Transparency (behavior), as used in science, engineering, business, the humanities and in other social contexts, implies openness, communication, and accountability. Transparency is operating in such a way that it is easy for others to see what actions are performed.
This definition is from Wikipedia. I don’t often quote that source, but in this case, it seems most appropriate! After all, one of the greatest catalyst for the transparency expectations we have today is the internet…social media…and all of the tools that have emerged, i.e. Google, Glassdoor, Glasspockets, and Transparency.org. We are now accustomed to asking and immediately getting information on any topic, person, event, business or government we choose. As my grandson used to say, “Google it Grandma!” He was, and remains confident that anything he wants to know is a search query away. Everything is discoverable.
As social media, apps and search engines have evolved, so has the issue of transparency. We don’t want to just look in the glass box anymore. That was a step forward a few years ago. We saw our banks and financial institutions add lots of glass windows to their buildings after the crash of 2008 in an effort to create a sense of openness to the public’s scrutiny. And we saw offices move to ‘open concept’ seating for leaders and workers in an effort to dispel concerns about what happens behind closed doors. But at that level of transparency…the observation level…participation is blocked and communication can swirl around the glass without penetrating the ‘box’.
Today, we want to break through…to penetrate the glass box. We want to truly see and judge, then comment on and influence the activity within the box. We want to break the glass and participate in activities that we believe impact our lives. More and more, when anything interferes with total transparency in business, government, education…even church…the backlash is real and may be swift. Trust is broken and anger erupts. It feels like disrespect. Our voice has been limited or quieted all together. Our values are threatened. The response these days may be a horrific blow to the glass and spilling out of all the content…ready or not.
It is important for each of us, especially during this time of cultural transition, to pay attention to this phenomenon and understand what it means for our day-to-day behavior and engagement in the community. Every action, every move we make needs to be able to stand the scrutiny of being on display in a glass box! To influence the future, to earn trust in our values, our children and grandchildren require us to be transparent. We must communicate and act in ways that can withstand their inquiry and scrutiny. We must be able to answer their question…explain our choices…clearly and consistent with the values we espouse.
The same is true as we work to attract and keep our business customers, our donors to nonprofits, our cause supporters. We must be open and transparent, disclosing honestly and opening doors to visibility and input.
Transparency is being redefined daily. The glass is getting polished…the doors taken off the hinges…and the cameras are ready! Are you?