The day-to-day operations of our business can be quite boring in comparison to the exciting new project. However Jacob has seen some organizations allow their smartest employees to invest so much time in disruptive projects that regular operations have missed out on minor upgrades. As the core business becomes less efficient, less revenue is available for future projects and the disruption process becomes increasingly difficult. Ironically, preparing for the future also requires a focus on the past.
If you’re yet to dive into the story of WeWork under the leadership of Adam Neumann, this provides a classic case study in chasing a long term vision at the expense of short-term sustainability. With billions of dollars in venture capital from Softbank (who’s founder Masyoshi Son famously laid a 300-year vision plan for) Neumann chased growth relentlessly, opening dozens of new WeWork locations across the globe. In preparation for its IPO, Neumann bet that retail investors would value the business at the earnings multiple of a tech company, as opposed to a traditional real estate business. The IPO did not go as planned.
There’s another reason to avoid neglecting the short-term. Predicting the future is, quite simply, hard work. We can identify one trend and imagine the scenario when it’s taken to the Nth degree (eg. ‘What will happen when every taxi driver loses their job to Uber?’), however things often turn out a little messier than this. For example, while ride sharing crashed the value of New York’s taxi medallions several years ago, taxis are still common, and this group of workers were by no means the only people affected. In many cities, more parking spaces have become vacant and the concentration of inner-city dwellers has grown, while gig work has also impacted healthcare and taxation. These second-order effects are much more difficult to predict.
Making Data Too Public
Collaboration is a tenet of modern business, however the drive to eliminate silos and share data as widely as possible often comes with unintended consequences. While most clients Jacob has worked with have no difficulty keeping their most sensitive information private (payroll details, board meeting notes, trade secrets) it’s easy to forget that sensitive information can be inferred from metadata and other related information. For example, an executive meeting may take place behind closed doors, however if the meeting name and participants are viewable on a shared calendar, or notes are stored in a locked folder with a suggestive name, details can be assumed and acted upon as if the meeting were public. Leaks such as these don’t require concerted efforts to snoop. For example, consider the employee tasked with auditing emissions from executive travel as part of a business’ net zero obligation. If origins and destinations were visible, what could a pattern of repeated visits to the headquarters of a competitor suggest?
Making data too accessible to employees and third parties also introduces security risks. Verizon’s 2017 data breach, which exposed the personal information of 14 million customers, resulted when a contractor accidentally made customer data available on a public AWS server. With greater accessibility of data, comes a greater need to invest in data governance and security.