True Transparency Is About More Than Spilling the Beans

Blog by Katherine V. Smith, Executive Director of the Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship
Jan 25, 2011 2:15 PM ET

Director's Blog by Katherine V. Smith

Today’s media often characterize our networked information age as the age of transparency. Transparency can be a euphemism for lack of control over information and the public narrative about our business or ourselves. More ideally, it can be a mindful business strategy for approaching decisions and actions with the intention of communicating proactively and honestly about what is being done and why.

This requires us to address directly issues that may present conflicting interests and values. That’s not easy, especially in an environment made ever more complex by increased scrutiny of ever greater numbers of people – people who may either stay at the surface of an issue or suddenly and in vast numbers dive deep into one of its dimensions.

As I read a recent story about how financial institutions are bracing for a potential new wave of information leaks, two thoughts occurred to me:

  1. Being leaky is not the same as being transparent.

  2. As a society we are in the midst of an information technology revolution that is moving so fast  we have not yet caught up to understand its potential impacts.

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