Honesty Is Good Business For Technology

  • by , Op-Ed Contributor, January 13, 2017
Technology often makes us better machines. It enables us to live in a world that is faster, more efficient and filled with more opportunities. It makes us more efficient and accurate machines, but it doesn’t make us perfect.

Much has been made of the increasingly urgent need to (re)inject the human touch back into our automated lives. Witness the recent development of the “Gentle Bot” whose hand resembles that of a human or AI’s increasing reliance on the human brain to inspire its technology. Technology is becoming more human than ever before: recently, one of Uber’s just-released self-driving cars sailed through a red light.

This illustrates an important point: As technology becomes more human, it’s going to go off course occasionally just like real people. It’s crucial for us to be truthful and transparent when things don’t go according to plan. Robots and automated cars are changing our world dramatically, but traditional values like truth and transparency continue to withstand the test of time and ensure that an error doesn’t necessarily become a catastrophe.



Technology generates efficiency and increases productivity, but ultimately it comes down to a human to ensure there are no breakdowns. If something goes awry, we need to let the public know immediately, so expectations are managed appropriately. If one over-relies on machines, waits too long, or doesn’t communicate at all, that’s when you can expect a relationship to falter.

In short, be honest. Your clients will appreciate your honesty – even if they aren’t thrilled with the situation at hand. In the final analysis, truth and transparency lead to longstanding, quality relationships.

When it comes to being fully transparent about a breakdown, there can be perceived gray areas that cause confusion. To clear confusion, take a step back and ask yourself: “Who was impacted by this breakdown, would I want to know this information if I were in their shoes? Are there any solutions that I would consider ideal in this particular instance?”

Once you answer those questions, you should have the necessary details to make a smart decision.

Regardless of the situation, openly sharing it with your client in a timely manner is a way to display your vigilance and the value you provide to your client and their business. While it may feel like oversharing at first, the more you do it, the more comfortable you’ll get with it.

Establishing this level of truth and transparency from inception will set you up for success and benefit your client’s business — you’ll be addressing and fixing these breakdowns before they get too big.

Take, for example, the recent Yahoo data breach. For someone to gain access to a high number of accounts, there were likely several internal breakdowns that weren’t being reported quickly enough. When the first sign of a problem revealed itself, there should have been protocols and mechanisms in place that relayed the information to those impacted and any others who were potential targets.

It strains credulity that the first sign of an issue occurred only once the hacker gained access. Perhaps an over-reliance on technology was at fault. No matter the cause, the incident has put Verizon’s $4.8 billion acquisition of Yahoo in jeopardy.

Conversely,, the online learning company, recently had a data breach, but were quick to inform the affected parties. The company had a little under 55,000 accounts breached, and they let all of their nearly 10 million customers know immediately to prevent further damage.

At the same time, Lynda reset the passwords to all of the hacked accounts and let each account member know that they did so. While thousands of people had their information compromised, Lynda’s swift action and transparency with their valued customers kept the incident at a more manageable level.

Time will tell how satisfied customers are with how Lynda handled the situation, but it’s a pretty safe bet that whatever the data losses, didn’t suffer the same loss of customer trust as Yahoo.

As technology embraces humanity, it must do so warts and all. The time-honored truth of the human experience is that when things veer off course, it’s how we deal with unforeseen circumstances that ultimately determine success or failure. 

It’s a vital lesson for all of us to remember and for those who manage the robots and self-driving cars. If not, today’s running a red light can be tomorrow’s driving off a cliff.

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