I saved this wired article by Clive Thompson earlier this year about corporate transparency. It explains what "transparency" means in this web 2.0 world we are living in ranging from the CEO of Red Fin's utilization of transparency to shake things up in the residential real estate market to how some "venture capitalists now demand that CEOs be fluent in blogspeak." I doubt they demand it, though it is worth noting that I did have to explain what a blog was to some of my VCs not so long ago. (And I'm definitely not going to be transparent about that one!)
Thompson writes this about Glen Kelman, Red Fin CEO:
Like some crazed convert, he trumpeted his epiphany: "I honestly believe that if Redfin were stripped absolutely bare for all the world to see, naked and humiliated in the sunlight, more people would do business with us." Follow me, he urged.
All I thought was, wow. That's bold. I like this guy already. I am a very aggressive competitor, and I love going to toe-to-toe with whomever, but sometimes it's the marketplace that needs to be hit over the head. Playing nice (or traditionally) just doesn't work sometimes. Take now for instance, I am spending an inordinate amount of time with powerpoint assisted "water-is-wet-and-the-sky-is-blue" pitches like there is no tomorrow. Changing the status quo is not easy and perhaps "transparency" is a key ingredient for paradigm shifting in high growth markets.
Stealth, Secrecy? Enter Steve Jobs.
Steve Jobs practices the exact opposite of transparency - maybe we could call it paranoid stealthaphrania. To say steve fixed Apple and then some is an understatement. I think we can all agree that for a 1.0 the iPhone is pretty fucking cool. And it was all a secret. Yes, I know he is a CEO rockstar with bottomless pockets and arguably the world's strongest brand - but aside from that lame cube the products coming out of Apple are extraordinary.
So, yes, stealth works. And you don't have to be a rock star in my opinion to reap the benefits.
FeedBurner founder/CEO Dick Costolo talks about why stealth is dead, and transparency is good and he makes some good points, but I am still leaning Jobsian. Make his blog "ask the wizard" a must -read. So, since leaving the CEO post at Attensa in April I've been in stealth and getting ready to write about it. Not sure how I'll go about my blogging yet. But there will be a little bit of RSS in there somewhere! ; )