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Strategic transparency in Business

Rob at BusinessPundit is waxing philosophical about increasing the transparency with which he makes day-to-day business decisions and long-term strategy calls, drawing an analogy to the Open Source movement in software…

I think a similar movement in business where people are very open about their ideas and how their businesses work would be valuable. It would help consumers and foster increased innovation. There has been a movement over the last couple of years to make companies naked corporations, which is an idea along these same lines.

The problem is that no one really wants to give away their secrets. As regular readers here know, I don’t give a lot of specific details about the investments I’m pursuing or involved in and what my day to day responsibilities are. I’m no different from all those other corporate executives out there who want to know what everyone else is doing, but don’t want anyone to know what they themselves are up to. I want to change my mind. I want to encourage open sourced business discussion, but I honestly wonder how well I can compete in a world where my competitors have that much information. On the flip side, maybe I would get more good advice as well.

It’s an interesting balance. Microsoft has been moving towards a more transparent way of doing business, allowing their employees to talk with startling openness about the work they do. (To wit, check out the blog maintained by Chris Pratley, a high-level program manager that works on the Redmond giant’s Office team, as well as the excellent “Channel 9.” And don’t get me started on Scoble!) I think that this level of openness really endears a company to its customers, and (in the case of Microsoft) is an effective counter-attack to the growing fear/hatred/mistrust directed at the company.

Should you be this open in your small business? I don’t know. There are pros and cons– on one hand, there’s the benefit of a closer relationship with customers and networking benefits, but on the other hand, you’re tipping your hand to your competitors. To paraphrase Harry S. Truman, what this world needs is a good one-handed blogger. :)

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