Given lots of The Circle’s inventions are based on real technology, it isn’t surprising that they feel realistic. The real focus of the book explores what happens when this type of technology is promoted by a growing, global and culturally driven company with endless resource such as The Circle.
A company driven by the insatiable need to record data and a belief in complete transparency – even when using the bathroom – is inevitably going to lead to chaos. The central character’s slogans, “Privacy is theft”, “Secrets are lies” and “Sharing is caring” are very clear bad omens. While this does make the book predictable in parts, I think that it should instead be seen as a warning of what can happen when one organisation has access to too much data and enforces its practices on everyone.
As for what a business can learn from the book? Company culture is key, very influential and incredibly fragile. A theme central to the storyline is that by conforming to The Circle’s ideals and immersing yourself completely is absolutely imperative to success. Some employees even live on site, integrating The Circle into their personal life. They pride themselves on being as “Circley” as possible and a lack of involvement can even lead to a black mark on your personnel file.
A strong and domineering company culture defines how The Circle’s employees behave. The need to collect data leads the central character to invade the lives of her loved ones without their consent. We see the effect of company culture on behaviour in many real life examples too. At companies like Metro Bank, employees are judged on customer service, not sales. In other parts of the banking industry however, a culture of misleading customers about PPI has led to a national scandal. The current trend around purpose and culture-driven businesses is automatically hailed as a god thing these days.The Circle shows what could happen if it goes too far.