What Do Obama and Romney Know about Science? Really?

President Barack Obama addresses the House Dem...

President Barack Obama addresses the House Democratic Caucus Issues Conference in Williamsburg, Virginia. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Romney

Romney (Photo credit: Talk Radio News Service)

Under a curiously misleading headline (“What do Obama and Romney know about science?”) the Scientific American informs us of a project in which they have linked up with a dozen science organizations to press the campaigns on a series of common questions.

Some quick remarks on first reading of the document:

1. While the questions are each and every one interesting, they are (sorry) entirely predictable. Read the list.

2. A very curious absentee: There is no question at all about the relation of science and human values/morals/ethics/what-you-will. This is even more significant than it may sound, as the “values” aspects to emerging technologies are racing right up there with Moore’s Law itself. (And: according to the annual VCU poll of science attitudes, around one-half of Americans believe S and T have caused as many problems as they have solved.)

3. Another core absentee: AI, robotics, and the future of employment. At a recent lunch in Menlo Park, the only thing my two well-connected colleagues wished to discuss was when we were going to come up with innovations that actually create rather than destroy jobs. Humanoids are us, or almost. Huge policy issues await.

4. Convergence and innovation. Some of us are eager to get rid of tenure as a key pre-req to loosening up the S and T academic establishment (cause havoc in universities, of course; but havoc is a key currency of innovation). Why do we have NSF/NIH(which gets most of the moolah)/NIST/FDA/NASA and all the rest as-is, when the disciplines make less and less sense? The National Nanotechnology Initiative was a big effort to surmount this problem, and while it has led to good things it sure has had no impact on the problem itself. Anyone for a new federal tech R and D agency based in the Valley? No, not the Potomac Valley.

5. More than their personal science knowledge, which I would love to do is get Mr. O and Mr. R on the hot seat to ask them what exponential means.

If I were putting such a list of what I have called Tomorrow’s Questions together, I would not ask a bunch of societies but really smart people with widely differing views . . . from enviros to transhumanists to Catholics to feminists to mommy bloggers to the key tech journos, and so on.

Enough for now! This is a great discussion to have opened, and I’m sure Christine Gorman @cgorman will keep it open.

The statement maintains a wish expressed 4 years ago for both candidates to have a debate on science alone. I suspect quilting or health food would be more appealing; some things just ain’t going to happen. In 2008 The Center for Policy on Emerging Technologies hosted a full-day event at the National Press Club with co-sponsorship from a major science society and a local university – with high-level panels on space policy, bio, nano, and so on. The idea was that the campaigns would send top surrogates for a serious day of engagement.

As it happened, astrology intervened with science and our stars were not aligned. It was the week the McCain campaign canceled itself. But Michael Nelson arrived on behalf of the Obama campaign, and not only engaged at length with the panels but subsequently joined both the board and the Senior Fellowship of C-PET.

This year we don’t plan to host a similar event, but to go broader and wider. Just announced: a series of teleconference town halls with leading science, tech, biz, policy figures, and campaign surrogates as and when they wish to join, to continue the roundtable and telecon series we have hosted over the past 4 years.

I moderated the panel on the election and the future of U.S. competitiveness at the Napa Tech Policy Summit which C-PET co-sponsored a few weeks ago. It included gurus Paul Kedrosky and Vivek Wadhwa, as well as Kathy Warner COO of Start-up America and Emanuel Pleitez of Spokeo.

Here’s what they had to say (video below). They don’t think the election will make that much difference. (Wait for the last question.)

http://vimeo.com/44109861

The C-PET 2008 Election Forum at the National Press Club

http://c-pet.org/?q=node/77

What Do Obama and Romney Know about Science? And Why It Matters | Observations, Scientific American Blog Network.

Sustainability, #CSR, and the Disconnects

Aside

One of my occasional anxieties lies in the fact that CSR has been such a success story that plugging it organically into the core strategy of major enterprises will actually get more difficult and not easier. The current evidence of deep disconnects between “CSR/sustainability” functions and marketing, brand, other departments drive this home.

Seems to me that logic is on the side of strategic alignment, and competitive advantage. That is, CSR properly tackled aids the mainstream and is not tacked on to aid corporate image (though aiding image over the long term is part of the package). Which is not to say that in every product or market this will be at all evident. It’s a gamble on the long term.

But not an unreasonable one. Social, transparency, growing brand subtleties, there are many factors driving things this way (Michael Porter may have over-stated things in his bombshell essay, but the right things).

Some good data and discussion below:

Your Sustainability Message: Not Enough Charisma To Light Up The Room?.

The Crisis of Trust in Companies and Beyond

Aside

The constant drip of admissions from J.P. Morgan Chase as the cost of the “London whale” rises and both dishonesty and folly is revealed comes in tandem with the latest round from Penn State. Former FBI Director Louis Freeh’s report unsparingly flays the leadership of that tarnished institution for a fundamental lack of concern for boys whose lives were being destroyed as individuals from janitors to the president were too interested in themselves to bother.

And in both cases, the people who knew and chose to look the other way now find that once you sow the wind, it’s the whirlwind that comes back.

Branding is not simply a game for consultants; it connects at a deep level the integrity and values of an organization with how it is viewed by the public and its customers and how it connects in turn with their values. One of the profound impacts of social media has been to begin to lay bare these and other connections in ways that go far beyond the occasional probes and revelations of press and whistle-blowers as transparency comes to be routinized rather than an exceptional experience.

At bottom therefore the issue is not about “brand” as a manipulable commodity to be burnished but integrity as a deep set of values that drive an organization by lining up its proclaimed sense of itself with how it really is and who its people are.

The issue for Penn State as for J.P.Morgan is whether what has been lost will be able to be recovered. What we already know is that this will not come soon or easy. We know how it is with the reputation of an individual. While corporations (for-profit and non) are persons only in a technical sense, their reputations are every bit as central to how the wider world sees them – and will be prepared to do business with them.

And (to pick up our much-blogged theme of social and the C-Suite) social media has only just begun to begin to open every one of our organizations and their commitments and their practices to Freeh-report style merciless scrutiny.

The Real Loss For JPMorgan Chase: Their Integrity.

#Apple CSR #Strategy – #Risk risk risk

Triple Pundit has just published a strong critique of Apple’s approach to corporate social responsibility.

The leadership point is especially telling (see my post earlier today), but in general what this sharp series of points suggests to me is that with the passing of the baton a fresh approach is being explored that has yet to find its feet.

Any company so dependent for its high profits on its reputation should be first in line to address all of these concerns and others also. It should also consider, seems to me, whether taking over Foxconn or developing a joint venture in which it was the senior partner might nor prove a more aligned and coherent way of addressing the huge issues that its reliance on Chinese manufacturing has begun to raise. To be able to address these issues within rather than outside the organizational boundary would shift their status and character in a way that could only help Apple going forward.

 

 

5 Reasons Why Apple’s CSR Strategy Doesn’t Work.

The #CSR Business: Alignment and Transparency in C21

In the old (pre-Murdoch) days, The Times of London, which then had a fair claim to be the world’s premier newspaper, promoted itself for years with the tagline, “When The Times speaks, the world listens.” But in the 1960s when I first began reading it the entire front page was still filled with classified ads. The world has moved on. As has (sad to say) The Times.

Pride of place now has been unambiguously ceded to the New York Times, though The Economist, which describes itself still as a “newspaper,” could on a broader definition make a claim.

So when The Economist tackles a subject, even in its often quizzical way, it means it matters.

A piece on “corporate social responsibility” is therefore worth noting. It doesn’t add much to the discussion, but recognizes big shifts from when it was regarded as merely a reputational snow job. I’ve written more about this, including the significance of Michael Porter’s intervention and the concept of Shared Value,  in my CSR column for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. (http://bclc.uschamber.com/profile/nigel-m-de-s-cameron).

My sense is that CSR is presently a thoroughly transitional form. This explains the somewhat disordered situation of the CSR community as (let us say) a quasi-profession. The Chamber’s Business Civic Leadership Center and the CSR professional association recently collaborated in a report that noted the lack of institutionalization (training, standards, and so forth). Seems to me that this is not a problem as the whole effort  is in transition; indeed, the idea of deciding in high school that when you grow up you want to be a CSR VP suggests a category mistake.

CSR is a nettlesome enterprise in the nature of the case, catalytic in respect of mainstream, old-time, bottom-line businesses; indirectly also in the social enterprise direction; and as a whole a component in a set of fast-moving parts as we are drawn into fresh models of capitalism in a culture sensitized to issues of social good – with brands scrambling for credibility and ever-more transparent windows replacing the opaque screens that used to shield all but the product and the marketing ploys chosen  by the Ad Men to present it.

As I have noted elsewhere, I think we need not to be naive in our adoption of Porter’s Shared Value concept as if tomorrow afternoon altruism and the pursuit of profit will have come into perfect alignment. But the tendency is there. Slow but, I do suspect, sure. The values market is increasingly asserting itself as a frame for the more conventional market, and the integration of the two will become progressively more plain with the passage of time and the growth of transparency-hungry technologies.

More on this soon . . . .

The report:

http://bclc.uschamber.com/blog/2012-03-28/new-research-release-state-corporate-responsibility-profession

Economist:

Schumpeter: Good business; nice beaches | The Economist.

Of #Work and Its #Future: #workplace #design humans and exponential #change

UNWIRED :: WORKTECH 12 New York.

I’m unpacking my thinking after one of the most stimulating days in some time – Unwired’s NYC version of their WorkTech conference that is offered around the planet.

The future of work and the workplace brings together people from real estate, architecture, interior design, human resources, and assorted other silos, with futurists who are anchored in what lies ahead. It’s a brilliant inter-disciplinary mix, and I was privileged to be invited to play a part. I was up second, following Sherry Turkle from MIT @sturkle who opened the day with her elegantly stated critique of social media and its impact (OK, I will let media be single here) on our private and business lives.  I see her and Andrew Keen @ajkeen asking some of the sharpest questions about the implications of the digital revolution for our knowledge and relationships. The faster, more complex, and more far-reaching the process of change, the more important it is to frame its challenges. Those with the hard questions tend to have the best ones. We may not buy all their answers, but that’s hardly the point. Answers are needed.

I’ve never labeled myself a futurist, but for a long time my focus has been on what lies ahead – and our problem in preparing for it. So I was second up, and my theme was that problem. It’s best illustrated with what I call The Kink. That is, we look back and see exponential change, a steep curve. We look ahead and we smooth things out – it’s hard to grasp the idea that the future will see changes greater and faster than the past, so we kink the curve. The Kink is today, always today. Another way of putting it:  We look back and see the Big Bang. We look ahead and see Steady State. And it’s here, in The Kink, that there lies the core problem of global risk.

More of that another time (there’s a book brewing); for now, some reflections on the future of work in light of yesterday’s insights.

Some things seem very plain.

1. As I stated in my presentation, the implications of AI/humanoid robotics have been far too little examined. This offers a special case of the problem of innovation destroying jobs faster than it creates new ones. My view is that robotics will remove many categories of job from the economy. Some high-level jobs (surgery) and many lower-level – not just manufacturing but nursing aides, cleaning, driving, retail – all kinds of assistive roles – will be completed by machines.

2. In general, the trend toward career changing/contractor self-employed status/project work will continue. It will drive the need for benefit provision (health, retirement) that is not employment-related (an American alternative to single-payer European-style provision may emerge from a revivified labor union movement shaped for professionals/knowledge workers). It will provide companies with far more flexibility, and knowledge workers, especially, with opportunity.

3. Bricks-and-mortar workplaces will decline in significance year by year. We heard at WorkPlace two interesting contrasts from leading-edge companies adapting to the new tech/social environment – moving into a “thin” approach to the office. At GSK, telecommuting is encouraged, personal workspaces are being replaced with a variety of shared and private work areas, and the trad notion of “going to the office”  is in decay. At Google, we were told, while the cubicles are endlessly re-arrangeable (legos came to mind), people do not telecommute and they have personal workspaces.

The Fordist approach to office environments, like the closely-related persistence of Peter Principle approaches to advancement, have outlived their logic. It’s plain to me that form will follow function, and that the coffee-shop experience will be more the typical future work environment for “white collar” workers than anything we would now recognize as a business environment. With rapid advances in all aspects of communications technologies and 3-D avatars, for example, turning video-conferencing into something far more effectively replicating the meeting-room environment, there will be a slow and finally dramatic decline in the company office. Brands will wish to maintain locations and buildings, but they will have less and less to do with the actual operations of the corporation. Outsourcing to other nations, now so common, will be followed by outsourcing to machines/machine intelligence and the use of shared spaces by workers.

It’s a surprise to me that the spread of traditional shared office suites, incubator start-up facilities, and collaborative spaces somewhere between the two, have not made the obvious leap to the coffee-house environment  where millions of workers (including this one) spend much of their productive time. I foresee Barnes and Noble, for example, not simply with small Starbucks cafes attached, but co-locating with Fedex/Kinkos and hourly hire agencies, with private meeting rooms also, to offer a full-service commercial experience to individuals and small groups in the heart of our communities.

Telecommuting, aside from its unappealing  name, has too much been seen as the option of “working from home.” Many of us do not function well in contexts in which we are either entirely alone, or where we have family distractions. And yet whether we have a convenient and congenial coffee house around is a matter of chance. And they don’t print and may be too noisy for calls.

Point is: While it has taken longer than was anticipated (like the “paperless office,” which is in fact being slowly realized, not least thanks to the cloud), digital has destroyed much of the significance of location. While the security issues, not least, will occupy attention as these transitions tale place, we are moving toward a situation in which knowledge workers and the entire white collar class cease to commute long distances, and work in informal environments within their own communities.

And, as with much else, this will happen faster than most of us anticipate. Those who do anticipate will, of course, win. And if as a community we can also engage in serious anticipation, some of the ill-effects that would otherwise flow (such as the benefits issue) can be mitigated.

 

 

 

#California and Destiny: #Valley #DC #China #Innovation #Singularity #TED et al.

As news keeps coming in of California’s decline – budget, public schooling, even the UC system –  some strategic stock-taking is in order.

I have written before of the disastrous divide between the culture of Silicon Valley and that of Washington, DC. Here’s a sample: http://nigelcameron.wordpress.com/risk/the-valleydc-divide/ Part of what I note is that one thing these two highly geographical communities have in common is their mutual disinterest. They are culturally as far apart as any entities in the United States; indeed (as I suggested in the aforementioned commentary) in the Solar System. The nation’s creative powerhouse and its seat of government are seemingly unbridgeable.

I sat in the office of a well-known Valley VC some time back discussing this predicament, and he offered me two reflections that I shall not easily forget. First, “we see Washington as a European city;” and, secondly, “when I look out of the window I see China.”

Well, OK, let’s work with that for the moment. Let California be California. If its interest in engaging in the transformation of these United States runs no further than technology and commercial enterprise, what of the state? As California crumbles, it also hosts most of the self-proclaimed hotbeds of ideas and smart people – quite apart from, though inter-related with, the Valley community itself. Like TED. Singularity University (oddly perched on a NASA campus). The Singularity Institute. (Both homage a Kurzweil.)And a host of other futures-focused centers and projects. On it goes.

But how much interest do they have in what takes place in Sacramento? Is their other-worldliness (OK, I have also written of technoculture a la SxSW, which epitomizes it, as a new fundamentalism) – is it a federal disengagement or does it pertain also in the shambling state they mostly call home? (Yep – SxSW is a Fundamentalist Bible Camp –http://nigelcameron.wordpress.com/2011/03/22/sxsw-nxne-and-the-new-fundamentalism-a-perspective-from-the-analog-polis-of-a-digital-people/)

My concern here is this: California is the United States’ border with China. This is true on several levels. And just as we need to revivify this nation by bringing to a common focus our government and our creativity, we need also to engage with full force the fact that this faux-European nation in the 21st century will live or die by its engagement with Asia. Some time back I suggested we move Camp David to Menlo Park for a start. The President could, I think, do that in a memo. (Main response I got was complaints from Valley friends about the traffic holdups that would ensue.) But in the long term the issue is when, not whether, the federal government is relocated to the west coast. The prosperity and geopolitical status of the United States hinge in part on when and how that transition takes place. The United States has dwelt for two centuries in Europe. In the third, its home will lie increasingly as a Pacific power.

Point is: the Valley culture and the creativity and far-sightedness it represents are the keys to leveraging the democratic and humane values of this nation into the third millennium and across the Asian continent. I am no naive technophile; what I am arguing is that a failure to engage vigorously with the technological future will gravely set back both our values and our prowess. And technology developments must be grounded in a healthy polis.

So, California, what about it? Revamp the state with the smartest and wealthiest and most creative to whom you are home. And give this ailing nation a bridgehead into what comes next.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jerry Brown: California Needs Cuts ‘Far Greater’ Than Originally Expected.

#SocialEntrepreneurship, #CSR, and the #Imagination

I was delighted to join the Ideation conference in Chicago earlier this week, and can do no better than link with @tonyshen’s 22 learnings which sum up the impact of a series of terrific presentations from some of the most brilliant people in the social enterprise scene and its environs (link below). Charles Lee and my friend J. R Kerr curated a winner.

What fascinates me is how many moving parts we have in the values/business arena. Social enterprise (SE) itself covers a range of nonprofit and profit-seeking efforts in which social good is the goal, or a substantive part thereof. Then we have corporate social responsibility (CSR). Here our point of departure is within traditional companies, who seek to deliver social good (not my favorite expression, but let’s use it anyway) either to assuage the conscience and meet the charitable interests of the company/founder, or to spruce their brand, or at a more fundamental level align mission with other than directly profitable goals; or, as in Phase 3, to build “shared value,” as Michael Porter has called it, in which these goals are in the long term precisely aligned. A more modest but similar case was made in the report commissioned from McKinsey by the Committee for Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy, which despite its somewhat Victorian name was founded by Paul Newman and operates the key network on CSR within the Fortune 500 CEOs. (Pursue that at corporatephilanthropy.org – the report is a great read.)

The logic of “shared value,” as I pointed out in a commentary for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, is the end of CSR. No more “triple bottom line,” just a bottom line. Porter’s proposal has been seen as outlandishly optimistic by some, but his essay offers a thought-piece that I believe we need to wrestle with as we look ahead at how sustainable value will be built in the emerging social-cultural-economic matrix of C21. Ironically, the most prominent funding of social good, by far, is coming from the Gates-Buffet-Soros old school of Carnegie-style philanthropy – giving away the riches won through business. So all three types of are operating in parallel.

But there’s a third category that needs to be noted in this meta-conversation: the need for innovative financing and governance models to be devised in response to the vastly innovative technological (and social) developments of the digital revolution.

Jimmy Wales’ Wikipedia offers (so far as I am aware) the only major project of the digital era that has struck out in another direction than IPO-dom. We need more. Google should have. Facebook should. The pressures of the market are not necessarily the ideal environment for the development of visionary, values-driven efforts. As Mark Zuckerberg wears his hoodie to Wall Street, we may well wonder why something as radically innovative as Facebook is beholden to the funding and governance system that sustains the enterprises of the “old economy.” That is, can innovation not run right through the system? Ahem, alignment?

Seems to me that we have here 3 more silos: social enterprise in various shapes; the three-fold CSR package; and innovative, generally digitally-driven, companies. We need above all a meta-convo that will bring these efforts round one table to focus these brilliant, diverse, projects for social good – and, in most cases, also for profitability.

The future? Moore’s Law, social media, globalization – these and other inexorable forces are re-shaping the landscape. It would be fun to work on some scenarios for 10 years’ time.

 

My take on Michael Porter’s proposal on Shared Value: http://bclc.uschamber.com/blog/2011-06-30/one-our-greatest-business-gurus-redefines-capitalism-perhaps

 

22 Hacks & Perspectives for Social Entrepreneurs | MOVEMENT 121.

Why Spaces, Places, Matter – and Questions #SOBCon #risk #strategy

I’ve just emerged from SOBCon in its hometown, Chicago, with gratitude to @LizStrauss for the invitation and her colleague Terry @Starbucker St Marie.

Some quick thoughts after a remarkable weekend as the long tail of posts, tweets, texts, continues to flow. More thoughts may follow.

SOBCon is a conference like no other – in which infinite effort has been spent on process as well as content; a fulfillment, at one level, of the generally frustrated vision of unconferences to draw on everyone and avoid the fallacies of schooling; a pudding rich but never quite over-egged; a place, a space, a gathering of people decidedly in community. As I just shared with a new friend, I’m not sure if I spent the weekend being remade or beaten up. OK, you get the picture.

Here just one comment, about SOBCon as a space. The lush, deeply engaging, very personal presentations I leave for the moment to others to discuss, though they make sense only inn the context of the space. (Check the #SOBCon hashtag to get a whiff.)

But this. SOBCon is a place. A space. With rich features evident to newbies as they walk in. The air has been specially treated. The food infused with secret sauce. A magical kingdom, in which the quality of relationships new and old, and – because this is always how it flows in our human community – the character and depth of the communication, are heightened.

To those for whom conferencing is all in a week’s work, including some of the finer efforts, it is always striking when a space is created in which persons and ideas can actually engage; strangers can be open with each other; bonds can spring up almost as fast as cards are exchanged. Well, this weekend in Chicago that was true to a high degree. What’s especially interesting with SOBCon is that this is not the result of its being carried on in secret. I am no great enthusiast for the “Chatham House Rule” that is sometimes used to encourage candor and honesty – which basically renders an event and its participants off the record. SOBCon was streamed. I know because I got message from people saying they could see me in the crowd. The on/off the record approach has value in enabling officials to be interesting and remain employed. It has little impact on the quality of the engagement. Conversely, there can be engagement of a special quality without its illusions.

That’s why in our work at C-PET we have placed much effort and emphasis on the quality of the community we bring together to address the great questions of tomorrow and today. These are not communities of old friends, though they are enriched by such relationships scattered through them. They include many who are strangers. And what is said in public is not private. But the cultivated space means that trust, even between strangers, is set high. So in conversations public and private there is candor. And, as well we know, when one person is candid, shares personally, confesses challenges and discusses defeats, the resonance is potent and the character of the conversation infectious.

At SOBCon this goal of, shall we say, a cultivated public/private inter-personal space for ideas – was achieved to a high degree, spurred by the fact many participants had been SOBConners before, and the social setting over several days – which went all the way to karaoke (some pics from that are in the tweetstream!).

Our business and policy worlds are full of answers. What we need most are spaces in which we can pose questions. Questions can only be properly posed when the space is right. And while this has always been true, as Moore’s Law drives exponential technological change and human events move at a pace faster than we have ever known the questions become more important, and the need for a space within which we can gather to consider them more pressing.

So huzzah to Liz and Terry, and the SOBCon community. As I  move back and forth between the worlds of policy and business I know there is nothing we need more.

 

 

Chicago 2012 Program | SOBCon.

Rupert #Murdoch ‘s Unfolding Disaster #CSR

How to Hit an Iceberg: Rupert Murdoch’s Unfolding Disaster

Reposted from 7/28 2011

As events have unfolded in the News of the World scandal I have kept being reminded of a phrase that explains much of the appeal of that (now defunct) newspaper: the fascination of the horrible. Really grim things can grip. That’s 50% of the key to “tabloid” newspapers and their stories. (The other half is celebs; and when celebs hit scandals, tabloid sales get supersized.) It is a delicious irony that the most celebrated scandal-sheet on the planet has fallen rapid victim to just the kind of story it has always loved to report. The fact that it also saw itself as a campaigning newspaper – crusading on the side of truth and goodness as it drove up sales –further seasons the feast. There’s nothing more grimly gripping on the planet than a loud-mouthed and out-and-out hypocrite.

We don’t know where this will end, and neither do Mr. Murdoch, his executives, shareholders, and those who wish him well or ill. What we do know is that we are looking at a corporate empire under threat. We don’t have to speculate about the potential use by U.S. prosecutors of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (which makes bringing foreign officials, like British cops, a particularly nasty federal offence) to note the potential impact of public sentiment on a corporate empire. Or, in other words, of values on value. We may find it curious that the public seemed to care little for the hacking of celebrities’ cellphones – which was round one of the scandal – but was thrown into rage by the use of that same news-gathering technique on a victim of crime. But for the very reason that the British public is a vast consumer of “tabloid” news its appetites are fed by sensation and sentiment. Sentiment has swung with a vengeance. Murdoch’s big move to control the key satellite broadcaster has been condemned by all political leaders. The police have placed several of his top execs on notice that they are being investigated. He and his team are being invited to be quizzed by parliamentarians. And here in the United States, Congress is waiting in the wings.

What’s the moral? Well, first, look at the impact of technology. Before there were mobile phones all we had were clunky answering machines. Now there are great vats of highly sensitive and potentially valuable private information digitally accessible from any telephone in the world – if you punch in the right sequence of digits. Asymmetries are breaking out all over. Low-level people under pressure for stories break the rules. High-level people may pay the price and market value may be destroyed. What’s the moral? Simple, really: the leveraging that emerging technologies are bringing to business make it far more important for values to be aligned throughout the organization than they were before. Dumpster-diving for discarded correspondence is one thing; pumping 4,000 names into a spreadsheet, bribing the Head of State’s security detail, eavesdropping on the victims of crime and terror, and hacking the phones of cops who are investigating, is quite another.  That’s the power of the handset in the hand of the representative of an organization that, at some level, has been shown to be corrupt.

Sure, you can argue that every organization has bad apples. In the nature of the case scandal-focused journalism operates on the edge. The boundaries overstepped did not look so big at the time. All correct. But some lessons learned. First, bad apples are now far more toxic to organizations than they used to be – because of the combination of technological leverage and reputational damage so devastatingly demonstrated here. When all is said and done, the little nexus of private detectives and journalists at the heart of this story may end up destroying billions of dollars of shareholder value. Second, the edgier the effort – whether sensationalist publishing or, say, healthcare systems where physicians can be rewarded for the denial of care – the more central the need for unambiguous, enforced values to pervade the organization from head to toe. Third, just as corporate leaders are now post-Enron required to sign off on the accounts, they need to sign off on the values that pervade their entities. Not because Sarbanes-Oxley requires it, but for an even more pressing reason: their building sustainable value for investors does. We don’t need a SOX for values. We already have one. It’s called the bottom line.

Go figure. And watch News International’s value in weeks to come.

 

First posted on the US Chamber of Commerce BLCL site.