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Seeing Blue

​In 1858, British scholar and statesman William Gladstone decided that the Greek poet Homer was color-blind. He came to this conclusion by counting the number of times Homer mentioned various colors in his work. Gladstone discovered that, as a group, ancient Greek writers categorized colors by whether they were light or dark rather than by a specific shade. There were numerous words signifying black and white and a few mentions of the colors red and green, but nothing was described as blue. Gladstone surmised that blue is not mentioned because the Greeks could not see it.

This analysis proved simplistic. In 1969, a study by Brent Berlin and Paul Kay found that specific terms for many colors, including brown, purple, orange and grey, will not emerge until a language has separate terms for green and blue.

The radio program and podcast Radio Lab explored this phenomenon in its “Colors” episode, and noted that the color conundrum goes deeper still. In many cultures around the world, green and blue are the same color. In studying one of these cultures, the Tarahumara tribe of Mexico, researchers found that English speakers distinguish blue from green more distinctly than the Tarahumara. In linguistic terms, humans perceive the color blue more vividly if they have a name for it. 

For security, the move from cost center to strategic partner is like seeing the color blue. Once security leaders embraced a lexicon to describe management practices, the principles became obvious in the workplace. Now, security professionals are expected to be management experts.

This installment of “60 Years: 60 Milestones” focuses on the professionalization of the security industry and the incorporation of management skills into the field.

One of the first indications of this professionalism was when security moved from “gates and guards” to a business function that contributes to the corporate bottom line. Security does this in a variety of ways, from loss prevention programs that protect against theft to the customer service techniques explored in this month’s cover story.

Another milestone was the establishment of security as an academic discipline. Where security degrees were once limited to criminal justice subjects, they now cover a wide range of issues. 

As security became an official field of study, industry experts began using metrics to define security. Similarly, critical information was provided by industry research, from the first Hallcrest report in 1985 to joint studies conducted by ASIS and the Institute of Finance and Management.

This professionalism and academic achievement led to the development of the chief security officer (CSO) term. In April, Ted Schlein wrote in Forbes that the CSO is the “corporate rock-star of the future.” Over the past decade, professionals in the security industry have been working hard to ensure that they live up to the expectation inherent in the title.