Carl Palmer – Creativity in the Security Industry

Carl Palmer, Exec Chairman at CIS Security

In his latest blog for Carl Palmer, Exec Chairman at CIS Security asks: “Have you left room for creativity in your security business? There is an increasing need for laterally thinking creative talent in every aspect of the security industry:

“It goes without saying that the security industry is a very different place, even from what it was 10 years ago. Everyone thinks about security now, and they think about it with regard to many more areas of their lives than they used to. Criminals and terrorists are more inventive than ever, operating with a high degree of expertise in a plethora of specialisms of IT and the digital world. Manipulating social media, for example, to herd unsuspecting potential victims into all kinds of dangerous traps in cyberspace as well as in the real world.

“With so many more of our assets being accessible in ‘virtual’ space, risk priorities have shifted. Digital, PR and GDPR risks are gaining an increasing share of voice and time. What kind of talent seeds should we be sewing and nurturing in an industry with such vast potential and such constantly moving goalposts?

“Of course research, training and development in the areas of cybersecurity are needed, and we need a strong leadership approach from the Police and the private security industry if we are to stay on top in the cyber intelligence race. But this is just one area where we need to show an ability to adapt and be creative.

“Creativity is essential for example, for those who need to think on their feet on the front line, exercising diplomacy in sensitive situations, determining what calming tactics to use or indeed escalating with tact and measured urgency.

“One area that is challenging in terms of the apprehension of thieves is retail security. Gone are the days of tackling a suspected thief to the ground and being hailed a hero. You are more likely to be putting yourself and at risk of serious and expensive litigation (and for good reason, as people do make mistakes) – Officers need to be creative and strategic in loss management. We all know about the importance of ASCONE (Approach, Selection, Concealment, Observation, Non-Payment, Exit) for the correct pinpointing of theft in a retail space. In practice, this is no mean feat to execute.

“Timing, position and manner of approach, all become critical for the Officer who must play the situation like a game of chess. Apprehending persistent thieves can be a ‘long game’, as so-called ‘professional thieves’ creatively exploit the law with impressive tenacity, in some instances, evading apprehension time after time. It has become essential that security teams collaborate with their near neighbours and wider community networks, working together to identify re-offenders. This means meticulously recording details, sharing identification imagery and creating plans of action. They can then act quickly and decisively when an opportunity arises, reducing the potential for losses or injuries.

“GDPR law changes have been a game changer for CCTV operators. This kind of ‘technical’ security role now requires creative skills to ensure new laws are complied to. For example, there may be a requirement to blur the faces of innocent passers-by before handing over evidence to Police. This can take a lot of time and lateral thinking to automate and expedite the editing of recorded media in a timely way so that a conviction opportunity is not missed. Developing new technologies, such as recording equipment and processes, which support peacekeeping objectives while also protecting intellectual property, requires creativity and time to innovate.

“Security recruits were traditionally drawn from military or Police, workplaces that weren’t exactly celebrated for encouraging creativity in individuals, (although I’m pretty sure it’s fairly high on their strategic agendas these days!). As a result, it is safe to say, our industry has some catching up to do when it comes to embedding creative problem solving as part of the normal day to day working approach.

“Being creative and trying new things requires confidence and this is nurtured in a different way. In recent years we have steadily been increasing our investment in the fostering of creativity among our workforce. Creativity in the way we recruit, train, communicate with and engage and motivate our talent.

“In terms of recruitment, creativity sometimes means taking ‘the roads less travelled by’ to uncover new seams of talent from previously unexplored areas. Intellectual diversity in a workplace environment stimulates new thoughts and ideas and opens people minds to trying out new ways of doing things.

“Regularly engaging staff in new and interesting ways, tapping into their ‘non-work related’ talents and passions fuels this openness even more. When you look at your staff and their skills and talents, you are just seeing the tip of the iceberg I’m sure.

“For the security business and the front line Officer, there is a need to creatively engage the clients, end users and to capture the imagination of the public. Telling and spreading the stories of our good work and successes – to broadcast our pride and strength of purpose, as well as to continually test and improve how we deliver our services.

“Historically, security officers may have blended in, now it’s all about standing out, being noticed, approaching and greeting with stimulating conversation and outstanding customer service. We are amplifying an Officer’s visibility as a professional and highly skilled Force for Good.

“Our ‘think tanks’ are one of my favourite company activities. It always amazes me the ideas that come out of them. Some may be wacky but thought-provoking and may not see the light of day (at least in this decade), and others are little business seeds on the verge of germination which just need the right people supporting the idea and putting their hearts and minds behind it to make it a success.

“Some people may think creativity is some sort of a talent that people are born with or not, and this is simply not the case. It is a skill like any other which, when practiced and stimulated, gets even better. That means you can’t just put a bunch of people in a room and hope they come out with millions of ideas. Like everything, there is a right and a wrong way to creatively brainstorm.

“There are numerous agencies which specialise in brainstorm facilitation if you haven’t got this resource within your business. Good creative business exercises are what lead to those golden nugget ideas. These ideas may have the potential to re-direct the evolution of the security business for the better and therefore, we have a responsibility to explore them as industry leaders.”