Radical Transparency

Wired did a feature a few months back on radical transparency; the concept of making a company open and interactive versus closed and proprietary. The examples given were, themselves, quite interesting. In particular, Microsoft’s “Channel 9” was a fascinating look at the struggle between the usual corporate cultural imperative of keeping internal projects, processes and politics secret and someone’s idea of being open and accessible to their customers. While the idea of opening up the inside story of Microsoft’s development process seemed heretical at first, the reaction of the wider developer community was so overwhelmingly positive that Microsoft eventually embraced the approach.

I found the example fascinating. We have faced similar debates within our organization, where the desire to share ideas and information, methods and models is always in tension with the need to protect intellectual property and privacy. The suggestion that we should put some repository of our knowledge out in the open for all to see strikes some as, well, a very bad idea.

But the success and dynamism of open technologies and approaches is based on wide exposure to both a broad active user base and an even broader, passive base of readership. People feel more comfortable with individuals and organizations they can read up on, which means that you have three options: you can have them find what you’ve written about yourself and among yourselves (a very human conversation); you can have them read what others have written about you (whatever that may be); or, worse still, you can have them unable to find much at all about you (you don’t exist if you can’t be googled!).

I recently heard the question asked, what is the difference between ‘scouting’ and ‘shift and share’, and I was struck by the fact that we didn’t have the answer to that question documented somewhere…or maybe we do! Who knows? The fact is, the most useful and consistently used ‘documentation’ of what we do exists – you guessed it – wide out in the open on the internet, at MGTaylor’s site. Sometimes, you can keep your IP so secret and private…that not even you know about it.

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