Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Trust, leadership & Her

As someone who has spent considerable periods online (probably only matched by the amount of time I spent on space invader machines in the late 70s), going to see Her was irresistible. In fact it would have been futile to resist. This film strokes the audience like a mouse, gradually enveloping you in a future where everyone is so connected all of the time, that frankly I am amazed they have time to eat. The main character, Theodore Twombly (2Mb loves you?), recovering from a relationship split, finds love in his computer’s operating system. It is a story reminiscent of The Big Bang episode where Raj dates Siri but as a poignant tragedy not a raucous comedy.

The film extends your view of what a relationship can be and just what the components are in good one. Indeed, were such an operating system to exist, I can imagine a good many psychoanalysts going out of business. The characters are believable and weirdly, so is the narrative: it is barely set in the future. This film deserves to be more popular and if it becomes so (as it well might on DVD), I suspect its core storyline will soon creep into common metaphorical reference (like When Harry Met Sally). Go see it (and remember to turn your smart phone off as it will get jealous).

Recently I have become a little caught up in a social media controversy over the suspension of a police officer’s twitter account. (You can read the background here.) It would appear that an honest, intelligent, committed and thoroughly decent copper, whose blogs about mental health have received wide acclaim, has fallen foul of his employer’s social media policy. Nobody knows exactly what has happened (publicly), but many are waiting for matters to be resolved satisfactorily.

I mention this here as the story of Her reminded me of what social media can do to anxious corporate control freaks. Essentially, social media has a vibrant, messy life and a heuristic vortex all of its own and eats control freakery for breakfast. Just like the operating system in Her. This non-conformist energy is not easily moderated by a policy (no matter how well written). Leaders try to control social media at their peril, in my opinion. And even if they manage to do so (through dedicating considerable resources to diligent monitoring) they are seriously missing the point of social media. The clue is in the name. Social interactions need to be spontaneous, authentic and honest otherwise you may just as well fragment the corporate newsletter into a set of 140 character messages. The public / customers / citizens will know the difference though. And then see how many followers that account assembles…

Leadership is about trust. Leadership is about setting a direction but not about carving out the grooves to follow. Instead it is about trusting people to find their own paths.

Who do you trust?

This is the fourteenth of my new series of blogs about leadership ideas to be found in the movies of our time. You can read here as why I am doing this. Please subscribe to this blog if you want to read more. Thanks. Click the label 'film' to see all the others.

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