a story of how it all went so wrong.”

Richard’s is a real life case study that demonstrates the dangers of rationalizing your actions to break the law. The Investigator, Robert (“Bob”) Appleton, Deputy Chairman of the UN Procurement Task Force, who in 2006/2007 actually investigated Richard and shared his findings with the US Justice Department, spells out this danger in Richard’s animation. Bob appears, in his own words, as a character and narrator in the story, and gives the animation an unprecedented dimension that even I did not envisage when I started work on this project.

Richard, Robert and I decided that this animated journey is so important to share, that we would make it freely accessible to everyone. Today’s blog brings you the trailer to Richard Bistrong: Why we say yes. The full-length feature will be available on September 14th. Be on the lookout, or sign up here.

As a lawyer for many years, I cannot resist sharing Richard’s legal and personal trajectory, including his intersection with Bob. I hope that viewers will agree that the case for animating Richard’s story in order to engage and inspire further thought and discussion from compliance, legal and commercial leaders, is a strong one. As shared from an earlier article “stories and dramas can help us understand the complexities of social life.”

Nicole Rose

Founder of Centre for Excellence and Create Training

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