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Called to account

Optimize Blog - June 3, 2010 - 0 comments

Here at Zeitgeist we’re currently following the interesting legal action being taken by one Lauren Rosenburg against none other than Google – the giant internet search engine.  Why?  Because Ms Rosenburg was hit by a car……
So you might rightly be asking “How can this lady sue an internet search engine for being struck by a motorist?”  The corporate didn’t own the car nor indeed was any employee of Google driving the car.  In fact as far as we know there wasn’t anyone from Google even in the same state at the time.
It’s all about Google Maps and specifically their walking directions…..
Apparently Ms Rosenburg used Google Maps via her Blackberry to get directions between 96 Daly Street, Park City, Utah and 1710 Prospector Avenue, Park City, Utah. Google provided these, telling her as part of the route to walk for about 1/2 mile along the calm-sounding “Deer Valley Drive.”
The reality of course is that Deer Valley drive is actually part of Utah State Route 224 –  a highway which is devoid of sidewalks and usually frequented by a significant volume of vehicles travelling at high speed.  Ms Rosenburg’s legal case cites Google’s careless, reckless, and negligent providing of unsafe directions which directly caused her to walk onto a dangerous highway, where she was subsequently struck by a motor vehicle apparently driven by Mr. Patrick Harwood – co-defendant in the case.
Google will no doubt point to the warning on their maps which reads “Use caution – This route may be missing sidewalks or pedestrian paths”.  Certainly it seems embarrassing for Google to be routing people onto busy highways but then again, Google is not alone.  Bing does the same thing in its directions, which also contain a warning.
When looking at Ms Rosenburg’s request for direction’s it is clear that from the geography that there isn’t really a suitable route and therefore the direction’s are likely to be a ‘best guess’.  It maybe that the case will depend on the court’s interpretation of getting directions in general.  If the local shop or gas station petrol pump attendant provides wrong directions are they potential legal case defendants?  If you get asked for directions anytime soon, make sure you have a good lawyer handy……
Ultimately though there is a clear lesson for us here on accountability – something commonly missing in business life where too often people look for any reason to deflect from accountability for their actions or performance.  Ms Rosenburg walked onto a busy highway with fast moving vehicles and no sidewalk.  Is it not reasonable then for her to be accountable for her own safety regardless of directions from her Blackberry? 
Have you ever heard an employee say, “I just do what I’m told”? It’s not uncommon for some people to operate in this sort of vacuum, performing tasks without knowing why or how their efforts affect the bottom line.   As management consultants we are frequently asked “How do I make my people more accountable?”  This is not surprising as it is estimated that a lack of systemic accountability costs Corporate America tens of billions of dollars a year in terms of re-work, return of defective products, inefficiency, workplace conflicts and misunderstandings.
Accountability starts with the leader.  Creating greater accountability on its basic level involves a clear definition of employee and organizational goals and the tasks that each and every member is responsible for to achieve them.
We’ll see if the legal system decides to hold Ms Rosenburg accountable……

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