icm2re logo. icm2:re (I Changed My Mind Reviewing Everything) is an 

ongoing web column edited and published by Brunella Longo

This column deals with some aspects of change management processes experienced almost in any industry impacted by the digital revolution: how to select, create, gather, manage, interpret, share data and information either because of internal and usually incremental scope - such learning, educational and re-engineering processes - or because of external forces, like mergers and acquisitions, restructuring goals, new regulations or disruptive technologies.

The title - I Changed My Mind Reviewing Everything - is a tribute to authors and scientists from different disciplinary fields that have illuminated my understanding of intentional change and decision making processes during the last thirty years, explaining how we think - or how we think about the way we think. The logo is a bit of a divertissement, from the latin divertere that means turn in separate ways.

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I do not want your passwords! Can emotional intelligence help with IT requirements?

An organisational and holistic look at data security perversion

How to cite this article?
Longo, Brunella (2014). I do not want your passwords! Can emotional intelligence help with IT requirements? An organisational and holistic look at data security perversion. icm2re [I Changed my Mind Reviewing Everything ISSN 2059-688X (Print)], 3.1 (January).

How to cite this article?
Longo, Brunella (2014). I do not want your passwords! Can emotional intelligence help with IT requirements? An organisational and holistic look at data security perversion. icm2re [I Changed my Mind Reviewing Everything ISSN 2059-688X (Online)], 3.1 (January).
Full-text accessible at http://www.brunellalongo.co.uk/

February, 28 2014 - Looking at past experiences is always a good way to find out what to learn next, how not to repeat mistakes or how to improve processes, behaviours, techniques or standards. So I am indulging in finishing a little book about digital competencies and skills, 99 STARS: the more I read these stories and work on updating some bibliographic references the more I enjoy the intellectual and creative benefits of the reflective exercise.

Take for instance 'People 17', a case I finally gave the title "Emotional intelligence to deal with a difficult project executive". This is how it looks - and here you are with a big anticipation about the STAR format as well!

	SITUATION: A small project I was managing in an educational context.  

	The customer's executive gave me out of the blue her own password to access 

	the website of a competitor of mine, in breach of copyright, licensing and 

	confidentiality agreements, with no rationale.   

	TASK: To decide if I wanted to ignore such episode or react to it,  

	asking justifications or showing intention to challenge or change the behaviour - 

	against the evidence of a dysfunctional, unlawful and unethical conduct.

	ACTION: For few days I concentrated on carefully observing the executive's reactions

	to my own behaviour and listened her staff comments and non verbal communication.  

	It turned out she tended to be manipulative  when she imagined 

	a condition of trust or an expression of personal 

	favour were expected.  Then she would regularly let people down

	or hold something back, causing distress and conflicts.  

	She was known to repeatedly cause this type of problems among employees, 

	consultants and suppliers, provoking  contractual frictions and 

	micromanaging situations in which rivalries, polarisation of emotions, 

	or worries could take over - especially in connection with personal circumstances 

	like illnesses, financial difficulties, family problems, apparently to show off her 

	compassionate attitude and offer ultimate remedies.  

	The board was aware of her conduct and used it as an expediency and a lever 

	in a complex network of business and political exchanges.  

	I went on focussing on my job, mostly ignoring her provocations. 

	RESULTS:   I finished the job but I did not fight at all to retain such a toxic customer!

Well, this is the story as it happened in Italy before I moved abroad, in less than 250 words - that is the challenging length limit of the STAR format itself as it has been adopted by, for example, the Civil Service in the UK (the last inspired the very idea of the whole book, by the way).

On second thoughts, I confess I wish I had not completed the project for the toxic customer on time and on budget neither and I had left it before the end instead, as I understood only when I finished it how inherently fascist and prepotent that customer's culture was - so that the only realistically safe and peaceful way to cope with it for me was to stay away from it.

In fact, that was a project in which there was no real deal at all. It would be more honest to say that it was an abusive situation in which I found myself threatened not just by a person but by the entire organisation and its extended cultural and social environment, where frustration of contracts was a deliberate common strategy used to prevent real competitions, to blackmail and 'lock in' or enslave certain suppliers and consultants within forced agreements - rejecting and isolating "dissidents" to the margins.

That environment was a perfect example of a "name only" cooperative organisation, in which what is important, from a human resources perspective, is exactly the opposite of a true innovative and collaborative spirit. Instead of valuing appreciative enquiries, diversity, new associative and critical thinking or original perspectives that bring about change, such dysfunctional environments tend to encourage imitation of the most contagious, childish and simplistic behaviours. They tend to build trust among people, through very professional and effective interventions, but not in order to increase confidence and reciprocal respect people need to experiment with new ideas. They subtly manage group cohesion to block the substantial challenge of learning and experimenting new patterns. Instead of absorbing the energy of divergent thoughts, managing and digesting the obvious risks of failures, executives and boards of such organisations tend to reward groupthink and to disengage people from taking any risky or divergent pathway. Instead of promoting new bridges between different areas of practice or knowledge, they ask people to bear with the disillusionment of their frustrated aspirations and the day by day lack of progress.

Needless to say, such dysfunctional organisations do not hesitate to use conflict to manipulate people behaviours (divide et impera) and to isolate talented individuals as well as small businesses through unfair competition, personal smears and defamation strategies (damnatio at bestiam), aligned with precise social and political strategies. It is not a coincidence, for instance, that in the same period of my toxic project (2006/2007) the Italian government, on proposal of the most regressive and fascist catholic groups (like Comunione and Liberazione) approved some absurd new family laws meant to stimulate conflicts between and against divorced parents and single women.

In that respect, emotional intelligence helps the single individuals but unfortunately it cannot revolutionise the social and cultural context - and this is particularly true when the object of human policies and interactions is immaterial, like information sharing and data security, so often exposed to the risk of becoming instrumental in whatever social, religious, political or cultural battle.

Information sharing in many 'open data' settings can easily serve or even generate dysfunctional group thinking, contagious behaviours and a paradoxical secretive or mocking attitude by means of violating privacy and confidentiality, moral rights of authors, copyright and confidentiality agreements, contracts clauses and respect for others' identity and cultural traits.

Playing "games" through data sharing, questioning the right to privacy, laughing at the weaknesses of IT security and authentication procedures and at the poor reliability of analytics can be a way to learn how to improve these processes but unfortunately can be also dysfunctional behaviours meant to ensure that no actual change happens, that new policies can be immediately frustrated before they can prove any effectiveness, that nothing can succeed but the old fashioned hidden rules of bureaucracies, exactly as in mafia and gangs culture that control mind and spirit through cohesive behaviours, religious beliefs, fears and scams.

In a distorted micromanaged culture in which people manipulate performance data (check the terrific recent examples from NHS), affections and relationships, and even data sharing and security can become the object of further internal and external perverted exchanges, in an eternal repetition of a degraded team-working script in which nothing really changes, nobody progresses, no growth or evolution is possible. They do not ask for a right to live, just not to die right now. (Pascal Bruckner, 1986 quoted by Svetlana Bonner, 2006 (1)).

So all in all, emotional intelligence can definitely help to deal with difficult project executives. Or, even better, to make an early escape and not to deal with them at all!

(1) Bonner, S. A servant's bargain: Perversion as survival, in "The International Journal of Psychoanalysis" (87), 2006, 6, 1549-1567.