01 May 2016

Innovation: Truth in Data Provenance...

For years mathematicians and computer scientists have written about the trustworthiness of data provenance.  Relying on the integrity of data collection, transport and of course the source of data is a real science.  Our modern day zeros and ones span all aspects of our lives and Operational Risk Management (ORM) professionals have encountered the questions surrounding trust and the process of decision making long before the invention of computing machines.

At the root of decision making with integrity the source of data is questioned.  The reliability and history of previous data from the source.  As the data was transported from Point A to Point B was there any possibility that the data was altered, modified or corrupted.  Couriers and the use of a "Hawala" type system have been used by traders and terrorists for hundreds of years.

"Truth in Data Provenance" is the question mark that enables our trust decisions.  This is why modern day cryptography is at the center of so many arguments and debates, when it comes to the topic of trusted information.  Yet hundreds of years ago, long before telecom and ICT was invented, the trustworthiness of data provenance was a vital factor.  The use of transposition ciphers were in use by the ancient Greeks.

So what?  In 2016 what does the truth in data provenance have to do with our business commerce, our transportation, our banking, even our abilities as governments to maintain our defense against attack?

The topic is vast and deep and worth exploration at the top level of human decision-making.  Yes, it is vital that our computing machines have high-assurance data integrity, in order for our global systems to operate day-to-day.  Yet what impact does trusted information have with humans in an environment of work and daily collaboration?  How does truth in data provenance, affect our decision making and the environments we work in?

In a recent report by LRN, the subject of trust in the work environment as a motivator has become more apparent:
Another fascinating result of the study had to do with two squishy-sounding characteristics of a company: character and trust. Companies deemed by employees to have both strong character and inspired trust performed almost four times better, using the metrics mentioned earlier, than those that had other positive cultural attributes, such as collaboration and celebrating others. (This applied to all three types of companies, though, naturally, culture and trust were much more prevalent in the self-governing ones) What’s more, “high trust” organizations were 11 times as likely to be called more innovative than their competitors. Trust, the How Report suggests, is more important than virtually any other characteristic.
How organizations address the trustworthiness of data provenance is still a new frontier in this day and age.  The use of new sensors, sophisticated analysis of "Big Data" by computer algorithms and the pace at which new data is generated by the "Internet of Things" (IOT) makes this a significant area of focus for our current executives and enlightened organizational leadership.

But what does that really mean? How does one measure the absence or presence of something as abstract as trust? The How survey defines it as “a catalyst that enhances performance, binds people together, and shapes the way people relate to each other.” High trust groups encourage risk-taking, which in turn is what is necessary for true innovation to occur. When innovation fails, says Seidman, it’s because companies don’t put enough faith in employees to let them take risks. The industries with the highest amount of trust were “computers/electronics,” followed by “software/Internet.” Coming in last? Government.
At the most fundamental level, the culture you are operating in has all to do with the trust that exists or is absent.  It has all to do with the trustworthiness of data provenance.  Leadership in any organization, must see the relevance between trust and innovation.  Between innovation and risk-taking.  Your future and your culture depends on it.

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