Radical transparency: open beats closed

What’s your personal communication style? When, what and how do you share?

In today’s radically transparent, digitally-enabled world you need to get used to openness. It beats closed.

Since the industrial revolution, hierarchical management structures in various shapes and sizes have prevailed. Relatively few people, mostly males, made the decisions that counted.

Now, however, there is a strong case for radical transparency.

Our world is the way it is today because the founders of the Internet, perople such as Tim Berners-Lee and Vinton Cerf, understood that an open system of networked computers was better than a closed one, that there is wisdom in crowds; that the sum is greater than than the parts: 1 + 1 = 3.

In this environment customer strategy guru Don Peters makes the case for what he calls “extreme trust”.

Honesty, Don says, should be a competitive advantage.

He predicts that rising levels of transparency will require companies to protect the interest of their customers and employees proactively, even when it costs money in the short term.

He claims the importance of “trustability” will transform every industry.

“Success won’t come from top-down rules and processes, but from bottom-up solutions on the part of employees and customers themselves,” Don says.

I recommend that you find the time to devote a few minutes to Don’s “trustability” quiz.

Companies such as the software research firm Qualtrics make all employee performance data available to everyone in the company, in the belief such openness removes distractions and unwarranted fears.

The entire workforce has access to a host of information about the performance and practice of each employee.

Qualtrics says the results is superior focus, engagement and talent development.

Finally, check out leadership consultant Susan Scott’s excellent Ted Talk from 2011, in which she makes the case for radically-transparent leadership.

Susan’s mantra is “always tell the truth, even when it hurts; especially when it hurts”.

Here are several good quotes:

  • “What gets talked about in an organisation and how it gets talked about determines what will happen.
  • “If a problem exists, it exists whether we cop to it or not.
  • “Businesses’ worst ‘best practice’ is legislated optimism, the purview of the one-way leader, where communication is primarily one way and the reverse is not valued or welcomed.
  • “The alternative is radical transparency.
  • “It’s not lonely at the top. If it is, that tells us a lot more about the CEOs making that statement than anything else. The answers are in the room.
  • “We can handle the truth
  • “Leadership is not a title, its a behaviour.
  • “You are the culture. Everytime we show up we are modelling courage or cowardice.”

Start getting into shape. If you are going to be naked in our radically-transparent, high-trust digital age, you’d better look good.

8 years ago