Radical transparency

I am attracted to the idea of radical transparency both for individuals and organisations. The idealist in me believes that more openness speeds up the evolutionary process, even if it can cause considerable initial discomfort. We stay stuck because we hide the things we don't like about our character. We hide them from ourselves let alone other people. Learning to own up to our failings and challenges and dealing with them seems like a good thing.

Certainly if you are an organisation or celebrity in the public eye these days the more open you can afford to be the better. Hiding aspects of yourself or your activities is dangerous and when the shit hits the fan often the best thing you can do is take it on the chin, admit your failings, and move on.

And yet…

There are lots of things that we have to keep hidden - or at least try to. Competitive business information or personal information about people we know like medical records for instance. There is information that we have no right to share without other people's permission. There are things that we know that to tell others would cause pain and distress. How often have you told a white lie to protect someone you care about from information that would harm them?

It is often not possible to know whether being open with something will cause more distress than it will avoid. Is avoiding distress a good thing in the long run? Who gets to decide?

The Internet makes these dilemmas more extreme. The frequency with which we have to decide for or against openness has increased and the seriousness of the consequences of our decision, either way, has become greater. We need to get faster and more effective at collectively working out our societal responses to these challenges and, ironically, the only way we can do that is to be more open about them and better at working out together what to do for the greater good.