The Lesson of the Shiny (Costly) Penny

Emergency managers may have to change their core components to use social media

Late last week Bloomberg BusinessWeek published an article on current discussions about the U.S. production and distribution of the one cent "penny" piece.  The article referenced a 2008 New Yorker article that stated the United States loses 1.4¢ on each penny it produces.  This results in a cost of $1.5 billion to U.S. citizens over the next five year period.  Additional arguments were made that due to inflation and other rising costs, the penny should simply be eliminated.

This however is an example of being distracted by the (pun intended) shiny penny.  To their credit, President Barack Obama's administration has directed that the U.S. Treasury have the flexibility starting in 2013 to change the make up of the penny to produce it more cheaply.  Rather than argue about the philosophical purpose of the most insignificant component of our currency system, a quick and simple solution was eventually identified that ultimately will save time and money.

Emergency managers learning about social media could learn a lot from this lesson.  We often get caught up in complex issues about the use of social media during emergencies and disasters and create weak and artificial objections that in the end are the shiny penny.  They ignore the real issues simply because we are not comfortable with changing the core of how we work and respond.  Change our components and we're still emergency managers, but in the end we may be more efficient, effective, and reliable for our communities.

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