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Integrity - use of values or principles to guide action in the situation at hand.

Below are links and discussion related to the values of freedom, hope, trust, privacy, responsibility, safety, and well-being, within business and government situations arising in the areas of security, privacy, technology, corporate governance, sustainability, and CSR.

You can't scare people into getting fit or going green or being secure, 27.9.06

Economic and Social Research Council

New research published today by the Economic and Social Research Council shows that positive, informative strategies which help people set specific health and environmental goals are far more effective when it comes to encouraging behaviour change than negatives strategies which employ messages of fear, guilt or regret.

Social security? Terrorism? Needing green? Pick an iceberg! Recent years have seen increasing efforts to encourage people to do more for their health and for the environment, for example by recycling more, using cars less and taking more exercise. But what messages have been successful, and why?

Theories have long suggested that by changing attitude, social rules and peoples own ability to reach their goals, people's intentions or decisions to act in a particular fashion will be changed, which in turn determines the extent of change in behaviour. But the supporting evidence for these widely accepted ideas was weak; there was a need to take a closer look at experiments that changed attitudes, norms and self-efficacy in order to measure the true extent of any changes in subsequent intentions and behaviour.

The research project, 'Does changing attitudes, norms or self-efficacy change intentions and behaviour?', led by Professor Paschal Sheeran of Sheffield University, provides the crucial missing evidence about the role of these three factors in behaviour change by reviewing all the successful experiments in the past 25 years and quantifying their effects on decisions and actions.

The team identified 33 distinct strategies for changing intentions and behaviour across the 129 different studies. The most frequently used strategies provided general information, details of consequences and opportunities for comparison. Yet the most effective strategies were to prompt practice, set specific goals, generate self-talk, agree a behavioural contract and prompt review of behavioural goals. The two least effective strategies involved arousing fear and causing people to regret if they acted in a particular fashion.

They also examined whether the characteristics of a particular study influenced how well changes in attitude, social norm and self-efficacy influenced intentions and behaviour. There was little evidence that the way factors were measured influenced the findings, though studies that used students or had short follow-up had stronger effect on intentions.

The team's findings show that changing attitude, social norms and behaviour succeeds in making a statistically noticeable difference in people's intentions and behaviour about 60 per cent of the time. The team found the amount of change in intentions and behaviour to be 'meaningful' and of 'medium' size according to standard procedures for describing effect sizes.

[CLB: You also can't scare people into buying security or in using good security tools or practices. You can't scare people into complying. Good governance is a choise, and needs to be enabled with useful tools and procedures.]


  This is obviously true, but it's not a choice of "scaring" people versus luring or indoctrinicating or acculturating them. Most significant change in the way we affect our environment or others we deal with comes about through a systemic or internal accounting change - which is neither.

A typical method is to make a previously implicit variable explicit as a decision factor, and accounting for it as a cost or value. So to make people "more green", you reflect the costs of not being green for those that lag. This makes a systemic (though often small) advantage for those that lead and adopt conserving tactics first. The small benefit is enough over a lot of iterations to strongly favour those that take the lead. Anyone who's gone to a casino and seen what a few percent edge can do to their kitty knows that even one percent is worth having.

What makes this work is certainty: rather than relying on fines and a complex process of being caught (the ineffective "scare" technique) it relies on a simple process of say carbon taxes or direct payments for biodiversity or habitat losses. As long as there's a way to measure the loss or cost, there will be a way to calculate the gain from finding another way to do the same thing without causing the loss.

For so-called "security" it's much more complicated because almost all of what "security" defends against is low-probability high-impact scenarios. People won't experience any scenario more than once, most likely, and only a few overall. So only those measures that address a great many security challenges at once (like allowing only particular people to entering a building after business hours) tend to be applied.

However, combining the low-impact very-high-probability scenarios that lead to conservation-minded taxes and the high-impact low-probability scenarios invoked in a security pitch yields a much more compelling combination than either. As we see in the climate change debate, the major issue of our time, it climbed to the top of everyone's radar through combining the very low impact certainty of each greenhouse gas molecule adding a little heat to the atmosphere, with the very high impact (and moderate to low probability) harm and conflict scenarios. These are unpredictable but some number of them will arise as various areas are flooded, burnt, hurricaned, melted, tornaded and blown up by angry people from the places that were destroyed by the residents of the places blown up. Some places may freeze, notably those relying on the Gulf Stream to make their agriculture and infrastructure work.

When the former World Bank economist Nick Stern actually got around to measuring the impact of climate change in monetary terms, he argued it could cost as much as both World Wars and the Depression. So the basis for the accounting/taxes is now in place, and the early adopters of low-emission techniques can expect rewards. Of maybe one percent, which offsets the 1 per cent of global GDP Stern says climate change will cost to address now - as opposed to 20 percent later. Which is enough to change rational behaviour now.

It's not bad if some people get scared by the 20 percent, though.

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"We shall need compromises in the days ahead, to be sure. But these will be, or should be, compromises of issues, not principles. We can compromise our political positions, but not ourselves. We can resolve the clash of interests without conceding our ideals. And even the necessity for the right kind of compromise does not eliminate the need for those idealists and reformers who keep our compromises moving ahead, who prevent all political situations from meeting the description supplied by Shaw: "smirched with compromise, rotted with opportunism, mildewed by expedience, stretched out of shape with wirepulling and putrefied with permeation.
Compromise need not mean cowardice. .."

John Fitzgerald Kennedy, "Profiles in Courage"


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