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Reputation Porn – Don't Be Afraid to Bare It All

His best friend’s wife likes to flirt with Sean. His best friend seems to enjoy her flirting….

My day, like so many others, begins in the dark, quietly donning a pair of frumpy sweats, untied sneakers, and a baseball cap to cover what’s left of my hair. With a gentle kiss on my wife’s lips and rub on the dog’s belly – I’m careful not to confuse the two – I begin the journey to locate my keys, cell phone and wallet on my way out the door and to the car. Once rolling, I say a morning prayer and turn on the radio, (confession: sometimes I forget the prayer). Before my hands are warmed, I decide whether to continue traveling south, towards the gym, or angle west, and begin mapping the dialog in my mind as to why I decided to go to work instead of repping a few air squats at the gym.

On this day, San Diego’s ESPN channel was full of static, so I tuned to an NPR interview with Rachel Botsman; she was promoting her book What's Mine Is Yours: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption. It was early, and I was still sleepy, but at least one prominent point cut through the fog long enough to pique my interest.  Somewhere in between the stoplights and a regular visit to 7-11 to get my morning protein bar, I pressed the voice recorder and mumbled, “What’s Mine is Yours,” naturally figuring that the forwarded voice clip would lead to an Internet search and the topic of this article, which I will eventually get around to sharing.

His best friend’s wife likes to flirt with Sean. His best friend seems to enjoy her flirting. And now he wants Sean to take her out on a date. What is Sean supposed to do with that?

In a hasty effort to find the single nugget from which this article was intended, I mistakenly Googled the work of an author featuring rather erotic imagery…on a city computer. With just a tad bit more research, it become apparent that Max Sebastian’s, “What's Mine Is Yours (A Wife-Sharing Romance),” while similar in title, has an entirely different spin on organized sharing, bartering, trading, and swapping than, Rachel’s thoughts on how an emerging economy is evolving through a stream of online social networks. Duh.

Ms. Botsman’s perspective on the sharing of commodities as a means to alter consumerism may be interesting, but it was a single comment that she made that really got me thinking: imagine if our personal reputations became the basis for our credit score. Imagine if our ability to earn trust became the source of our success. Imagine if our core values, our support of others, work ethic, or even our willingness to pick-up litter in the street could somehow be translated into something of significance.

Reputation Capital is a relatively fresh phrase used to describe forms of non-cash accounting of a company’s respect within the marketplace. Some form of incremental scale is commonly used as an online source to evaluate everything from the hotels, healthcare, movies to the local plumber. Why should they not be used to determine certain aspects of our professional fate?

The definition of integrity is a measure of what you do when no one is looking. That tired answer is little more than window dressing used by a recruit candidate whose taken the latest How to get paid as a professional firefighter test taking course. Imagine instead, if during an interview process, when you ask an applicant to define integrity in the fire service, they simply point to a prominently placed label pin fashioned from a string of stars. Ranging from 1 to 5, these symbols could represent a balance of a candidate’s heart, work ethic, diversity, intelligence, investment and aptitude in some package representing their likely success as a coworker and public servant.

Unrealistic? Perhaps…for a recruit, but try extending this mindset to a notion of “promotability.” Before you baulk at the idea, consider that after any trip, a passenger is encouraged to rate an Uber driver based on his or her on-time reliability, customer service, safety, and trustworthiness. The results are then compiled and reported through a portal of transparency for all to see. So, why shouldn’t an officer candidate be able to pull a diamond club card from their pocket to demonstrate their ability to do the same?

While many of the intangibles may difficult to measure, I’d like to see a career app designed that would date and time stamp an employee’s ability to adhere to an agency’s adopted core values. I’d like to see an app that demonstrated an employee’s ability to give a little more, care a little more, and listen a little more. In fact, I’d like to see a 360-degree app that a colleague, patient, or citizen could enter comments in real time that, once scrubbed for context and spontaneous rants, could somehow be converted into a rating available for all to view. We do it for pot holes and graffiti…why not people?

Imagine how we would all behave if we knew that everyone had such an app, and that after every selfish act, snipe, or complaint someone may disappear around a corner, pull out their phone and capture the moment. Of course this app would also be used to document the positives. In fact, there is no doubt that the spirit of how our firefighters’ behavior would flood the database. How cool would that be? A 5-Star rating could then be proudly shared with an oral board, or when determining pay step increases, or maybe even during contract negotiations.

Sound crazy? Maybe, but I’d like to think that if we combined Rachel Botsman’s theory that one day our reputations may serve as credit, with Max Sebastian’s encouragement to bare it all, such an app may eventually exist – perhaps we could call it Reputation Porn and the tagline could be Why Not Bare It All?

Until that day happens, maybe we should all act as though there was such devise. Maybe that is a better definition of integrity:  “We commit to acting as though every person has unrestricted access to a 5-Star opinion, available to all willing to Google the results.”

Just a thought.

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