A new digital problem. Hiding emotions behind video noise is easy. How do we find the signals again?
A new problem #covid has bought into sharp focus is our loss of connectivity and togetherness. There are some serious consequences for those who are Directors with responsibly.
How do you know when someone presenting to you is trying to bluff, mislead, guide, lie, direct or nudge you to a particular outcome.Over time individuals who serve on boards learn the skills of emotional maturity to help determine if they are being guided to a decision or a decision made for them. In truth, unpicking intent was hard anyway even when we all met up in one room, but it is far harder now with video. We have lost access to the face-to-face skills and the experiences we have built up as we are not in the same room. How do we detect the signals again?
We need to recognise that we have not (yet) developed all the essential skills for a digital life. This is never more true than when we are making judgement or decisions that matter as they have consequences. We have no eye contact (we look at screens and not the camera), everything is in reverse, poor video quality and block images take away our concentration, I look at my stream far too much, I am easily distracted by other inbound messages, I cannot look round and see how others are reacting, there is no body language ( are they hot, are they sweating, are they nervous, are they ….) and no sense of gut or instinct.
Technology could help, but we are not sure it is the right answer. We can detect heart rate variance, changes in skin resistance (sweat), we can monitor blood pressure, we can follow eye movement, we can monitor breathing rates and indeed we can sense movement. Voice, language, words choice, pitch and tone can also be captured and analysed. All the basic physiological signals we as humans pick up can be detected and captured in a digital scenario. However, all these sensors will be owned by someone else who will have control over your data, your emotions and what I am told about your reaction will be based on an algorithm and not on my own sense. How do we know the sensors to analysis is right and not biased?
Alternatively, we could improve the provenance and lineage of data we receive in a board pack, we can utilise API’s to gain data and reports directly from the system with no-human intervention but is this really the role of the board to verify and check everything. Such a remit driven by FUD becomes control, the loss of trust prevails and there is a change in culture to the detriment of the stakeholders.
It is an interesting crossroads, do we learn new skills, new ways of doing things, new ways of sensing and monitoring or do we delegate our capacity to an algorithm to help us?