BREAKING NEWS : Allen County Councilman Joel Benz plans to accept TRAA executive director position Full Story
STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

What leaders can learn from Facebook's data debacle

Ama Marston is a strategy and leadership expert. She is the author of "Type R: Transformative Resilience for Thriving...

Posted: Apr 2, 2018 5:34 PM
Updated: Apr 2, 2018 5:34 PM

Ama Marston is a strategy and leadership expert. She is the author of "Type R: Transformative Resilience for Thriving in a Turbulent World." The opinions expressed belong to her.

Facebook's data mining scandal marks a defining moment for the company's leadership.

CEO Mark Zuckerberg has agreed to testify before Congress, sources told CNN, after Facebook admitted that Cambridge Analytica, a data firm with ties to President Trump's 2016 campaign, accessed information from about 50 million Facebook users without their knowledge. The controversy ignited a global conversation around the ethics of data mining.

But Facebook's leaders are not alone in the hot seat. Facebook's crisis is just the most recent in a string of existential moments for companies like Uber, Experian and United. Leaders would do well to see these crises not as storms merely to be weathered, but as moments for transformative change.

Leaders who most successfully navigate crises are those who embrace uncertainty and convert adversity and complex business challenges into opportunities for innovation and progress. Their form of resilience is transformative-strategic, purposeful and focused on the future.

One of the challenges for today's leaders is to identify what they can and can't control. When they do, they are better able to direct their energy and resources, adapt to unfolding circumstances and find appropriate solutions.

Related: Facebook is facing an existential crisis

Take Frederick Hutson, the founder of Pigeonly, a Y Combinator-backed startup that connects families with loved ones in prison. Last year, Pigeonly was hacked and 200,000 fraudulent overseas accounts were created within 36 hours, plunging the company into crisis. Hutson's instinct was to try to shut down the "bad actors" behind the breach and discontinue international service. But he realized that this was a moment for bigger, more transformative action.

Hutson quickly informed his team of the hack and called upon the expertise of his technical advisors. They examined where the weaknesses in their system lay and how they could fix them. Hutson also studied how other companies in the digital communication space handle security and verification issues. Through this challenging time, he kept in mind a larger sense of purpose and the community that Pigeonly serves.

Ultimately, the process created a culture of shared responsibility within the company, created increased transparency and reinforced trust and customer loyalty, leading to further business.

Facebook's senior leadership should take a cue from Hutson and address the ethical and business challenges surrounding its data practices, while also learning from other companies that have successfully rebuilt public trust.

Leaders in crisis must also be willing to transform their business models in the face of changing business, social and legal environments.

According to a Harvard analysis of 500 companies, one of the greatest sources of stagnation or failure is remaining wedded to a business model that led to rapid success in the past - and failing to sufficiently adapt to current realities or pressures.

While Facebook's current dilemma is one of third party data misuse, a deeper issue is at hand. Facebook, like many companies, is suffering from a lack of clear purpose, or a misalignment of a stated mission and the reality of what the business actually does.

Related: Facebook has lost $80 billion in market value since its data scandal

Is Facebook's purpose to connect people and build community? Or is to provide businesses with advertising tools and consumer data? When Facebook launched, it claimed the former was its mission, but the latter now makes up 98% of its revenue, amounting to $39.9 billion in 2017 alone, based on the company's financial reporting.

According to research group EY Beacon Institute, 73% of CEOs believe a larger social purpose, such as community involvement, will help guide them through disruption and upheaval.

Making a social contribution is not only the right thing to do, but it helps leaders and teams see beyond crisis and may play an important role in ensuring client trust and political support.

A larger purpose can also help attract talent and keep people committed in turbulent times.

For Facebook, a great responsibility comes with having 2.1 billion users across the globe, according to Emmanuel Letouz-, director of the Data Pop Alliance, a nonprofit coalition on Big Data. He says Facebook could have a significant impact by actively promoting ethical technology principles, such as those outlined by the Department of Homeland Security's 2012 Menlo report, a framework for ethical research.

Facebook should also aim to strengthen people's awareness of data and privacy issues by funding independent educational programs on the use and misuse of data.

Whatever decisions Zuckerberg or other leaders make in times of crisis, one thing is abundantly clear: They have to actively engage from the outset. Avoidant behavior allows for challenges to snowball into crises, for employees to become disgruntled and for customers and the public to lose trust.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 941120

Reported Deaths: 15315
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1282511983
Lake633041097
Allen53609758
Hamilton43827447
St. Joseph41906590
Elkhart33545490
Vanderburgh30383448
Tippecanoe26820249
Johnson23609417
Hendricks22250341
Porter21737346
Clark17409229
Madison17366384
Vigo16108281
Monroe14466191
LaPorte14311239
Delaware14070221
Howard13865272
Kosciusko11418135
Hancock10841165
Warrick10674177
Bartholomew10542168
Floyd10430205
Wayne9959226
Grant9130204
Morgan8865160
Boone8389111
Dubois7710123
Dearborn762289
Henry7608130
Noble7413101
Marshall7362128
Cass7176117
Lawrence6957153
Shelby6584111
Jackson656785
Gibson6156107
Harrison603786
Huntington600195
Montgomery5805105
DeKalb574291
Knox5494104
Miami542488
Putnam536768
Clinton533665
Whitley524953
Steuben497268
Wabash483592
Jasper479160
Jefferson470092
Ripley454277
Adams444068
Daviess4169108
Scott405865
White391857
Clay390857
Greene388392
Decatur385296
Wells384983
Fayette374278
Posey359941
Jennings353156
Washington332047
LaGrange321375
Spencer317835
Fountain316555
Randolph312888
Sullivan307449
Owen283863
Starke280064
Fulton277553
Orange275859
Jay254837
Perry251652
Carroll243729
Franklin239338
Rush234130
Vermillion233250
Parke219820
Tipton209655
Pike207639
Blackford168334
Pulaski163551
Crawford146018
Newton144345
Benton142516
Brown135346
Martin128217
Switzerland125810
Warren114616
Union96911
Ohio79711
Unassigned0479

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1365800

Reported Deaths: 21596
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1522221560
Cuyahoga1344852327
Hamilton976051320
Montgomery670271141
Summit562091047
Lucas50900863
Butler47417655
Stark41580976
Lorain31567532
Warren30001331
Mahoning26963639
Clermont25628292
Lake24585417
Delaware22313145
Licking20487241
Fairfield20420221
Greene20309272
Trumbull19866509
Medina19796287
Clark17879328
Richland16314234
Portage16130229
Wood15681208
Allen14115256
Miami13786253
Muskingum12641152
Wayne11946238
Columbiana11708241
Tuscarawas10953269
Marion10725148
Pickaway10465129
Scioto10324127
Erie9747171
Ross9436176
Lawrence8755125
Hancock8458141
Ashtabula8317185
Geauga8173156
Belmont8140187
Jefferson7527172
Huron7423128
Union731851
Washington7183120
Athens697165
Sandusky6848134
Darke6756136
Knox6671122
Seneca6358137
Ashland5948113
Auglaize587188
Shelby5727101
Brown564171
Mercer557890
Defiance5483101
Madison543371
Crawford5425114
Highland541581
Fulton530683
Clinton525580
Logan512182
Preble4994110
Putnam4833106
Guernsey470364
Williams459282
Perry449852
Champaign445964
Ottawa436884
Jackson425362
Pike388843
Morrow383851
Fayette375853
Coshocton374766
Adams360675
Hardin359069
Gallia347356
Holmes3259108
Henry324668
Van Wert314670
Hocking301769
Wyandot280658
Carroll262652
Paulding242243
Meigs213942
Monroe189749
Noble169340
Morgan165829
Harrison157940
Vinton138118
Unassigned05
Fort Wayne
Mostly Cloudy
50° wxIcon
Hi: 59° Lo: 47°
Feels Like: 50°
Angola
Cloudy
54° wxIcon
Hi: 55° Lo: 46°
Feels Like: 54°
Huntington
Partly Cloudy
50° wxIcon
Hi: 57° Lo: 47°
Feels Like: 50°
Decatur
Mostly Cloudy
50° wxIcon
Hi: 57° Lo: 47°
Feels Like: 50°
Van Wert
Partly Cloudy
53° wxIcon
Hi: 59° Lo: 47°
Feels Like: 53°
Sunshine and warmer air return to round out the work week, but the warm-up is brief.
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events