Or how I taught ethical decision-making to road crew . . . .

I attended an event recently that challenged me to think about the meaning of “sense-making.” Most participants seemed to connect the term to something of an intellectual exercise. It reminded me of something else. Past experience devising instructional exercises that help students “feel” a difficult concept in a new way. It had been on my mind anyway as I think through how to make Lumenous member experiences with commercial credit practices simple and pleasing and yet instructive in the sense of experiencing what it means to be the leader of a creditworthy business.

Before I launched my first business, I had a small consulting firm. I advised businesses and government agencies on matters of business ethics and law. One such agency (a state transportation department) asked me to evaluate an ethics training program that was being panned by the “rank and file” and possibly teach some sessions as needed.

It was apparent to me that the traditional classroom model being used was a problem especially because they were mixing up employees. A single class might include tech professionals from one division, in-house lawyers, and road crew. The road crew employees struck me as being almost in pain sitting there–understandable given the total contrast from their normal working environment.

I couldn’t get permission to offer the session out on the highways so I set out to introduce an exercise that might work. I had seen an interesting scenario discussed in a PBC broadcast that I got permission to use. Two employees of the same company were long-time friends who shared a vacation home. The company had gone through an embezzlement case in which the insurance company paid up after no perpetrator could be identified. Naturally, one of the friends is staying at the vacation home when he stumbles upon computer print-outs that make it clear the embezzler was his friend. A confrontation follows in which the embezzler pleads for silence to save his job and family finances.

Here’s how I used the scenario. I showed the video up to the point of the confrontation. Then I asked participants to “take a stand.” Those in favor of disclosure on one side of the room and those in favor of protecting the friend on the other. I did this in over 40 sessions. Each time my stomach would clench in fear that no one would move or they would react in anger or disdain. Each time, they engaged . . . even the road crew.

They would stand up and start walking reasonably quickly and then you could see them slow down, maybe pivot, turn back and complete taking their position all while brows were furrowed in concentration. It seemed to me they were processing in a deeply physical way that ethical decision-making is complicated and not just a thumbs up/thumbs down choice. Observing this part of the exercise moved me to tears every time.

I’ve written below of my concerns about black box credit scoring. I think it’s related in part to this experience. A quick score-based decision about a business doesn’t permit the evaluator to understand the business much less the hopes and dreams of its founder. Much less inspire or inform a long-term constructive relationship.

Commercial relationships are complicated. Finding trust in them is too. Supporting the process through technology means we can’t tap into all of human senses but to the extent possible, we hope to continuously improve on design elements that help our members internalize credit and trust in new ways.

–LaVonne Reimer, Founder