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Transparency is the best form of business

August 24, 2010

For those of us who navigate daily minefields of corridor politics, the important thing to remember is that transparency in business should always be your first and foremost pillar of strength in the digital age.
Along with 9 million others, we’ve all seen the ‘United Breaks Guitars’ fiasco where United Airlines was stood up to the tune of a $180 million loss of share value by a band who wrote a song about the airline’s refusal to pay for a broken guitar (even though they witnessed ground crew damaging it).
There’s numerous examples out there of companies doing the wrong thing by hiding the real truth – then getting hammered when the real truth is exposed by everyday individuals. We’ve all seen and heard them and I won’t parade a list out for you. We see the media attacking politicians on a daily basis for the same reason, particularly around election time.
Conversely, popular fruit drink Ribena dobbed themselves in when Choice magazine noticed that after 55 years of claiming their product had ‘4 times more Vitamin C than Oranges’, that it was actually not much more than sugar and water. The move was damaging – but allowed Ribena to get on the front foot and deal with the situation honestly and up front.
Importantly, doing business for ourselves –for our own career, that is, requires just as much transparency in a time of social media where user generated content (UGC) is king. Comment below if you’ve never fluffed up your resume a bit to get that gig you’re after…I doubt I’ll see any comments!
I was reading about Skype executive Madhu Yarlagadda, who after only one month on the job, resigned due to overwhelming and unanimous negative commentary from his former colleagues. The forum, of course was the very article on which his appointment and background was announced, with dozens of comments being posted almost immediately by former colleagues and employees. It went on for weeks. TechCrunch’s editor even acknowledged in a later post that this level of unanimous negativity about an individual was ‘unprecedented’. To make the situation worse, Yarlagadda then reached out to friends to counteract the negative comments, only to have this posted onto the article:
“Like many others, I received an email from Madhu yesterday pleading for me to write a positive testimony of his work on this website. I never liked him and am surprised he didn’t pick that up in our interactions. Maybe he just emailed everyone he still knows at Yahoo! I can’t say we had many negative interactions together but his reputation as a politicker was well known and so I stayed far away from him.”
If nothing else, the ‘glocal’ world gone mad has simply made it easier to see the shortcomings of companies and individuals. If you don’t already listen to the clichés (be nice to people on your way up as you’ll meet them all on the way back down), the lesson here is that your former colleagues and associates now have much more visibility of what you’re doing and there are a number of forums and ways in which they are able to administer justice and perhaps even a bit of spite. Think of it as nature’s way of using technology to keep us all honest.
So play nice, and remember that if it’s not Facebook or Twitter, there’s always some other forum out there where you could get caught out.
Deliriant Isti Romani – These Romans are mad!

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