If the System is Too Complicated – Good Decision Makers Lie

I have two friends, Joe and Judy. Joe has been having trouble with his dentures. Since he can’t wear them, it’s difficult to understand what he is saying. The other day, Judy was trying to help Joe make an adjustment to one of his financial accounts. She called the bank’s support line. She explained who she was and that she was authorized to act on Joe’s behalf. The young support staffer told her he needed Joe to give voice authorization. Judy explained the denture situation, but the young man persisted. So Judy put Joe on the phone. After four attempts, the young man was still not convinced it was Joe. Exasperated, Judy asked to speak to a supervisor. After a few minutes, a supervisor came on the line, asked Judy for a few of Joe’s identifiers, and okayed the change.

When Judy told me this story, I asked whether the company was using voice-recognition technology. Judy said she didn’t think so. “Why didn’t you just hang up, find another male to act as Joe, and call back,” I asked. We both laughed at how easy it would have been to game the system. Of course, if you can game the system that easily, what’s the point of having it? Have you been through something like this? I know I have, a number of times.

We are in a struggle right now with trust and technology. We have all become less trusting of those around us because of the nefarious few who attempt to steal our money and identity. At the same time, we have financial institutions implementing security protocols can defy reason in their requirements or are so easily beaten as to be useless. In the midst of all this, we have staffers who focus so much on the rules, that they have lost their sense of reason. The result is countless experiences like the one I described above. I don’t have a solution to all this. I don’t think anyone does. These systems will simply have to evolve over time.

In the meantime, I’ve come to believe that it’s okay to game poorly designed systems; in other words, lie. At the same time, it makes me want to re-think my association with any organization failing to take more care with my personal information. How about you? I’d be interested in your stories.

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