You Can Run, But You Can't Hide

There has been a decent amount of writing in business
literature, since the advent of the Internet, describing how the historical
asymmetries of information between buyer and selling are eroding (my personal favourites include writing by Rayport and Sviokla). With the
growing level of connectivity of people, systems and information sources you
can usually find information about a person, company, product, etc. within a
couple hours of focused investigation.

This changes the old balance of power in a buyer-seller
relationship because historically the seller knew more about the inputs,
prices, product quality and competitors than the buyer. The seller used that
asymmetry to their advantage in the past by negotiating terms more favourable
to them.

Now, buyers often know more about the universe of available
substitutes and their relative merits than the organization that is doing the
selling. For organization's that have been operating a long time, adapting to
this tectonic shift takes a significant effort. Market insurgents who have been
conceived within the last 10-12 years are more likely to be comfortable with
the new level of transparency and it appears (anecdotally at least), are using
this strength to great effect.

We think that a similar change has taken place within organizations. Where traditional
hierarchies were often managed based on "choke points" of information, there is
little to no value in keeping most corporate information from your own people.
Yes, there are cases where access to information should be protected for
people's privacy, etc. But when it comes to information about your
organization, the faster you get used to managing in a transparent fashion the
faster your organization will gain velocity.

This represents a non-trivial change for many organizations
whether they have been around a while or not. Monomaniacal leaders who are
often required to found organizations, and who set the early tone for
enterprises, often aren't crazy about the level of constant communication and
transparency that is required in this era to be effective.

My advice? Suck it up. There are things that a person can
change in this world (or at least make a dent in), and there are things beyond
your control. I would suggest this one falls squarely into the second category.
This horse isn't going back in the barn.

If you as a business leader aren't capable of being more
transparent, then you'd better find someone in your organization that can be, to
cover-off your shortcomings. There are a whole host of downstream implications
of being more transparent within your organization, which I'll address in
future posts, but the most important thing you can do is to begin the journey.

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