Too much secrets

A lot of information and knowledge are available in companies, government departments or other organisations. Many of these are handled with security to avoid that they appear outside of the companies and organisations, but nowadays it’s really difficult to make sure that it not happens. The publishing of more than 250.000 US State Department documents this weekend via WikiLeaks has it impressively demonstrated.

But it’s not just the big issues published by WikiLeaks that cause problems. Employees are loosing smartphones, notebooks etc with sensitive data or leaving employees are taking data with them. You can read this at the Forrester Report. The value of corporate secrets

It doesn’t matter how real secrets appear at the public, but it will harm a company. It can damage the reputation or it simply costs money or market share. The question is how you can avoid it. For sure you can increase your IT budget or improve control of the employees, but it won’t really help. And these activities will probably have influence on the motivation of the employees or do have other negative effects. At least it costs more money and it will be difficult to work with the world behind the firewall.

I think the (first) comment of Carter Gaffney on Andrew McAfee’s article about the above mentioned WikiLeaks affair brought it to the point. He mentiond, that too many information are marked as a secret. You aren’t able to identify a real secret, if anything is a secret. It’s not possible to take care about all of this secrets.

The existing culture is characterized by control and closed communication. That means everything is secret and only some information are given to the outside world. It’s the same for people, companies and organisations. It’s always to protect the information. The need to do it is probably overestimated and it does not work with social media and Enterprise 20 anymore.

We need to change our information culture. It’s probably better that everything is open and to protect the real secrets only, because it’s much easier to protect only some real secrets instead of protecting everything. And there are still other reasons to be more open. More stakeholders can join discussion or adding valuable input for decision. More involvement of the employees will increase motivation, innovation and productivity.

Unethic behaviour of a company is a real problem today, because you can’t be sure that the information about it will be secure behind the firewall. WikiLeaks is planing to publish many documents from an US bank for example. This bank will probably get many problems. Open communication will avoid unethic behavior, because the employees normaly don’t like it and the risk that it will be published outside the firewall is much higher. So open communication will guide to an ethic behavior. The only way to be successfull in the future, because wou won’t be able hiding unethic behavior.

Open communication will bring much more benefits than hiding everything. We need to change from closed communiaction with a little openess to an open communication with some real secrets.

It’s better to start with a top-down approach, if you would like to change a company culture to openess. Top management should be a model for the employees, but it needs to be supported with the right tools.
Social Messaging (micro blogging and sharing) can be a good solution for this approach. The barrier to start is very low. It’s easy to do and not many time is needed writing some short updates, but the impact is high.

We should change our private behavior as well. Other people will learn that it doesn’t hurt to be open and your relationship with other people will be much better.

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Joachim Lindner