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Bubble theory: can nature teach us anything about keeping secrets?

Harwood, I.A., Turnock, S.R. and Ashleigh, M.J. (2011) Bubble theory: can nature teach us anything about keeping secrets? At British Academy of Management Conference (BAM2011), United Kingdom. 13 - 15 Sep 2011. 25 pp.

Record type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)


Breach of confidential information appears commonplace, resulting in potentially significant impacts to individuals, organisations or indeed societies. Research into confidentiality has predominantly been confined to the legal and medical professions, with limited social science coverage, especially at the behavioural level. This article begins by likening a confidential situation to the properties of a soap bubble, eg. elastic expansion or contraction to give a minimal surface area to contain a given volume, fragility, pressure, stress and potential for bursting, thereby leaking the contents into the external environment.

By expanding on this simile, the theoretical developments are explored in two phases. Firstly, we look at how a bubble forms, metaphorically mapping this across to the formation and maintenance of a confidential scenario; and secondly, we consider how a bubble may burst. Here we explore three possible mechanisms where the yield stress of the membrane is exceeded. Embedded value within the information and levels of trust amongst individuals appear to be two key variables. The paper concludes with some purposeful actions that managers might take to manage confidential situations more effectively, including: minimising the number of individuals involved, ongoing screening and training in relation to trust, being aware of value rather than volume of information, and managing the timeliness of confidential situations.

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Published date: September 2011
Venue - Dates: British Academy of Management Conference (BAM2011), United Kingdom, 2011-09-13 - 2011-09-15


Local EPrints ID: 184657
PURE UUID: 6484dfa2-cd2d-4824-802d-979c0d63daec
ORCID for I.A. Harwood: ORCID iD
ORCID for S.R. Turnock: ORCID iD

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Date deposited: 06 May 2011 10:31
Last modified: 18 Jul 2017 11:51

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