Transparency = 1990's Snake Oil

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CAUTION: This is kind of a worthless rant!

I just went to Amazon.com and ran a search on the subject of transparency and I got 111, 327 books on the subject -- let alone DVDs, a few VHS options, and several hundred MP3's to download. (For reference sake, there's only 1,347 books on the topic of "homeland security"...)

SUMMARY: Stop believing that being "transparent" is by itself a virtue! I know that it's a sexy topic. I know! It's just NOT all that you think it is... Seriously.

So what is this idea of transparency? And why is it such a cult? And how did this even get on The DEW View radar screen?

I was reading through Jeffrey Gitomer's new book on TRUST (it's the teal one, if you buy into his color stuff). I generally am engaged by the quirky information sharing in a typical Gitomer book (big quotes and changing font sizes intermingled with cartoons and other "goodies"). As I got about 2/3 of the way through the book, I ran into the passage aimed at sales dudes (like me) talking about a particular weakness with appearing genuine to the customer.

To build trust, Gitomer listed his 7.5 ways to be more "real" -- and here is where I ran into an issue. Reason number 6 or 7 (I forget now) was "Fake it Until You Make It". In other words, if you aren't genuine then you should pretend like you are until you actually are genuine. WHAT? Really? Is that how it works?

Sounds a like a huge insult to me... Fake it -- instead of just working on it? I shut the book on basis of principle and haven't read the rest of it yet (I'm considering getting back into it) and then began to think more about this idea of trust and transparency...

The idea of "transparency" became a sexy subject in the late 90's after the bubble blew. Parallel to our own Madoff scandals, investors screamed for more insight (more transparency) into how they lost money. No one wanted to know what was going on while the returns were there, but after the collapse, in a faux sense of "getting to the bottom of the matter", business gurus started talking about the need for transparency -- which doesn't entirely make sense.

The idea behind transparency is that it's supposed to make me trust you more. It's like your own little credibility machine. But that doesn't really add up if you think it through. Does your "transparency" cause me to trust you more? Do I really want to know everything?

Here is my transparency: I PROBABLY DON'T EVEN TRUST YOU TO START WITH!

Did you want me to be transparent about that? Do you trust me more, because I shared that with you (holding nothing back).

My bro asked me today if I trusted something that was told to me about my old business which caused me to think about the fact that my strategy all along the way had been to verify rather than trust. WHY? Because I don't trust them to start with.

I may shake my head at you and pretend that "it's all good", but I don't trust you most of the time. Now before you jump all over me at that last statement let me note that I do trust a few people (most are in my immediate family) but that probably isn't you!

And that's OK!

I don't need to trust you for us to get along. Words are words -- I want results. I won't ask you anything you need to lie to me about and you won't need to lie to me. That helps both of us out. And, do you really want to know about my personal life and what goes on inside my head?

You don't! And if you do want to know, why is that? It's probably not healthy...

Can I make a suggestion? Let's change the debate from being "transparent" to a simpler concept: BE HONEST!

  • Don't intentionally mislead people to get your way...
  • Make ever effort to follow-up on the promises that you have made...
  • Stop f*cking people over on purpose because you think it's cute...

That's all! Be honest.

P.S. Don't tell me that old argument that if you don't trust other people it's because you aren't "trustworthy". I subscribe to the "BE HONEST" Model of business, but I don't buy the "TRANSPARENCY" Model.