What does consultancy in the field of prevention and integrity management entail?
The prevention part comes before the part when things go terribly wrong within an organization. It is connected to the speak-up regulations, including the Whistleblower Protection Act, and everything that will follow regarding mandatory confidential advisers. It is about optimal humanization of organizations.
Now, there are enough consultants who focus on abstract business constructs, such as culture and mentality changes. Sometimes under the name of business ethics. There are concepts, such as codes of conduct within organizations, which to some extent serve as an example, but remain extremely limited, or make no impact at all. Everything related to risk, governance, and compliance is necessary, but it often involves hard controls. Above all, it is about what goes wrong. We tend to forget that morality, ethics, and integrity generate inspiration, joy, interpersonal bonding, curiosity, and progression.
Then there are leaders who have an exemplary function, which a lot of consultants pick up on with their offer. Yet, I believe that a top-down mentality is a matter of the past, or is at least limited. Leaders are regularly part of the problem. Thus, I am aiming for individuals in working teams, who can be found somewhere between the dark triad and those with a strong moral compass. People who maintain the relationship with themselves and the working relationships, and who face gray areas daily. Gray areas, in the sense of situations in which not one action is possible, but in which individuals have to choose between several options.
With my consultancy, I build up the willpower to choose the 'right' option, beyond mere reflection. To make individuals aware of what an ethical working-life means for them personally, and what that means within the organization that they are part of.
How do you work with people?
The short answer is that I use my giftedness and sensitivity for that. The long answer is that there are many (quasi-scientific) management models or methodologies for personal growth. These provide some guidance for the prediction and control of intentions, attitudes, and behavior. Since 2012, I have gathered, compared, and applied that knowledge from psychology, philosophy, and spirituality. I have omitted knowledge from physiology, and other biomedical sciences. That's what others are for. There is no holy grail. What works for one individual will definitely not work for another. I respond to that and adjust accordingly.
It is two-folded. First: practically, with everything that we encounter in working-life in terms of gray areas, and by which we have to act upon. Gray areas that differ per sector, and also don’t. Because those almost always come down to the same processes in terms of moments of choice. Second: theoretically, so in depth with someone's personal blueprint. It is about opening up, and hard work, though.
Can't artificial intelligence predict and influence intentions, attitudes, and behavior?
Ai (pun intended), that is already happening, but we as humans should remain in the lead. Artificial intelligence is like a narcissist. It can drain data exceptionally well, use that data as desired, and mimic human characteristics, while there is functional involvement behind it. It is well thought out in terms of bonding. There is not a grain of purity in that. That can be fatal. So much so, that we are on the eve of major changes on a global scale.
What does that mean for (working) humanity if all (micro- and macro-economic) mechanisms are at force on such a large scale – we can say, on a complete scale? What are we going to do with that? What will be our responsibility in this? How are we going to regulate everything to protect humanity?
I am always in favor of progress, also on a technological level. I can easily be found in the early adopters phase. Likewise, I have the balls to pioneer, even when people underestimate me, laugh at me, and don't follow me. But artificial intelligence is a different story because of the dangers.
For me, the question is: what makes us human in a world of artificial intelligence? I have always found humanity in expression, deep thinking, and spirit, which leads to progress in aspects such as creativity and innovation. Are we being reduced by artificial intelligence to some kind of biomedical, or carnal, remnant of a creature? I want to guard against that, and focus on our bonding with each other.
I want to do so, not for the umpteenth, business gain. Of course, the benefits of prevention and integrity management are significant. Everyone can see that. In the conversations with the C-suite, I use these kinds of arguments when necessary. But that is not what I care about. I care about human gain. My ideas about organizations and doing business with integrity are sometimes controversial.
Give an example of such a controversial idea.
Well, how people are being hired, for example. Currently, organizations look not only at the substantive match, but also at the cultural. For example, on the basis of codes of conduct, and more often on the basis of matters such as likability presented as culture. A basis for testing the standard factors, such as those included in the HEXACO model, is fine. But we are working towards real inclusivity. Thus, how can all those personal blueprints in teams bond optimally? That is integrity, not the intermediate stage of diversity and inclusivity experts, although I understand that stage all too well.
Speaking of integrity, there are many definitions, and much has been written on this topic. What is your definition?
First: a lot has already been written about it because we remain fascinated by how people function, based on intentions, attitudes, and behavior. That will always be the case. Integrity is the direction of life force, and is partly about matters that will never become tangible or certain. We continuously shape integrity together.
That is why I can never do the work for someone else. With my approach, I can choose the building blocks to stimulate the willpower for good. I may give my uncensored opinion. An example is the session during BPC Europe 2023. I was the only speaker who did not have a motivational speaking slot, using a presentation and positive psychology key takeaways. I immediately put more than a hundred people in the room to work, and let them leave with a broiled yet activated feeling. Thus, with their brains ‘on’.
Then what integrity means. The best-known definition is doing the right thing when no one is watching. Likewise, do what we say, and say what we do. Then follows a definition of conscious living according to moral values – virtues. Another definition is doing the right thing under difficult circumstances. Because doing the right thing when matters are easy does not ask much effort. What do we do when we are under heavy pressure, for example?
Yet another definition is that integrity means integrated living. That ties in with doing what we say, and saying what we do. Thus, consistency in thoughts, speech, and actions. Some add feeling to that. That is when I come with mountains of gathered knowledge, and argue that we should put out a red flag. Because according to that thought, Hitler, for example, would have lived with integrity.
True integrity and humanity are completely intertwined, almost synonymous with each other. If someone actually lives with integrity, it is always a win for the collective. It can never be a win for the self and a loss for the collective. When the loss creates danger, it is up to the collective to correct.
My definition of integrity has always been that I stick to my inner compass, thus my own blueprint. Likewise, how I behave towards someone when I am not with that person. What are my intentions towards that person? How do I feel about that person? Most importantly, how do I express myself about that person? In short, training integrity muscles.
Learn more at The Integrity Talks.
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