Archive for September, 2010

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New Normal: The Naked Corporation

September 18, 2010

Big news today in London’s Financial Times, “computers set for quantum leap”, apparently a new computer chip has been developed that works on light rather than electricity. This new development will “pave the way for the production of ultra-fast quantum computers with capabilities far beyond today’s devices.” In the not too distant future quantum computers will be able “pull important information out of the biggest databases almost instantaneously… making it easier for people to search with precision for what they want.”

This is good, right! Well that’s hard to say, but there’s no doubting it is inevitable. The disturbing thing for managers today is that it is the beginning of the end for secrecy. The effect of quantum computing and generational attitudinal change spells the end of corporate anonymity and perhaps any meaningful corporate security.

I’m old enough to remember a time when corporations operated with a strong sense of employee loyalty, a supportive public and little if any press coverage. It was a world that respected privacy and where, even if discovered, an admission of regret solved most problems.

How the world has changed. Corporations, once considered champions of our material wellbeing are today looked at very suspiciously by large sections of the population. Simultaneously to this fall from social grace, technology is rapidly unraveling the corporate veil. The Internet, social media and iPhones have created a stunning new world of immediacy in communications. If this immediacy happens to be pointed at your poor environmental record, or your mistreatment of minorities, these ‘problems’ can instantly become front page news around the world. And once your company is ‘framed’ in the public’s mind, no amount of traditional communications and PR support after the fact is going to completely repair the damage.

This situation is critical and, assuredly, is getting worse. Consider a recent contest: “How to steal corporate secrets in 20 minutes.” No, it’s not a joke. Turns out it is surprisingly easy to steal even the highest security information from Fortune 500 companies – in a matter of minutes.

Things to Think About

  1. Prepare for transparency, a volatile combination of rapidly advancing technology, changing attitudes and instantaneous global communications is unraveling the corporate veil. Pumping up the PR machine or clamping down hard on security managers will not get the job done. This is a strategic issue that requires a new mindset and a new approach. Don’t delay.
  2. Singularity – most people don’t know what this means. In the technological sense ‘singularity’ describes a point in the not too distant future when technology simply runs away from us all – becoming an uncontrollable force. As Y2K proved beyond question, the technology revolution can be confusing and can have dangerous unintended consequences. This is another strategic issue that can’t be wished away.
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