• Learning to 'leak strategically' - Recommended reading on Transparency

    Over the last several months, I have been working on a project on how to create a transparency strategy for your organization.  The report is due to be published in a few weeks’ time.  The report explores the pressures that are forcing companies and governments to become more transparent – whether they want to be or not – and examines the benefits of sharing more information in eight different areas, ranging from personnel data to product plans to customer data.  It also shows how developing an effective transparency strategy can help your organization overcome some of the barriers to information sharing – both inside and outside your firm.

    There’s been a lot written on the transparency recently – some useful, some not – so I thought it would be useful to share a few of the articles and books that I’ve found most useful. 

    Transparency has been in the news for several reasons.  There’s been increasing demands from governments and the general public for financial institutions to be more transparent about their investments and particularly the amount and quality of their reserves.  The collapse of Lehman Brothers and, more recently, MF Global are just two examples of where greater transparency could have prevented overly-risky investment strategies.  Governments are under pressure to be more transparent with regards to policy-making, procurement, and operations.  In response, the Obama Administration and Prime Minister Cameron have both pledged to make much more government data and information available online.  And governments are finding it harder and harder to keep secrets.  The recent Wikileaks case, where more than 250,000 confidential US State Department cables were leaked, is just the most highly-publicized example of where technology is imposing transparency upon governments.  Businesses, including even Swiss banks, are finding their confidential documents on Wikileaks and similar sites as well.

    You could call such cases imposed transparency – governments and businesses are being forced to be more transparent whether they want to or not.  Perhaps even more important is voluntary transparency, where organizations are deciding to share more of the information and data that they used to consider internal and confidential.  Companies that know how to leverage transparency – to practice 'strategic leaking' – are gaining big advantages over their competitors in a wide variety of ways:  better publicity; deeper customer loyalty and trust; more satisfied and motivated employees; stronger links to vendors, contractors, and partners; improved recruiting; and better relations with investors.

    As a professor, I’m used to providing reading lists.  Unlike the syllabi I give my students, the following list isn’t required reading, but it is certainlyrecommended reading – if you want your organization to understand and leverage the growing power of transparency. 

    And, of course, I recommend you read Conceal or Reveal?  Transparency Strategies for Business Advantage.  A related slide deck can be found here.

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    Recommended reading

    If you only have time to read one article
    The Leaky Corporation, The Economist
    magazine, 24 February 2011 http://www.economist.com/node/18226961

    About Executive Transparency
    Often transparency starts at the top, when CEOs and the Board decide it’s time to be more open and honest about what’s happening inside the firewall.

    The Naked Corporation: How the Age of Transparency Will Revolutionize Business http://www.nakedcorporation.com/about.html by Don Tapscott and David Ticoll, which was published in 2003, was one of the first books to explore how companies and government agencies have benefitted from ‘opening the kimono’.  Tapscott and his colleagues are in the middle of a major project to update and expand their earlier work on transparency.

    Get Naked and Rule the World, http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/15.04/ – a provocative cover story in Wired magazine published in 2007, which looked at the power of executive transparency, particularly CEO blogs.

    About Transparency and Social Media
    The growing use of social media, particularly by low-level and mid-level employees, is a major driver of corporate transparency.

    Open Leadership:How Social Technology Can Transform How You Lead http://www.charleneli.com/open-leadership/  by Charlene Li, one of the today’s leading gurus of transparency.

    About Transparency, Public Relations, and Marketing
    Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies
    http://www.forrester.com/groundswell/book.html by Josh Bernoff and Charlene Li

    Radically Transparent—Monitoring and Managing Reputations Online http://www.radicallytransparent.com/ by Andy Beal and Judy Strauss is an excellent, practical guide to using social media and online customer complaint sites to influence how customers, employees and investors perceive your company.

    About Transparency and Government
    WikiLeaks and the Age of Transparency http://www.orbooks.com/our-books/wikileaks/ by Micah L Sifry, the co-founder of the Personal Democracy Forum.  An excellent overview of how technology is forcing governments to become more transparent – and how governments are responding to the new rules of transparency.

    Global mapping of technology for transparency and accountability (available for free at http://globalvoicesonline.org/2011/05/22/technology-for-transparency-final-report/) by Renata Avila, et al is a publication of the Transparency and Accountability Initiative and provides detailed case studies from around the world demonstrating how non-governmental organizations are using information and communications technologies, particularly the Internet, SMS, and mapping tools, to monitor governments, fight corruption, and document voter fraud.

    About Personal Transparency
    Public Parts:  How Sharing in the Digital Age Improves the Way We Work and Live
    , http://www.buzzmachine.com/publicparts/ This brand-new – and controversial – book by Jeff Jarvis, a well-known digital pundit, describes how he decided to practice radical transparency at a personal level and the many benefits he’s gained by doing so.

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