The Return of Face to Face

My prediction for 2016 going forward: Politicians, Senior Execs and others will increasingly skip the wonderful convenience of electronic communication and start meeting face to face more often.

Why?

  1. Limit Actual Liability
  2. Limit Perceptual Liabilities; e.g. damage to Brand.

Why Now?

Let’s see…

  • Wikileaks publishing private political information possibly garnered from foreign powers having hacked in to either or both private and government servers.
  • Legal discovery forcing entities to give up mass quantities of digital information to allow for wrongdoing fishing expeditions; even if initial focus is supposedly narrow.
  • Legal cases where police have been allowed to commandeer and search mobile device data without warrant.

Some Side Effects

Computer Medicated Communication takes many forms these days. The efficiency and increase in effectiveness such tools provide has to be among the top productivity enhancements in the history of all humanity. And yet, some of the positives might be squandered out of fear; which may often be perfectly justifiable.

  • A prosecutor or plaintiff may not be able to find non-existent ‘smoking gun’ documents, but individuals and employees might also end up lacking in documentation that’s day-to-day useful even if being perceived as potentially risky.
  • As valuable as F2F meetings can be, many of the efficiencies of online are lost when forced to seek out one another in the real world.
  • Lack of use of the great online tools we have could result in actual worse performance of executives, products and services. (Example: Verbal orders are given to staff to keep discussions of product shortcomings that may have liability impact off of email or any form of online tool. As a result, fixing such problems will likely take longer and details may be lost along the way.)

The Value of Anonymity

It’s hard to get anything done and certainly challenging to fix anything when you’re under a constant threat of loss. Let’s look briefly at the Aviation Safety Reporting System as an example where anonymity and immunity can provide lifesaving value.

The ASRS collects, analyzes, and responds to voluntarily submitted aviation safety incident reports in order to lessen the likelihood of aviation accidents.

ASRS data are used to:

  • Identify deficiencies and discrepancies in the National Aviation System (NAS) so that these can be remedied by appropriate authorities.

  • Support policy formulation and planning for, and improvements to, the NAS.

  • Strengthen the foundation of aviation human factors safety research. This is particularly important since it is generally conceded that over two-thirds of all aviation accidents and incidents have their roots in human performance errors.

Thanks to anonymity and immunity provisions, the system can be made safer for all by allowing pilots to candidly address potential issues. Reporting to the system does not get you out of intentional rule violations or actual criminality. But the immunity and anonymity allows for the fastest feedback mechanism conceivable to discover acute or chronic problems in the system.

Now, can you imagine such a system existed for any particular vertical market industry? What kind of progress might be possible?

Product Managers are always seeking feedback. Often we have to pay a lot – in one form or another – to get at good customer behavior info. We ask them. We watch their behavior where we can. We listen to social media, etc. But are critical items being left on the table? Regardless of how open a company culture may be, some employees may nonetheless have serious problems in bringing up potential deficiences.

The point? For Product Managers and some information, it may be tricky to get to truth. Will this be a big problem? It likely depends on the industry. Just something to consider.

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