Samsung Electronics has made headlines with the announcement that they are killing their troubled Galaxy Note 7 smartphone. The New York Times calls this a “major setback” for the world’s largest maker of smartphones.
The company has been struggling to address reports that the phone could overheat and catch fire. Last month, it said it would recall 2.5 million phones to fix the problem. But users complained that the repaired phones were overheating, smoking, and even bursting into flames. Last Monday, the company asked Note 7 customers to power off the phones while it worked to fix the problem.
Now the company says it has made a “final decision” to stop production. Samsung will no longer manufacture or market the phones. It has already lost $17 billion in market value and could lose $10 billion more.
An editorial in South Korea’s largest newspaper said, “You cannot really calculate the loss of consumer trust in money.” And that’s my point today.
There’s an old leadership principle I recommend: give the story nowhere to go. When there’s bad news, tell the news. It’s better for people to hear it from you than about you. The sooner you deal definitively with the issue, the better.
Samsung’s delayed and perpetuated response to the Note 7 problem made things worse than they would have been if the company had ended production and sales when the problem emerged. Perhaps they needed to follow the path they chose for technical or financial reasons, but the public relations damage was much worse than if they could have responded with definitive action immediately. Reputational damage grows exponentially. Once trust is lost, it’s very difficult to regain.
There’s a lesson in this for Christians. Our lives have never been as public as they are today. Social media has put us all in fishbowls. Whatever we say or do, someone will capture it and likely broadcast it to the world. When we make the inevitable mistakes that come with living as fallen people in a fallen world, our private sins can become public overnight.
When that happens, the best thing for us to do is to give the story nowhere to go. Admit your failure to yourself, to the Lord, and then to everyone affected by it. It is hard to confess our sins to each other, but such honesty is therapeutic. When we fail each other is when we most need each other. Scripture is clear: “Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed” (James 5:16).
The phone you keep in your pocket may not catch fire, but the sin you hide in your soul will.