Perception can be more dangerous than reality

The claim by Julian Assange in Forbes that Wikileaks is targeting major corporates and has a major bank in its sights has already depressed the stock value of one top American bank, though nothing damaging has yet been published. This is only the start of a trend that I’ve been tracking for many years. Social networks are building a world driven by hearsay and illusion. Welcome to the information age.

The potential for spin, FUD, rumour, Chinese whispers and disinformation increases with the growth in human networking. There are structural as well as psychological reasons for this phenomenon. They are covered extensively in my book “Managing the Human Factor in Information Security“.

The damage from speculation is often greater than from the truth. Most of us are still searching for the massive fall-out we were warned to expect from the latest Wikileaks revelations. Whether this is down to raised expectations or good crisis handling remains to be seen. But it’s certainly possible to counter bad publicity with smart crisis management.  

The real learning point is that we must all become better at managing perception, both to convey the right message, and to see through the growing mists of illusion. In particular, we should aim to avoid placing reliance on unconfirmed rumours, and always seek a second opinion when making critical business decisions. Unfortunately, as with many things in the information age, it’s much easier said than done. 

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