Monday, April 23, 2012

Hit Pause to Avoid Leading the Bandwagon

I just read on Forbes online (Abram Brown - Mexican Bribery Scandal Could Cost Wal-Mart $4.5 Billion; Shares Down 4%, April 23 ) that the WalMart bribery scandal could cost the mega-store $4.5 billion dollars. My initial reaction was, if bribery was used, 'heads will roll' for anyone who allowed those short-sited decisions! Then, I thought perhaps I need to gather more information: So, to put $4.5 billion into the possible perspective of Walmart, according to 2011 financial report -
  • Consolidated net sales for the full year were $443.9 billion, an increase of 5.9 percent.
  • Consolidated operating income for the full year was $26.6 billion, up 4.0 percent from last year.
  • Walmart ended the year with free cash flow of $10.7 billion
Looking at Walmart's financial information makes my initial reaction to the potential loss change from "heads will roll' to maybe a "slap on the wrist." My first reaction to the Walmart story is only one example that points to a cultural shift caused by information now being so quickly accessible and feedback possibilities immediate. It has been a long-recognized human behavioral trait, that if a person speaks or writes (even stronger once it is written) a position, they will tend to defend that initial stance even when subsequent facts dispute it. Once a person makes a stand, it is harder for them to move from it.

Social media and online news have created an almost atomic catalyst for community response. This power should give us cause for concern. While information is just a click away, the formation of an appropriate response should require a broader look than the first twitter notice read and a deeper examination then a count of multiple 'shares' from a Facebook post. The newly created desire to be the first-in-the-know (e.g. - the commercial catch phrase "that is so 29 seconds ago") has allowed an opening for us to be manipulated and  has put the term 'bandwagon' into 21st century technology hyper speed.

Any  online call to action that requires act now, think later should probably be held suspect. As our societal culture evolves with high tech mass communication, it may behoove each of us to utilize our internal pause button long enough to do a little research on a subject...particularly during an election season.