Arthur C. Clarke, author of “2001: A Space Odyssey” and other famous science fiction novels, once said: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is equivalent to magic.” Besides the fast technological progress around Artificial Intelligence, the human brain is still the most advanced super computer. Magic for most of us.

New employees receive an Ethics & Compliance training shortly after their on-boarding. Often this stays their only in-person training, as the Compliance program is not changing. But such a workshop has not only the goal to inform the employees, but furthermore to motivate them and present the Compliance Officer as a trusted adviser. Only if all three aspects get reached, the individuals is able to identify dangerous situations and will contact Compliance as potential problem solver. So it is required to look for new topics to conduct additional Compliance workshops and not bore and/or lose the audience.

Such a topic could be the brain. Similar to a computer getting affected by phishing emails and viruses, also the human employee can get manipulated (“social engineering”) or, based on the situation, fall to a psychological bias (“ethical blindness”).

In opposite to the legal department, Compliance is about the human and due to this, wants to protect the employees, if required, even against their-selves. In other words, to avoid that good people do bad things, based on the fact that the company puts them into bad situations.

As the human psychology is highly complex, the knowledge about such biases sounds in the beginning like magic. Luckily, scientists created social experiments, which confirmed the theories. For training purposes, there are many demonstrative videos about these classic experiments, as the Stanford Prison- or the Milgram-Experiment.

With basing a Compliance workshop on such an experiment we can take advantage of a psychological bias: storytelling. If we include the information inside a story, where the audience can build up empathy, they can understand and remember it much easier as if we would only present the pure information. The empathy can be related to the involved people, as they get perceived as similar to the employee or the job position; or on the other hand also with other stake holders (for example citizens in higher risk countries), as they suffer from the cost of corruption.

Important is that the employee can connect to the story/information. With this the Compliance Office can prepare them, as they learn a script “how to behave and what would be the anticipated consequences of the different choices”, when they come into a similar situation.

Henz, Patrick (2017): “Access Granted – Tomorrow’s Business Ethics”