Whales and Compliance

watching giants

I was surprised to be thinking about compliance while I was reading about whales. Sure, I eat, drink and sleep compliance. But there are some lessons that compliance professionals can learn from the study of whales.

This came up while I was reading Watching Giants: The Secret Lives of Whales by Elin Kelsey.

My original interest in the book was its intersection between parenthood and whales. During college I took a class at the New England Aquarium on marine mammals taught by world-renown experts. The class was fascinating on many levels. As a parent, well, I find parenting itself interesting.

Whales are incredible species, reliant on breathing air, but needing to dive the depths of the ocean for food. For example, as the book points out, a blue whale opening its mouth to take in a school of krill is the biggest biomechanical event to happen on the planet. The scale of a whale’s life is well beyond the scale of humans. If you read about the parenting life of whales, I think you will be hard-pressed to believe that we have hunted many of these species to the brink of extinction.

Getting back to the compliance side of things, whales are hard to study. Fraud, corruption and misdeeds are hard to study. Whales spend over 95% of their time outside the boundary of human observation. The deeds that compliance professionals are looking for are also, for the most part, outside of our perception.

The compliance lesson that resonated with me was that we should not assume that we can see is truly representative of what is actually happening beneath the surface. We need to understand our perspective. What we can see and what we cannot see. When you look beneath the surface, something unexpected may be happening.

If you are looking for a good book to read, try Watching Giants: The Secret Lives of Whales.