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Max H. Bazerman on How to Overcome Complicity and Create a More Ethical World

Today I talk to Dr. Max H. Bazerman, the Jesse Isidor Straus Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School. Max and I discuss his new book, “Complicit,” and explore the root causes of complicity, how it’s enabled and how to stop it.

While It is easy to blame obvious offenders, we rarely consider the many people supporting their unethical or criminal behaviors. There was a corroborating cast of people who were complicit: business partners, investors, news organizations, employees, and others. And, whether we’re aware of it or not, most of us have been complicit in the unscrupulous behavior of others. We explore complicity through the stories of McKinsey, Arthur Andersen, Theranos, ExxonMobile, and BP and learn valuable lessons on not only what creates complicity but our role in allowing it to happen.

–►Purchase Complicit:  (Amazon Link)

“A more common form of complicity affecting many of us is that we’re biased because of conflict of interest, and we aren’t independent. So, we’re not even aware of the mistakes that we’re making.”

Max H. bazerman

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In This Episode, Max H. Bazerman And I Discuss how to overcome complicity and create a more ethical world.

Our guest today, Professor Max Bazerman, believes seven different behavioral profiles lead to misconduct or complicity, ranging from faithful supporters to those who unknowingly benefit from offenses others commit. In our interview, Dr. Bazeram offers a path to creating a more ethical world by describing how individuals, leaders, and organizations can more effectively prevent complicity.

  • Is Elon Musk complicit in how he is running Twitter?
  • How Mckinsey was complicit in the opioid crisis.
  • McKinsey and Arthur Andersen’s role in Enron misleading investors and regulators
  • Why independent auditors struggle to remain independent
  • How does privilege play a role in complicity?
  • Why the US tax code is color-blind and causing complicity
  • The complicity of ExxonMobile in hiding the impact of their operations on climate change
  • Theranos and the fallacy of the single-cause mindset
  • How can you reduce the likelihood of complicit behavior
  • Have any questions, comments, or stories you’d like to share? Drop us a line at [email protected]m!
  • And much more…
215 | How to Create a More Ethical World | Max H. Bazerman | Passion Struck with John R. Miles
215 | How to Create a More Ethical World | Max H. Bazerman | Passion Struck with John R. Miles

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Max H. Bazerman quote from the Passion Struck podcast on empowering people to not be complicit

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More From My Interview With Max H. Bazerman On his new book Complicit

During our interview, I talked to Max about how you’ve got the core values plastered everywhere in almost every company. Still, shareholders drive many of the company’s goals, which tend to go against many of those core values. I asked him how does this make the company complicit?

Complicit by Max H. Bazerman for passion struck podcast recommended books

Max H. Bazerman explains, “I think you have it exactly right. An organization can state some ambiguous mission value statement, credo, or whatever. But if they then have goals that they reward people on, that push in a very different direction, too often, the financial goals end up winning out. And in the climate change world, we can think of the story of British Petroleum which brought us the Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf.

Before that happened, many saw them as the greenest of all the oil companies. And in many ways, I think that they believed that they were the green company, and they went from British Petroleum to BP, standing for beyond petroleum. And I think that was real, but they also had a variety of goals about how to cut the costs of producing, and as a drove down the costs, security was something that they slipped up on.

And clearly, those slips contributed to this massive spill that we saw in the Gulf. But we can think of a very different domain. So if we think about Wells Fargo, which was guilty of signing up customers for lots of products that they ended up paying for without the customer having any idea what was going on, all of that goes back to executives and managers, imposing completely unreasonable goals on their branch offices, and threatening people with losing their jobs, if they don’t cross-sell more products.

If you can’t legitimately entirely sell more products, and you’re going to lose your job if you don’t have more cross-selling going on, what happens? And I think we remember the answer that Wells Fargo was deeply fraudulent in the behavior of many people at the lowest level, who were forced into unethical behavior based on the goals the organization had created.”

Thanks, Max H. Bazerman!

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Resources From The Show With Max H. Bazerman

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About Today’s Guest, Max H. Bazerman

Passion Struck podcast album cover episode 215 with Max H. Bazerman

Max H. Bazerman is Jesse Isidor Straus Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School.  His recent books include Complicit (forthcoming); Decision Leadership (with Don A. Moore); Better, Not PerfectThe Power of Experiments (with Michael Luca); The Power of Noticing; Judgment in Managerial Decision Making (with Don Moore); and Blind Spots (with Ann Tenbrunsel).

Max received an honorary doctorate from the University of London, the Life Achievement Award from the Aspen Institute’s Business and Society Program, the Distinguished Educator Award from the Academy of Management, the Academy of Management Career Award for Scholarly Contributions to Management, and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Organizational Behavior Division of the Academy of Management.  In addition, Max was named Ethisphere’s 100 Most Influential in Business Ethics and one of Daily Kos’ Heroes for going public about how the Bush Administration corrupted the RICO Tobacco trial.

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John R. Miles is a serial entrepreneur and the CEO and founder of Passion Struck. This full-service media company helps people live intentionally by creating best-in-class educational and entertainment content. John is also a prolific public speaker, venture capitalist, and author named to the ComputerWorld Top 100 IT Leaders.

John is the host of the PassionStruckPodcast. The show focused on exploring the mindset and philosophy of the world’s most inspiring people to learn their lessons to living intentionally. Passion Struck aspires to speak to the humanity of people in a way that makes them want to live better, be better and impact.

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