How pulling back the curtain makes us better
Our expectation of companies has shifted in a relatively short period of time. Today, we demand a level of transparency that decades before would have been unheard of. We expect to have the curtain pulled back and to see the inner workings. And we expect organizations to communicate with us more frequently – openly and honestly.
The cautionary tale
The rapid expansion of the digital channels created the catalyst for this monumental shift. Today, we demand transparency from all organizations. Perhaps the most vivid demonstration of this is WikiLeaks. The site has shed light on everything from the questionable dealings of major corporations to wrongdoings in our government.
Even though wide-spread use of the internet has been around for more than two decades, WikiLeaks shows us that we’re still grappling with putting transparency in to practice.
There are a couple factors that have driven this rise in the demand for transparency. First, the accessibility of information has exploded. The digital channels have opened up an unprecedented range of sources for us. Furthermore, any of us can become one of those sources as we report on the success and failings of an organization across the social channels.
Second, the speed of information has contributed to the change. Our interconnectedness has accelerated information gathering. What use to take investigative reporters months to piece together can now be revealed with a Google search or two. There is simply nowhere to hide. This environment has raised our expectations for openness and sharing among the companies that we engage with. Transparency is not a ‘nice-to-have’. Today it is the price to play.
The good news
In the old days, it took a leader with incredible fortitude to endure the possible repercussions of adopting transparency as a way of operating. He or she would surely get pressure from the board. And although transparency offers many benefits, it also can make an organization more vulnerable to criticism from everyone from consumers to activists. On top of all that, it has the potential to expose a company's strategy, proprietary information, and more to all competition. It’s no surprise it wasn’t readily adopted.
Today, there is little choice. Organizations must become more transparent because of the access to and acceleration of information.
So you’re probably asking, “This is good news?” In a word, yes. The decision to adopt transparency has largely been taken out of our hands, We must become transparent. There is no need to agonize over the decision. There is less work in having to convince directors. There is a sense of relief that comes from knowing that we don’t have to wrestle with the decision. We have to be transparent. Of course, it’s not all unicorns and rainbows. For example, our competition may now have a view into our organization that they didn’t have before. That puts an increased demand on our need to innovate to stay competitive. But that should be viewed as a healthy thing. While it may cause some short-term discomfort, it is a winning habit for any organization in the long run.
Ultimately, the new expectation of transparency causes us to be better. We can’t be lazy (because everyone’s watching.) And we can’t sweep the mistakes under the rug. We have to own up to our missteps. But look at the entity that we’re describing. Look at the qualities we’re calling out. Honesty, diligence, forthrightness, innovation, and more. Doesn’t that sound like someone you’d like to be friends with? Or someone you’d like to work with?
Doesn’t that sound like something we’d all like to strive for?
Dan Salva is a co-founder of Will & Grail, with more than three decades of experience in brand marketing and developing and implementing go-to-market strategies. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.