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Are you Scared of Transparency? The Premise and the Promise.

In 2020 there were lots of scary things going on in the world, and perhaps more “transparency” is already on your radar screen as one of them. But should it be? As 2021 progresses let’s hope that most of last year’s truly scary issues subside. I have a feeling, however, that “transparency” as a concept, even a movement, will not be going away, it's going to become a bigger part of our lives. So, what exactly does that mean? And should we be concerned?


The Premise: Simply put, the more digital our world becomes, the more data is produced, information is captured and may be made available to anyone, anywhere, and at any time. Transparency is created. This is the premise of digital transformation: that we can all be more informed, better informed, better prepared, more efficient in our work and play when we have more information and that because digital transformation

enables all this information to be available and used effectively, we should look at it as “progress” and a “good thing”. Depending on your age, this premise may seem obvious, digital natives take it for granted that data is constantly exchanged. On the other hand, my 83-year-old mother would surely respond “well, what if I don’t want to share or have more information? It seems so complicated!”

The Promise: The promise of transparency is that the data we share will be used to improve our experiences. This isn’t a new thought, right? “Buyer beware” is an ancient Latin phrase – caveat emptor and may be the original plea for more transparency in shopping! In just the last week in the US, there have been recalls of dog food, mis-labeled soups containing egg product and - that major American food group known as - “hot pockets”. I single out food recalls because it is such an immediately clear that there are benefits of transparency. Product recalls have been a part of the food supply chain for as long as packaged food has been sold. But apply the premise of digital transformation with its speed, reach and accuracy and transparency in the food supply chain becomes a real force for good.

As the proverb says, “promises made, promises kept”. For consumers and transparency, that means among other things a measurable improvement in the access to information that we value having, a measurable improvement in personalized experiences, and a measurable improvement in how simple and easy technology makes our lives. It's important to set these expectations up front so that we all know how high the stakes are in creating this transparency capability.

I don’t count myself as “scared” but rather hopeful that this promise will be delivered. It seems that many and even most people are hopeful that this promise will be kept. The recently published Edelman Trust Survey indicates that Business is viewed as more trustworthy than Government or the Media to act ethically on societal issues. Business leaders will surely recognize how fundamental trust is to forming relationships with their customers and consumers. For the transparency movement to earn the title of “a force for good” this is another promise which we will need to have delivered.

So, the next time you are enjoying the benefits of a digital experience - perhaps a website that recognizes your history, or access to food information you can't find on the package - take a a moment to note that transparency can have a very positive impact.