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Transparency for all?

November 28, 2006

Chris Anderson appears to be searching for his next “Long Tail” with his most recent blog post on the interesting area of transparency.

As Chris suggests, the Internet has broken down walls and inverted hierarchies to a point. Influx believes it’s given disproportionate advantage to smaller and newer players and consequently made it tougher for the big guys to play.

Smaller companies can humanize themselves faster. The founders are alive, the vision comes from them and to some extent they are accountable.These smaller operations thrive on the vision and energy of the founders that’s contagious to employees and consumers.

These are the guys having fun in this new 2.0 world.

Look at this little outdoor clothing company- Nau. They have a blog, they share their vision and they seek stories from others.

As their website suggests a different type of corporate vision.

“We believe in the power of the collective, and we seek to turn that power towards the goal of positive change, in a variety of forms. Basically, we like to learn. And nothing furthers learning more than listening. So we’d like to listen to the people whose opinions we respect-like yours. We’re pretty sure there are a lot more folks like us out there-concerned, inquisitive people, looking for engaging, challenging and potentially transformative dialogue.

Sound like you? We thought so.”

It’s the behemoths; the big oil tankers of the corporate world, where any small change is like climbing Everest. Their success has come on the back of old rules and paradigms that are almost impossible to shake; transparency was not part of that game.

Accountability is hidden behind systems, PR people and committees; transparency is lost behind something called “The Corporation”.

This was the subject of the documentary, The Corporation.

A principal premise of the movie was…

“To more precisely assess the “personality” of the corporate “person,” a checklist is employed, using actual diagnostic criteria of the World Health Organization and the DSM-IV, the standard diagnostic tool of psychiatrists and psychologists. The operational principles of the corporation give it a highly anti-social “personality”: It is self-interested, inherently amoral, callous and deceitful; it breaches social and legal standards to get its way; it does not suffer from guilt, yet it can mimic the human qualities of empathy, caring and altruism.”

So the small guys get it and are thriving on transparency, but the big guys have it tougher, so what can they do?

They can start opening themselves up to small changes and let themselves experiment.

Many of these experiments will fail, but some may stick and from these companies will learn and gain more confidence.

Who would have thought a year ago that…

CBS would be happily playing and sharing its content on YouTube

Ford would be sharing a relal time documentary about its turnaround

The secret to all this is what happens to the learning and experience?

To really work, learning has to be disseminated across throughout the organization.

Ultimately, big companies will discover that transparency has its benefits and will start to alter systems and structures to enable it.

However, don’t expect everything about the corporation to be transparent, corporations are ultimately selfish beasts, they will only open up the stuff that they believe will bring them the greatest benefits.

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