In the fairy tales of our childhoods, there was one motif almost all of them shared in common: A fear of untamed nature. From a young age, we learned that uninhabited nature had a mystifying and wild quality. It had power over us, held uncertainties that we couldn’t see or understand. Over time, humans have tried to control nature, to corral it and manage it. As we’ve stepped away from our agrarian roots and into a world of sleek devices and lightning fast connections, our discomfort with nature has found a new home: Technology.
Times Change, Risks Remain
Risk is inherently human. We make decisions every day based on our culture, our experiences, and our personality that guide how much—or how little—risk we’re willing to take on. As technology infiltrated our lives and began guiding our behaviors, organizations have had to understand and process new risks that didn’t exist before. For example, when paper documents were our only means of recording data, a file generally remained static and stored in a physical location. Now we are able to share and store our data across multiple devices and systems. This allows anyone with access the ability to copy, record, and disperse sensitive company information without being detected. Data became invaluable to advertisers, and consumers have been surprised to learn how much of our personal information has been taken and sold without our knowledge.
People Vs. Machines
Technology creates a sense of invisibility that makes us feel vulnerable. We cannot see malicious code in our computer, or a database aggregating our internet travels, but we trust the safeguards of the system as a barricade to these threats. As a result, more people begin to feel powerless against their digital universe. Therefore, people put distance between themselves and their devices and systems and separate from the risks.
Unfortunately, most data breaches are caused by human error. Due to a lack of understanding of the technology we use, or the tendency to feel disconnected from the systems that govern them, people often blame digital threats on an exterior “other” instead of understanding their part within the ecosystem. As we enter an unprecedented time of technological change, where our lives are inextricably linked to our devices, companies must find a way to allow people and technology to exist together in a reciprocal relationship.
The Joint Workforce
Technology is transforming and evolving faster than we can keep up with it. In 2018, a study found that we create 2.5 quintillion bytes of data every day. Sifting through all the information available to us can feel daunting and intimidating. In order for technology and digital systems to work properly, and to reduce inherent risks, companies must become more agile than ever, managing digital risks while removing the threat they pose to their employees. To better understand technology is to remove the mystery. Show employees how these systems work, where data goes, who manages it, and why it’s necessary to their organization’s operations.
Companies cannot allow their employees to become bystanders to technology. Data and technology need to have a governing structure around them, so employees have a personal context in relationship to risks. Employees must feel empowered to not only understand the risks, but to take steps to prevent them, instead of relying on a central authority or system. They should have the skills needed to be active in their digital environment, becoming the expert in the systems they’re entrusted to operate.
It is important for employers to assess how technology impacts the least powerful person in the organization, as well as how new technology can make employees feel increasingly undervalued. Automation and AI will make certain sectors and positions obsolete, but many other fields will emerge to maintain these tools, so employers must be ready for the next wave of disruption.