Blog | 08.18.2015

Don’t be creepy, be helpful…

Millennials are generally thought to be a less privacy focused generation. I don’t think this is in fact true, but I do think that Millennials may be more open to trading privacy for value and I am no exception. Recently we have seen an explosion of systems that create data for organizations, much of that data may have before been hidden or poorly accessible, and some of it may change the nature of transparency at an organization. At its best, creating and sharing all this new data can help us to unlock great storehouses of value by giving us insight and enabling self-improvement while better informing management in how they can coordinate and cultivate the organization’s tools, goals, and resources.

Allow me to provide a personal anecdote; early in my career, my job was heavily conducted over the phone. I found out from a colleague my new manager was doing something that could be considered “creepy.” He was quietly listening in on some of my calls. Of course, he hadn’t mentioned it to me, though I was generally aware that it was possible to do this, but becoming aware of a “secret listener” can be an uncomfortable experience.

Fortunately, when I was informed by a colleague what was going on, I wasn’t particularly bothered. Rather, the first question that popped out to my colleague was if he knew what my manager thought and if there was anything he had identified that I could improve upon. Second hand, all I was told is that he thought I “sounded good.” To me, this was a missed opportunity. I felt I couldn’t approach my manager and request his specific feedback because he had hidden his monitoring, creating a lack of trust and transparency between us and potentially stifling a valuable conversation. I couldn’t take advantage of his experience and because there was no feedback and moreover if I had perceived there to be a lack of trust or taken an offense over the lack of transparency that could have been a potential negative.

Modern management systems must be backed by management practices that create trust, transparency, and value for all parties. The problem in this situation wasn’t the monitoring, the problem was his failure to disclose it and leverage it to my benefit. I think this lesson holds true across numerous systems that people interact with: anytime you are giving up your data or privacy, you should be a partner in that transaction and receive something of value. As long as the process is conducted transparently and value is being created on both sides, the loss of privacy may be trivial compared to the value that can be gained by both parties. In an organization where we are all held to goals and KPIs, my manager listening in on a call was a trivial loss of privacy compared to the benefit that could be achieved, but because there wasn’t transparency some of that value wasn’t realized.

To best unlock the value of these systems, here are 3 questions I think you should be asking yourself when leverage these systems and their data.

  • How do I deliver value to each stakeholder that is engaged with this system?
  • How do I message around that value creation to enable an environment of trust and transparency?
  • How do I train my management team and team members to properly leverage these systems?

Thoughts and comments are invited!