Trend Watch: Rate the Rater

Word-of-mouth can determine whether businesses thrive and die! When people share their good (or not-so-good) stories, an organizations’ reputation quickly spreads. While word-of-mouth still occurs over cups of coffee and through our friends and associates, it has also become a huge on-line business. Organizations like Yelp, Amazon ratings, Angie’s List or are all common ways that we research products, businesses or people. As a result, they are also a modern use the word-of-mouth phenomenon.

However, on-line sources and ratings are still susceptible to misuse. Can you recall the last time you read a rating that sounded rehearsed or was the only five star review amidst a slew of one star ratings? Conversely, businesses have also used this system to attack competitors with negative ratings as an unethical way of eliminating competition. Since many organizations live and die by these ratings, an entire industry of fake ratings or ratings-for-pay has emerged.

While this challenge will never be fully eliminated, there is a recent trend which provides hope. The solution is simple – rate-the-rater! In traditional rating systems, you buy a product from Amazon. After the transaction is complete you are given the opportunity to rate-the-seller! In a rate-the-rater system, the business also gets to rate you, the purchaser!

This is not new and has already been used effectively with some organizations. For example, our AirBnB Coachella guests rated us after their stay in our home (a five star rating system). However, as hosts we were also given the opportunity to rate these same AirBnB guests. Uber uses a similar system and drivers are able to rate their customers. This allows other drivers to determine the quality of their potential fare. In turn, this helps balance a system that, historically, has favored the purchaser!

A rate-the-rater system creates accountability as we can no longer offer scathing reviews without some level of consequence. It is a unique application of The Golden Rule – treating others as you want to be treated. When rating becomes a two-way process, an amazing change occurs in what you say. While I will still leave a negative review, my language changes when I know that the company will potentially also be reviewing me. This limits my rants or inflammatory language.

This change also reminds us that privacy is something that no longer exists (see The Death of Privacy). It also teaches us that our on-line ratings are one more thing that we must manage in our on-line lives. Potential employers are already reviewing our Facebook, Instagram and other social media pages to assess our character. I expect that your on-line rating will be yet another aspect of this within the next five years.

As usual, this trend has both upsides and downsides. However, no matter what your personal views are, this shift will occur. So I encourage you to begin managing your on-line ratings like this trend has already happened. Because it has! Rate-the-rater is here to stay!

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Jeff Suderman is a futurist, consultant, and professor who works in the field of organizational development. He partners with clients to improve culture, leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and organizational future-readiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Twitter: @jlsuderman Email:

A Disney Dilemma – Fingerprinting at the Happiest Place On Earth

My teenage son recently joined me on a business trip to Florida. Our location afforded us the opportunity to spend a day at Epcot Center, a Disney theme park in Orlando. After purchasing our tickets and self-scanning them to enter the park (read The Move to Self-Service for more details on this trend), a smiling staff member instructed me to place my thumb on a sensor so it could be scanned. After two seconds, the light turned green and I entered the park.

It was at this point that I turned around in amazement and stared at line-ups of hundreds of people who Disney Scannerwere being scanned as they entered the park. It was a beautiful process – very efficient and simple. In fact, Mickey Mouse’s ears even turn green when your scan is complete! However, the great customer service didn’t quell the uncomfortable thought that was bouncing around my mind;

Do I want the Disney Corporation to own my bio-metric data?

You need to understand that I live under the assumption that privacy is dead (see The Death of Privacy). This means that I assume my Disney data will be hacked and/or shared at some point in my life. I am equally confident that organizations like Disney are doing their best to safeguard it from those who wish to steal it. However, I’m a realist. I’ve had too many stolen credit cards and received too many apologies about data breaches from Target & Home Depot to believe that my data is truly private.

In fact, my jaded attitude about Disney’s data security may be warranted. Susanne Posel writes that the Disney Corporation provides the US Department of Defense all of its customer data (as a result of the Freedom of Information Act). While I cannot confirm this supposition, it reminds us about the insecurity behind our security.

It must be noted that the death of privacy has both positive and negative aspects. Should a terrorist target a theme park, biometric data may help mitigate the problem. Or it may help track down a lost child or help Disney reduce counterfeit park tickets. However, it can also have a significant down-side.

So if we can’t trust organizations to protect us, this places the onus on us as consumers. How are we exercising our right to choose who gets our data? Are we doing what I did as I entered Epcot Center and mindlessly allowing organizations to collect our personal information? Or are we willing to ask the charming Disney host how we can enter the park without a finger scan?

Privacy is a critical issue which will significantly shape our future. Expect it to continue to grow more complex over time. We are already wary that our Smart TV’s are spying on us. How long until you have to give your fingerprint to use your Visa? In the information age, what do they really need to know? And why are you giving it to them if they don’t?


Head ShotJeff Suderman is a futurist, professor, consultant and pracademic who works in the field of organizational development. He works with clients to improve leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and organizational FutureReadiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Twitter: @jlsuderman. Email:


Photo Credit: Mark Goldhaber

The Death of Privacy: Life in a Post-Private World

Imagine if privacy was dead. You know, like absolutely nothing was private. As I see it, we don’t really have to imagine it.  Here is newsworthy support of this premise from the past few weeks:

Ray Rice Abuse | Facebook Messenger Tracking | The Snowden WikiLeaks | Jennifer Lawrence Photos

To further prove the point, each of these stories are archived for our viewing for…well, presumably forever! Privacy is dead. We just don’t live and act like it yet.

As a futurist, I work to identify trends which could significantly change our lives and our organizations. About four years ago I first saw the term “Death of Privacy” on a  trend-map. The concept resonated deeply with me, not because I liked it, but because it seemed to be true. As time progresses, I see this trend continuing to grow in significance and impact.

As a reader, you may be asking, “So What!?” Here are five implications of the death of privacy in our personal and organizational lives.

1. The rise of going dark. Traditionally, going dark refers to unplugging from our electronic addictions. In the future going dark will be a means for us to engage in life without fear of being tracked. How will your workplace change if people believe that they are only free off-the-grid?

2. ‘Free’ will become increasingly costly. We live in a time of free apps and software. However, we are learning that ‘nothing-free-is-free’ as these programs monitor our habits and sell our data. As a result, watch for a movement of people being willing to pay (perhaps pay a premium), for products and services that provide assurances of privacy.

3. Privacy and secrecy will become synonyms. A Google search provides us with robust information about most people we want to know more about. In an open information society, those who become adept at keeping their lives private will be viewed with suspicion.

4. A new multiple personality disorder. Have you ever joked about that person on Facebook that has a life that is too good to be true? We can create on-line identities which are different than our real selves. As we adapt to a lack of privacy, we will spend increasing amounts of time curating our on-line personas. As a result, expect there to be confusion between Avatar-Joe and Real-Life-Joe.

5. Insert your insight here.  I invite you to add your own ideas in the comment box below!

At this point, it is tempting to rant about living a life without a modicum of privacy. However, I prefer to focus on things that I can change and I know I cannot change the diminishing nature of privacy. Instead, thoughtful readers will identify what they can do. For example, why don’t we require job applicants to submit their social profiles instead of sneaking around their backs and looking at their Facebook pages. We could proactively teach staff how to create healthy digital profiles which would benefit both themselves and their organization. Or we could educate our children about integrity so they understand that having separate private lives and public lives is a myth.

Privacy is dead. However, life after privacy is not.

Thanks to the following author for his thoughtful insights about the death of privacy which influenced this article.

Preston, A. (August 2, 2014). The death of privacy. The Guardian/The Observer. Retrieved from