But, Really, I Can Explain That Lampshade on My Head

Post in haste; repent at leisure. That might be the moral of our age, when mistakes we make online—or records of our mistakes noted by others online—stick around to haunt us forever.

This bothers plenty of people, including, a bit unexpectedly perhaps, Google’s Eric Schmidt.

During a panel today at New York University, Schmidt expressed concern about how to increase privacy in an increasingly un-private and indelible electronic world. “In America, there’s a sense of fairness that’s culturally true for all of us,” he said. “The lack of a delete button on the Internet is a significant issue. There is a time when erasure is a right thing.”

The ineradicable electronic record didn’t become a widely acknowledged phenomenon until the very end of Peter Drucker’s life, and Drucker did not record his thoughts on the matter directly. But he knew plenty about human flaws, and he too would have surely endorsed allowing us to put our errata behind us in some fashion.

Photo credit: practicalowl
Photo credit: practicalowl

For one thing, Drucker liked to stress that people evolve during their working decades. “People change over such a long time span. They become different persons with different needs, different abilities, different perspectives, and, therefore, with a need to ‘reinvent themselves,’” he wrote. “I quite intentionally use a stronger word than ‘revitalize.’ If you talk of 50 years of working life—and this, I think, is going to be increasingly the norm—you have to reinvent yourself.”

For another, Drucker simply believed we all make mistakes. In fact, as we’ve noted, he counseled against hiring people who haven’t made mistakes. “People given a second chance usually come through,” Drucker wrote in Managing the Nonprofit Organization. “If people try, give them a second chance.” 

How has the phenomenon of people’s permanent online records affected you in your career or your hiring?