How Transparency Has Changed Us

The Internet has really unleashed a fury of information. We don’t think twice about how to learn a fact, we just Google it. No thought about when to stop at the library or to call your nerdiest friend. But in this age of ubiquitous information, I’m surprised by how few organizations understand the mighty power of transparency. Businesses who would rather stick their heads in the sand than respond to public issues don’t realize that publicly available conversations are happening — joining it is really the only option. Piggybacking off some other blogs I’ve read recently, I’m surprised it’s not obvious to everyone.

Business

Dell learned the hard way with what’s been referred to as ‘Dell Hell’ — a time when their batteries were catching fire and users were trying to get service but Dell was blowing them off. Just before the whole company went up in flames, Dell jumped into the social media foray. But they reacted so well that they lead their industry in social media awareness and interaction. According to a recent interview by Emergence Technologies, the “incident gave them no choice but to jump full force into embracing the social on a large scale.”

Francois goes on to say,

Companies that successfully embrace the social are those, like Dell, that make it part of the fabric or DNA of everything they do — it cannot just be managed as bolt-on programs to existing strategies. It is also interesting to note how companies like Dell and IBM, which have managed to totally transform themselves, were able to do so only after “near death” experiences (and those are my words/observations, not Dell’s). Dell truly rebuilt itself with the customer at the core of everything they do — how they sell, how they market, how they service and support, how they communicate, and how they design new products.

If the customer isn’t at the center of everything a company does, then what is? Companies who focus more on revenue than on filling a market need won’t last. Do you innovate to make money or do you innovate because you want to solve a problem? Richard St. John talks about what happens after people (or businesses) become successful. He says sometimes they forget to endure — they begin to focus how to spend their money and not so much on how to take care of their clients. “Clients didn’t call. ‘Cuz they could see I was no longer serving them, I was only serving myself. So they took their money and their projects to others who would serve them better.”

When businesses forget to put their customers first, it’s almost like the customer has a sixth sense for it. It becomes even more apparent when there are complaints logged on the Web — maybe about how the business has failed them or how the product doesn’t do what it said it would — and the business doesn’t do anything about it.

Government

Information and the ability to control it has been a tool of power for millennia. In an age when investigative journalism is no longer well-funded, we’re left to the devices of a dichotomy of amateurs and large, mainstream media. We can get our news from ‘fair and balanced’ sources like FoxNews or other neutral sources like NPR.

Our country and its allies are fighting a War on Terror. What is a War on Terror? Is that like a War on Hate? A War on Fear? Sounds like a great, achievable objective. When is it over? When nobody wants to terrorize? When war goes back to army vs. army rather than army vs. ‘freedom fighter’? It’s not going to happen. The only enemies left are underfunded. I’m not siding with the terrorists by any means but by selling citizens on the need to wage war on terror (rather than revenge for 9/11), there is no end in sight.

Salon.com recently wrote about the federal government and Pentagon’s efforts to shut down WikiLeaks.org. WikiLeaks is a site that allows people to anonymously post secret or insider information. While I don’t agree entirely with some of WikiLeaks’ past decisions (such as publishing copyrighted church material), they serve a valuable purpose in an age of information control. According to the article, the New York Times has reported that the Pentagon has added WikiLeaks to its list of enemies. The content exposed on WikiLeaks this week shows that the CIA is working to persuade the public in Europe to continue to support the War on Terror. Glenn Greenfield of Salon.com says, “It is odious — though, of course, completely unsurprising — that the CIA plots ways to manipulate public opinion in foreign countries in order to sustain support for our wars.”

Does the federal government really think it can manipulate opinions without recourse? Probably. But it’s too easy for the truth to get out, whether it’s a site like WikiLeaks or some other means, we live in an age when people don’t put up with being tricked, and they find out all to easily. A great example is from another breaking story: apparently Sean Hannity and Oliver North have a charity they haven’t been completely honest about. These men who are considered socially conservative and take pride in their righteousness are now alleged to have spent charity money on non-charity events. For the sake of social conservatives who truly do have integrity (and for the sake of the donors), I hope these allegations are false. But you can’t fool people anymore.

We are really at the beginning of a new age. The information age may be moving forward with full force but our ability to understand and deal with limitless sources is still immature. I’m optimistic for the future. A free market system and an age of accountability that’s never been possible is coming to fruition. Transparency will expose hypocrisy and bring to light organizations’ true colors. Bring it on.

Harbor Pallet

Harbor Pallet business cardThis is a shameless plug for my father-in-law’s pallet business, Harbor Pallet, in Anaheim, Orange County, California. I’ve been trying to get his search results boosted and after submitting to lots of free sites, was hoping to see a lift. I did notice that a lot of the attributed links on Google are from this blog so linking from the right column seems to have had an affect. I know the site is simple but it costs money to get a good design and HarborPallet.com is merely there for people to contact the company, not for online sales, etc. This cool logo on the business card was something I considered re-doing for the site but again, my friends who design aren’t cheap (who wants cheap friends anyway?).