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  • Writer's pictureVanessa Camones

Tech Needs an Ethical Reset: Introducing leveleleven

Updated: Apr 3, 2019

The rapid pace in which we have embraced new technologies like AI, machine learning, automation, robotics, and all forms of connectivity has left us overwhelmed. We are ill prepared and unable to regain our human connections or approach the right way to communicate ethically. We’ve outgrown the way we do things traditionally, and we have encountered uncertainty about how we make better decisions towards the future.

The same technologies that empower us have also strewn the ground with landmines. They seem to be hidden everywhere, and the smallest misstep can be devastating to millions. So it’s not surprising to see so many companies in a state of paranoia, denial, or just frozen in place, afraid to take the next step in any direction. They may have been so hyper-focused on building something they believe in that they didn’t foresee or plan for its unexpected impact. When they walk their way into crisis, they often find themselves paralyzed and unmotivated to act, hoping that “this too shall pass,” when it won’t. Good intentions and lack of malice don’t undo the damage. Changing the world with your innovations won’t get you off the hook with those you harm.

So what do we do? We hit the reset button.

Pre-Empting Crisis

Reactive public relations, crisis communications, and (at long last) being held accountable for getting caught are simply not enough. Organizations need guidance to navigate this new world, and as evolving, living brands they must adapt to the new way of doing things. If they don’t, they can look to Uber to see the consequences.

Years ago I was quite verbal about the bad karma looming in Uber’s face. I blogged an appeal to the exec team at the time to think about how they were managing their comms and business practices. The bad behavior— plastered over the news for several solid years. What did that do to Uber? It tarnished their once-shining brand, it undermined customer loyalty (#deleteuber, anyone?) and the resulting damage to Uber’s brand equity — which mattered more than its profits — cost investors BILLIONS. No one believed it when I said Lyft would probably IPO first. It just did.

Since founding theMIX agency in 2007 (and spun into what is now AnyContext) our team has worked with many companies that have encountered various crisis scenarios. We love working with disruptors, with people who questions the status quo, and companies willing to break things to make them better. But we want them to do so always thinking and understanding the IMPACT it will have on people. Today the ask for crisis communications support are so frequent and widespread that we decided to formalize a program and methodology to help companies well before that crisis occurs.

Every company is now a digital company. Your employee, customer and investor are the same people now — they’re all end users. This is why it’s critical that ethical assessments start on the inside with the top brass.

How We Reset

Our team recently engaged with Santa Clara University’s Markkula Center for Applied Ethics to talk about our methodology, which we call leveleleven, and how to create a practice and framework to help businesses and leadership become advocates for a more intrinsically ethical method of communicating. (Kara Swisher recently gave this powerful talk on Silicon Valley’s challenges with ethics at the center.)We want to hold ourselves accountable, too, as we help and guide companies to a healthier way of thinking. We’re grateful to have Markkula’s counsel as we evolve as a team with a new offering.

Business practices, good or bad, are a direct reflection of both a company’s leadership and the way they communicate. It may seem obvious that companies should behave ethically, but because technology has created a void in interpersonal communications, too often we deal with each other in a superficial and disconnected way. Our emotions and communications reduced to emojis and hashtags — it’s no wonder we’ve lost our way to being able to make good and sound decisions. With all the TLDR’s we forgot about accountability along the way. The hostile political climate hasn’t helped either.

Is your team and your organization ready for it? Do you have the ethical ammunition it will take to

make better choices for the future? If you might think it can’t happen to you or your company, just look at recent scandals: Boeing. USC. Facebook. Companies and organizations that are not necessarily considered “tech” are dealing with media and public scrutiny over issues that could have been mitigated with the right ethics based communications framework.

It’s time we reset the button on what it means to be a good business, and an ethical one. It’s also time for companies who are doing it right to be proud to share those experiences. And it’s overdue the media starts telling those stories, too. Human impact is the buzzword of choice for 2019, but this is a good thing. It means that companies are finally paying attention, sometimes because their investor relations teams are pounding down the doors of corporate governance, and sustainability teams are asking for data that indicate they are taking action and accountability for both employees and end users.

That’s what leveleleven can do for you — create, implement, and execute ethical communications, both internally and externally, across all of the audiences that matter to your business. Any entity with power — person, company, government — has to learn that nothing is “Our Little Secret” anymore and they need to learn to think and act ahead.

If this resonates with you and you’re ready to learn more, we want to hear from you. Let’s talk.

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