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

ongoing web column  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).

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 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 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 long ago, 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 trusted ties among people but not in order to increase confidence and respect in diversity up to the point in which new ideas and processes are welcomed. They instead subtly manage group cohesion to block the substantial challenge of learning and experimenting new patterns of behaviour. 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 in 2006/2007 the Italian government, upon proposal of the most regressive and fascist catholic groups (including some from the Comunione and Liberazione movement) approved absurd new family laws and policies meant to trigger and stimulate social frictions, conflicts between generations and actions against divorced parents and single women, according to their ideological beliefs.

Data sharing and 'open data' without specific policies and information governance measures in place support dysfunctional group thinking, contagious behaviours and a paradoxical secretive or mocking attitude by means of violations of privacy and confidentiality, moral rights of the 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, smiling or laughing at the weaknesses of IT security and authentication procedures and at the poor reliability of analytics is something we all do more or less in these times of unbelievable technical innovations and human and legal unpreparedness.

A certain level of light hearted attitude towards IT security challenges can also be functional to learn how to improve these processes. But unfortunately, without the proper management in place it can just activate dysfunctional behaviours: these ensures that no actual change happens, that new policies can be immediately frustrated before they can prove any effectiveness, that nothing can succeed or improve. The old fashioned hidden rules of bureaucracies and inertia prevail, exactly as it happens in mafia and gangs culture that controls people mind and spirit through cohesive behaviours, religious beliefs, fears and scams.

In a distorted and micromanaged culture in which people manipulate personal and performance data, affections and relationships, data sharing and information security can become target of further internal and external perverted exchanges, in a 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!