Corporate Theft

A lot of companies worry incessantly that somebody will steal customer information and sell it to the competition. This is such a concern at many companies in Japan, that organizations will expend an incredible amount of effort to make it appear impossible, even if it directly affects their employee's ability to do their jobs. What's unfortunate is that, for many organizations, customer data is practically worthless. Instead of focusing on protecting names and addresses, companies should be protecting something far more valuable: their people.

Despite working with a great deal of information every day, there is simply no tangible value to any of it. If someone were to approach me with a DVD full of customer information from a competitor, I wouldn't even know what to do with it, let alone how to profit from such knowledge. Would it make sense to target these people with advertisements? Would it make sense to reveal the data leak to a newspaper to tarnish the competitor's name? Would it make sense to compare customers to see what sorts of patterns can be gleaned in order to better quantify this organizations USP1 when creating marketing materials? All of these things make sense on a small scale, but don't equate to long-term viability.

No. If I were to steal anything from my employer it would be the people I work with. Every company has its mix if great and decent people. Taking many of the greats with you to start a new company would have a much greater chance at long-term profitability, and one could incentivize the people who followed you with greater rewards than a large organization might consider. I've worked with dozens of organizations over the years as an employee or in a consulting role, and seen this time and again. Yes, it's important to protect customer data, but it's just as important — if not moreso — to protect your workforce. The hardest-working people are often dedicated not to the company, but to their colleagues. Take enough colleagues, and they're bound to follow, too.

Of course, this is an over-simplistic view of a complex situation, but it's one that many organizations fail to realize until it's too late.


  1. Unique Selling Point