Posted by: Nancy | May 28, 2009

Transparency

When businesses talk about “transparency,” for the most part, it’s been in the limited context of financial reporting. But not for long.

With the open culture driven by social media, transparency is demanded: it is a component of your reputation, measured by your authenticity.

And it’s an uncomfortable spot for most traditionally minded businesses.

The examples of missteps are everywhere — one great source is The Naked Corporation, by Don Tapscott, which compiles examples and describes the damage to corporate reputation:

  • Diebold insisted its voting machines were hacker proof until a professor showed how it could be done on a You Tube video
  • Corporate memos from Eli Lilly, Enron, etc., showed company practices that didn’t match the company’s words.
  • Lies and misdeeds can’t stay hidden; and the longer they are, the worse it is for the offending company’s reputation.

As always, some companies are willing to step up to the challenge and are responding with openness and actively engaging customers, stakeholders and employees.

I’ve talked before about firms that openly share their plans and perspectives, in blogs and webcasts, as well as companies that seek input.  Southwest Airlines does a good job of engaging its customers and employees to weigh in on pending decisions; Sun Microsystems (an early open systems advocate) encourages open dialog in interactive blogs, from the CEO on down.

But my new favorite may be Air New Zealand, taking the concept of the naked corporation with nothing to hide to new heights. Enjoy!

Additional resources on transparency: I love Kevin Kelly’s recent Wired article on the New Socialism;  while at Wired also check out an early report on Tapscott’s book.  And it’s worth watching what’s up at the Sunlight Foundation.

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