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New research offers guidance for businesses on engaging with digital technology responsibly

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Guidance for businesses on how to engage with digital technology responsibly has been published by Henley Business School, in response to concerns over the unintended consequences of the digital revolution.

The research involved extended interviews with senior managers across a wide range of sectors, including banking, real estate, pharmaceuticals, telecommunications and entertainment. It sets out guiding principles to help organisations ensure that they are responsible actors in the digital economy.

Managers present a positive view of digital technology in the workplace, recognising the potential for efficiency, cost saving and increased profits – but outside of the office they are also aware of societal problems created by technology. These include risks to jobs relating to artificial intelligence (AI), risks to privacy from data capture and use, concerns about work–home imbalance caused by communications technologies, and implications for well-being from social media use.

Managers also described technology as being ‘beyond their control’ and identified barriers to responsible business use, such as pressure from key performance indicators (KPIs), fragmentation of organisational responsibility, and fatigue over new technological initiatives.

Henley’s research, carried out by Dr Georgiana Grigore and Professor Mike Molesworth, suggests ways to overcome those barriers, including:

  • Clearly defining those who are best placed to deal with organisational responsibilities relating to digital technologies
  • Allowing time for reflection on the impact of the adoption of digital technology
  • Considering the impact of KPIs and whether they should be designed to ensure responsible use of digital technology

The research also recommends principles that businesses should adopt as responsible actors in the digital economy:

  • Respond to new areas of responsibility by acknowledging societal risks and vulnerabilities
  • Establish ways in which the organisation can be more responsible, such as ensuring there are specific staff who are able to develop policy relating to digital technology use
  • Take action to reduce the negative impact of digital technology on internal or external stakeholders
  • Learn about negative impacts of technology from stakeholders and in turn educate stakeholders about these impacts and how they can be mitigated or avoided.

Dr Georgiana Grigore, Associate Professor of Marketing at Henley Business School, said:

“The negative unintended consequences of technology use are now routinely reported in the media. We wanted to understand how managers experience technology and in doing so find ways to ensure organisations are both better aware of these new responsibilities, and able develop approaches to deal with them.”

The research was funded by a British Academy/Leverhulme grant.

Published 9 October 2019
Henley news

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