Is transparency doomed?

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A lot of eminent people bang on about the value of transparency in business, as if total transparency were a virtue. However, when it comes to teamwork and within the context of that work, a team cannot function effectively without an appropriate level of transparency.

These thoughts popped into my head as I was researching the appropriateness of Agile working for big business. Crudely stated, this involves creating small teams of people with mixed roles and who have enough knowledge and experience between them to achieve their given tasks without needing to deal with a management hierarchy, either internal or external to the team. Typically, they will include a customer or customer proxy, to help ensure that what they’ll deliver matches the customer’s needs and expectations.

As you probably know I train people on how to get the most out of their interactions with others, typically in business but much of it applies outside of work. One of our giveaways is the Discover Yourself questionnaire that reveals the component parts of a person’s personality. The assessment contains a small five-bar chart which (to those in the know) reveals much about the individual as a person.

Returning to the transparency theme, I wondered if there would be a value in people sporting their ‘personality’ charts on their name badges when attending meetings or gatherings with strangers. Their ‘at-a-glance’ profile would be visible from a distance and it would help others shape their approach, should they choose to make one. Assuming the idea caught on, it struck me as a fine way to harmonise encounters from the off.

I shared the idea with some friends and colleagues and, while some were very enthusiastic, others advised caution. For a start, some people wouldn’t want to do the (free) questionnaire because of fear that we would misuse or sell their personal data. (That led me to write a comprehensive and hopefully reassuring Privacy Policy.) If people didn’t want to get their profile charts, then my idea would bite the dust. Then, and this is sad, I started to think that anyone could create a bar chart so they could fake their own profile. Were this to happen, then the entire exercise would be pointless. And, while I was writing this, I thought that in a public gathering – at a post-Covid exhibition for example – wouldn’t the profile tell sales people how to shape their pitches?

Maybe the idea has legs in trusted communities – like in early get-togethers for the Agile teams mentioned earlier. Obviously any badge holder would need to understand what the bars are likely to mean in interaction terms. But, given that as a baseline, is it an idea worth pursuing, or a headache in the making?