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Is Transparency in Business the Key to Halting Human Trafficking? A Conversation with Actor and Activist Julia Ormond

On this episode of There Has to Be a Better Way?, co-hosts Zach Coseglia and Hui Chen are joined by actor and activist Julia Ormond, founder and president of Asset Campaign, a nonprofit organization working to ensure human rights by driving supply chain transparency and empowering individuals to make informed purchasing, investment and employment decisions.

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Insights Lab

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The Power of Pause: A Retrospective on the Last Six Months

Time to Listen: 28:01 Practices: Analytics & Behavioral Science Consulting (R&G Insights Lab)

On this episode of There Has to Be a Better Way?, Zach Coseglia and Hui Chen reflect on the last six months of insights and “better ways” from the podcast. From looking outside of your normal environment for better ways, to leaning into the importance of precision, to thinking like a scientist and drawing on radical creativity, this episode adds new dimensions to key topics with additional perspective and curiosity.


Zach CosegliaZach Coseglia: Welcome back to the Better Way? podcast. This is, as you probably know by now, a curiosity podcast. It’s a podcast where we ask, “There has to be a better way, right?” There just has to be. I’m Zach Coseglia, the co-founder of R&G Insights Lab, and I am joined as always—and thank goodness for that—by my colleague, friend, and collaborator, the one and only Hui Chen. Hi, Hui.

Hui ChenHui Chen: Hi, everyone. What an intro.

Zach Coseglia: Well, we don’t have a guest today, Hui, do we?

Hui Chen: We don’t. We’re going to, though, go through some of our favorite takeaways or some of our favorite Better Ways.

Zach Coseglia: That’s right—it’s a bit of a retrospective. I think this is going to be our 14th episode. We’ve been at this now for about six months, and we just wanted to recap some of the wonderful guests and the Better Ways that have come our way. It’s a nice way to close out the first half of the year, to take a pause and reflect as we head into summer and also to preview some of the really great stuff that we have coming up.

Hui Chen: Yes, very exciting stuff.

Zach Coseglia: Before we dive into the meat of this, Hui, one thing I just wanted to acknowledge was how wonderful our listeners have been. It has been consistent. Folks have been reaching out. There have been numerous times when we’ve either been in a client meeting or a pitch. Yesterday, I was guest lecturing at a law school, and I had someone tell me that they were listening to the podcast. And I just wanted to start by thanking everyone for coming on this journey with us for the past six months.

Hui Chen: Absolutely. Even I’ve met people through this podcast that I might not otherwise have met. People have reached out and said, “We’ve been listening, and just would really like to talk to you about some of the stuff that you’ve been discussing.” I have so appreciated the feedback and people’s interest. I have to say, I have also just learned a ton from both our guests and our audience, so it’s been a fun journey. And, as you know, Zach, I did not start out being comfortable with this whole format.

Zach Coseglia: I’m not sure either of us is comfortable even now, but here we are.

Hui Chen: Agreed. Right here in itself is a Better Way, which is push out of your comfort zone and try to do something that you’re not comfortable doing, which is what we’re doing here.

Zach Coseglia: Absolutely. All right, so we’ve each identified some of our top moments, our top Better Ways, and our favorite takeaways. Hui, why don’t you go first?

Hui Chen: So, this is a little unusual—I picked out five Better Ways, and all five of them come from our very last episode.

Zach Coseglia: Which also means, if you’re listening to this and you haven’t listened to that episode yet, because it did only come out two weeks ago, go listen to it, otherwise, there are about to be some spoilers. But it was a really good one.

Hui Chen: It really was. Let me start with the first thing that Dr. Currinder said, which was when they were faced with a problem, they decided that “We can’t just look in our normal environment for a solution. We want to go outside.” She talked about not just going outside to behavioral scientists—they talked to people who did the peace treaties in Ireland; they talked to people who worked with players in sports and talked about how players can get super competitive, but they do so within a set of rules. So, the thinking about, “There are other people who have encountered the problems that we’re facing but in a completely different setting, let’s hear what they have to say and what we have to learn from them.”

Zach Coseglia: Let’s set the stage for folks—there may be some people who haven’t listened to the last episode. Dr. Currinder was a staffer on the Committee on the Modernization of the United States Congress, so we talked to a lot of people from the worlds of behavioral science. We’ve talked to people from the worlds of ethics and compliance. We’ve talked to people from the world of law. These are all worlds in which we live and ponds within which we swim, but this guest was someone who was on the Committee on the Modernization of Congress, and this was a committee that by all accounts was destined to fail.

Hui Chen: Absolutely. I couldn’t figure out how to do it without a spoiler, so that was a perfect way of doing it. The background of all this, too, is that I never, certainly not within the last 20-30 years, expected to have any kind of constructive lesson coming out of the U.S. Congress.

Zach Coseglia: Especially one about how to work together, achieve things, and make decisions—that would be the last place we would look.

Hui Chen: No kidding. All of this, the entire setting for the work that she talked about, the backdrop of this Committee, was mostly during the end of the Trump presidency and beginning of Biden’s with January 6th being the interlude.

Zach Coseglia: Right smack in the middle, an insurrection.

Hui Chen: I’m beginning to call this my goosebumps episode, because I get goosebumps every time I talk about it, and I’m getting them now. This lesson of looking outside of your normal environment is also embodied by our very act of inviting Dr. Currinder to come speak to us about this. Some of you who know my past work know that I’ve always been very interested in, for example, looking at people who work in other to-prevent-and-detect-type of fields, and that’s usually safety. And there are different kinds of safety. There’s patient safety in hospitals. There’s aviation safety for the airlines. There’s workplace safety for a lot of industries and manufacturing. I always thought there were a lot of lessons to be learned from there, but I certainly, like I said, never thought that I could be looking to the U.S. Congress on a lesson on how to work together. It really has inspired me to think about, “Where else can we get these lessons from? Where else should we be looking? Should we also be talking to sports coaches and players? Should we also be talking to people in the safety industry, talk to people who have done peace negotiations or conflict resolutions?” A lot of different ideas, and I really hope this also inspires all of you to feed us your ideas.

Zach Coseglia: Yes, I love that. I think that’s going to be a recurring theme in the continued evolution of this podcast, us just bringing in folks with different perspectives and experiences, and lessons that we can all learn. So, my first one comes from episode five where our guest was David Yanofsky, who’s our data analytics guy. David shared with us the concept of “precision journalism,” which was a term that he used to describe his prior life as a data journalist. Here’s a quote from him from that episode—he said, “Data journalism has been such a hot area for the last couple of years. One of the founding fathers of this work had a great term for this called ‘precision journalism,’ which I think anyone can relate to, of wanting more precision in your work. And not just going off what people are telling you or people are saying about things, but actually being able to measure using scientific methods and using data analysis.” This concept of precision fill-in-the-blank just really stuck with me, and it made me start thinking of precision compliance and ethics and risk management and diversity, equity and inclusion, and fill in whatever organizational challenge you’re trying to hack with Better Ways because precision really does matter. We can use data, analytics, and these tools that we have at our disposal to be more precise, to move away from just making assumptions about things, whether we’re well-meaning or not—and most of the time we are—to really testing our assumptions, to really measuring whether things work.

This idea of precision also came into play in some of the other discussions we’ve had, including our discussion with Shannon Kirk in an episode that has been really commented on and enjoyed by many, which was titled Not All Messaging Apps are Ephemeral. That was the very definition of the importance of precision. Words matter. The way we describe things matters. And that was an example of a lack of precision that was really spreading like wildfire in ways that were actually highlighting a misunderstanding of the basics of the issue at play. So, precision matters, and I just really enjoyed the way that David brought that concept to us.

Hui Chen: Zach, I agree with you. I so appreciated both of those episodes in making that point, David and Shannon talking about precision, which is something that I often find lacking in the way people talk about things, and that, in turn, influences how they approach problem-solving and even understanding things that they have to do versus things that they can choose to do. Interestingly, recently I spoke at a conference where one of the questions posed to me was about DOJ’s “requirement” in its evaluation of corporate compliance programs, in terms of how companies are managing the messaging apps, and the first thing I had to correct was, “Those are not requirements.” That entire document contains questions DOJ prosecutors may ask you when you’re sitting across the table from them discussing a resolution—that is very far from a requirement. This kind of language gets thrown around all the time, and it really does impact how we do things. So, I really appreciated that.

Zach Coseglia: It’s funny, on that point, we actually did talk about, I think, in the second episode, that that document went from being a document that was called a “guidance” to now a guidance that’s referred to as a “requirement.” It’s just interesting how that lack of precision can take on a life of its own. All right. What’s your next one?

Hui Chen: My next one is also, like I’ve said, everything I’m citing here is from Dr. Currinder’s episode—it’s the importance of listening. One of the things that she talked about—how the Committee was able to get things done—was that it really made an effort to listen to people who work in Congress about what they want to get changed. Once you listen to them, one, they feel important—that their being listened to is being appreciated and respected. As a result of that listening, they’re addressing the concerns that these people have, and that means you have people who are motivated to work with you because you’re addressing concerns that they are facing. I have always said that “Listening is the most underutilized tool in a compliance officer’s toolkit.” We focus so much on pushing out messages, about cascading things down. We don’t spend enough time and genuine attention in listening to what are the real obstacles that people are facing. It’s not helpful, frankly, to people when you just tell them, “You can’t do this. You can’t do that. But you still have to meet your performance goals.” How do you do that? You may not have the answer about how they can do that, but you can at least give the courtesy of listening to them and say, “Here’s the real problem I have. In order to achieve my performance goals, I have to do this. But you’re telling me I can’t do this, and here’s where the friction is.” If you just begin by listening, first of all, they would feel respected that you’re genuinely interested in what they’re facing, but you might really learn a lot about how things are working. So, that’s another lesson that I really appreciated.

Zach Coseglia: We were having a conversation with someone the other day—the phrase that came out that I just thought was really wonderful was, “I don’t think we have a speak-up problem, we have a listen-up problem.” It hit me as super profound because we talk about speaking up all the time. We write and read speak-up policies. We talk about having a speak-up process. But there aren’t comparatively comparable discussions about the importance of listening up. It feels like the kind of thing that goes without saying, but it should be said.

Hui Chen: How about you? What’s your next?

Zach Coseglia: My next one comes from both episode seven, where our guest was Dr. Caitlin Handron from the Lab, as well as from episode nine and episode 10, where we spoke to Benjamin van Rooij, the professor of law and society and the director of research at the school of law at the University of Amsterdam. I’ll start with a quote that we got from Caitlin that I think really captures it, which is for me the articulation of a meaningful difference between the concept of something that is complicated and the concept of something that is complex, so the difference between complicated and complex systems—she said, “And so, with something that’s complicated—you can think of a car, for instance, it’s very complicated. I don’t know how to work a car—I need an expert to help me anytime I’m dealing with my car, even for the most basic thing. But, what we know to be true of a car is that, if you have the expertise, then you have the expertise—you know how it works, you can offer recommendations, you can take it apart and you can put it back together. That’s not necessarily the case in a complex system where you have a number of independent actors that are all engaging with one another and are all complex in and of themselves. A single human is so complex, and then you put a whole bunch of humans together and you’ve got an extraordinarily complex situation.” The same sentiment was echoed in our discussion with Professor Benjamin van Rooij, where he talked about the concept and defined for us the concept of “complexity science.” This just hit for me, because I feel like sometimes in our work, we hear folks say, “It’s really complicated” or “It’s really complex,” and they use them interchangeably, but also, we use the concept of complexity as an out at times, when in fact, what we should be doing is recognizing that the complexity exists. It can’t in some cases just be over-simplified, that we need to lean into the complexity and come up with solutions that can actually work when we’re trying to do things as complex as shape human behavior or tear down systems and structures that have been in place for a very long time in order to achieve a better good. So, I just really loved that, and it speaks also to this discussion that we were having about precision, because there is a difference between something that’s complicated and something that’s complex.

Hui Chen: I was just going to say that your second nomination basically echoes your first one. This is something that I have learned a lot about or at least I learned a lot from Caitlin in the opportunities that we’ve had to work together, and this is something that she certainly constantly stresses, the difference between complication and complexity. I do think it’s important for folks to appreciate the complex nature of organizations, because, again, in the ethics and compliance field, I think just because of how busy folks are, oftentimes, we default to some kind of formula. There’s misconduct—we do policy, we do training, we’re done, and we move to the next misconduct. To really understand what was the root cause of the misconduct, can it be fixed by training? If it’s fixed by training, what kind of training would address the underlying root causes? What is the policy’s role in all of this? All of these are complex questions, and part of that complexity is that there is no standard answer, because even for exactly the same misconduct, when they occur in different organizations, all of those questions have different answers. So, I think it’s a challenge for us to resist that formulaic approach to things, but really just lean into that complexity.

Zach Coseglia: 100%. I think the example that I think of all the time and that drives me a little bit mad is when the concept of culture is reduced to the phrase, “Tone from the top.” There’s this desire to take the reductionist approach, because “tone from the top,” we feel like we can manage that. We feel like tone is something that we can actually influence, but culture, that just feels amorphous. That feels challenging, so let’s reduce it to this concept that’s a little bit more accessible. One of the things that Caitlin talks about a lot, and I don’t think she talked about on the podcast, but when I hear her speak publicly, she often references the philosopher Karl Popper. For folks, we’ve now moved into the world of philosophy. Karl Popper wrote about clouds and clocks. And so, when Caitlin talks about this concept a lot, she references the phrase that we often use, which is “What makes people tick?” Clocks tick, but a clock is like a car. Humans don’t tick. A car and a clock are complicated, but humans are complex. Inspired by Karl Popper, Caitlin often makes the analogy as Karl Popper did, that “Humans are more like clouds”—much more amorphous, much more difficult to define, not necessarily coloring within the lines. Again, it goes to the point of analogies matter, because they sometimes influence our solutions. All right, Hui, what’s your next one (last one)?

Hui Chen: I’m going to go with how Dr. Currinder ended her episode with us, which is the freedom to experiment, but I would expand on that and say it’s the desire to experiment. I think that very much embodies what the Lab is all about. I’ve been with the Lab for almost exactly a year now, and I have so appreciated this mindset of thinking like a scientist. Before we come up with a solution, first, we research the science of it. We think about: What are the different options? And we’re not afraid to say, “Let’s experiment. Let’s pick a group A, a group B, a group C, and run these different experiments to see which one works better.” We don’t assume that a particular method just works because everybody says it works, with no one having tested it. One of the phrases that we throw around in the Lab quite a lot, which I love is, “FOFO,” the fear of finding out. I do think a lot of people suffer from the fear of finding out, because I know, when I have talked to a lot of compliance colleagues about, “Let’s experiment—let’s test this,” I literally hear, “But what if it doesn’t work?” My answer is, “But you’ve been doing that for a long time. Wouldn’t you want to find out if it didn’t work?”

Zach Coseglia: I couldn’t agree more. It’s rooted in and part of our DNA. As common sense as it sounds, as reasonable and practical as it sounds, to your point, not enough people are doing it. There’s a lot of work left to normalize that in the spaces in which we swim anyway.

Hui Chen: I also think there’s that fear, again, going back to what they perceive the law enforcement like the DOJ or regulators would say. I can’t speak for regulators, but I certainly have spent a lot of time both being a prosecutor and working with prosecutors. I think prosecutors, at least the ones I’ve worked with, would respect that, that you really took the scientific approach to try different methods and validate your approach, and if something didn’t work, you correct course, and you do something else. I think that’s something that any thinking person truly would respect.

Zach Coseglia: Yes, 100%. It’s funny, we’ve talked about this before, but especially in our world in the legal profession, which is still a space in which we are operating, it’s all about evidence, right?

Hui Chen: Exactly. It is all about evidence. But I do think there’s a caveat to the experimenting, that experiments are not done casually, particularly if you’re essentially experimenting with human beings. It requires research and having the right grounding. It requires a lot of thought in designing. It requires meticulous tracking to make sure that you’re really measuring what needs to be measured. All of those are important. None of us are saying that “We should just experiment randomly as we feel like it that day.” So, we’re talking about thinking like a scientist, which is this theme that’s been echoed certainly with Caitlin and Benjamin on all of their episodes.

Zach Coseglia: Absolutely. My last one’s a little bit of a cheat—it’s from the episode with Dr. Currinder, but it’s actually not from Dr. Currinder, it’s from Amanda Ripley, who wrote the article in The Washington Post that actually inspired the episode with Dr. Currinder. We started by talking about the context of that committee’s work, and Amanda Ripley wrote the following, which was a phrase that just very much stuck with me, and that is, “Sometimes, crises make conflicts worse. Other times, they force radical creativity.” I love everything about that thought. I particularly like the phrase “radical creativity.” If ever there was a lesson that we’ve all learned over the course of the past few years with COVID impacting our lives in the way that it has, with there being political and social disruption, I think that there have been a number of examples where the disruption, turmoil, and challenges that we have personally, professionally, societally experienced have, in fact, forced radical creativity. And there are other times when those crises have just made conflicts worse. I feel like it’s just a wonderfully short, to-the-point phrase that so many of us have lived and can experience. Also, it offers a bit, I think, of inspiration for those places where maybe we haven’t succeeded, we haven’t made as much of an impact, or we haven’t seen as much change as we’d like. It just inspires me to continue the pursuit of radical creativity in an effort to tackle the challenge or build a future that we ultimately want to see.

Hui Chen: Amen to that. Shall we give a sense of some of the topics that we’re going to be discussing in some upcoming episodes?

Zach Coseglia: Yes, we have a lot of really great stuff in the hopper for folks in the second half of the year. We actually have quite a few folks from the pharmaceutical industry, which is in some ways, happenstance, in some ways, probably a reflection of who we know and some of the work that we’ve done in the past. Coming up soon, we have the head of behavioral science and data science for ethics, compliance, and risk at one of the world’s largest biopharmaceutical companies. We have a chief compliance officer from a different large pharmaceutical company coming on. We have a behavioral scientist from another pharmaceutical company coming on. One of the ones that I’m really excited about though, again, to the point that you made to start this around drawing inspiration from outside the world that we operate directly in, we have one of the world’s leading voices on ethical artificial intelligence joining the podcast later this year. Who else, Hui?

Hui Chen: We’re going to have someone joining us to talk about how to integrate training, compliance and ethics training, into business training—treating them as part of the business, equipping business people as opposed to compliance people telling business people what they cannot do. So, that’s something that I’m excited about as well.

Zach Coseglia: There’s a lot more on tap. I just want to reiterate the call to those of you who are listening. If you’re interested in being on the podcast, if you have someone who you think would be really great to join us for a discussion, or if you just have ideas for Better Ways that you want us to explore, please reach out. We’re going to keep doing this for as long as we have breath in us, and as long as you all are listening. I did want to end today with just a very intentional shout-out to the folks who make this podcast possible who you don’t see, including Jeremy Miller who’s on the line right now listening to us and is always on the line listening to us and making sure that we sound good both during the podcast and once it’s time to actually publish the podcast. To Eric Gaudet, who is behind the scenes helping with editing and is also a cheerleader for us, so thank you to Eric. And, of course, to Megan Zwiebel, who has been a guest on the podcast, but who also just makes sure that the trains run on time and that this podcast gets edited, that the communication materials get developed, and that everything happens on the timelines that we’ve set. So, Jeremy, Eric, Megan, thank you for helping us make this a success.

Hui Chen: Thank you all so much for that.

Zach Coseglia: Thank you all for tuning in to the Better Way? podcast and exploring all of these Better Ways with us. For more information about this or anything else that’s happening with R&G Insights Lab, please visit our website at www.ropesgray.com/rginsightslab. You can also subscribe to this series wherever you regularly listen to podcasts, including on Apple, Google, and Spotify. And, if you have thoughts about what we talked about today, the work the Lab does, or just have ideas for Better Ways we should explore, please don’t hesitate to reach out—we’d love to hear from you. Thanks again for listening.

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