Habit of Compliance

In Sunday’s New York Times Magazine, there was a fascinating article, written by Charles Duhigg, about corporate data mining: “How Companies Learn Your Secrets.” As I started reading, I was thinking as a consumer. I was wondering what companies I buy from know about me. But I think I am pretty predictable as a middle-aged consumer. I spend a lot on technology and physical fitness. Add in clothing for work and play, as well as some on house and animal care and it’s a pretty complete picture.

However, as I continued reading, I started thinking about how the discussion of habit formation in relation retail sales translated to my professional world of insurance compliance. I realized that they do. I realized that what I sometimes do is show my clients how to look at the article’s “three-step loop” of habit formation to include compliance in different ways. The loop is identified in the article as: cue/trigger, routine, and reward. The article makes clear that the best chance to change a habit is to “piggyback” on existing habits – to step into that cue/trigger, routine, and reward.

In this different paradigm for examining my long-term work as a compliance consultant, I identify the triggers and rewards that motivate my clients to action and I step into that routine and either do the work myself or help them to put policies and procedures into place that change that routine to include additional compliance safeguards, without losing sight of the rewards that motivate.

My work as a compliance consultant is in the routine portion of that loop. My clients know their reward: often sales of their products. And the cue, or trigger, could be something like the need for a new product to be developed or available to meet an identified need. Sometimes my clients think that inserting a compliance review into the routine between that trigger and the reward will prevent achieving the reward all together. Other times, the commitment to compliance is there, but my job is to make sure that the reward still results even though compliance is strengthened during the routine portion of the loop.

I really enjoyed Mr. Duhigg’s article, because it helped me to see what I do every day differently. That is always a good thing. Perhaps it is actually the beginning of a new habit. Perhaps a new routine will result as I continue to look at my practice through this lens. Maybe there is something I can do to change my “routine” that will help me to do more to achieve my professional “reward” – having client companies see that it is not necessary to compromise compliance in the name of sales.