Chief Pessimism Officer
You have to wonder why Facebook was seemingly unprepared for the storm it’s faced in the past few weeks. Why was it not taking steps to mitigate future scandals?
I believe when they get to a certain size, companies need a chief pessimism officer. They don’t need that exact title, they could be ‘chief user advocacy officer,’ 'chief horizon scanner,’ or whatever upbeat way you want to frame it.
Whatever you call them, their sole mission would be to have a full understanding of a company’s operations, its legal risks and public image, and to regularly report about exactly what the potential challenges ahead are. More importantly, their role would be to suggest ways to stop those issues before they become real problems.
A company board traditionally asks tough questions of a CEO and keeps the company in shape. But as we saw with Uber, boards can miss huge future problems as they’re the wrong side of the table – they don’t have day-to-day involvement with a company.
The temptation for a CEO would be to follow the money in any situation, and tune out predictions of trouble ahead. After six months of doom-and-gloom reports from the company’s full-time pessimist, it would be easy to look at the good news of a soaring revenue chart and ignore the pessimist entirely.
But that’s a cultural issue. A company that doesn’t take potential future trouble seriously risks a headache the size of Mark Zuckerberg’s right now. Ain’t no painkiller going to cure that.