Oscar Berg on transparency

Oscar Berg, Senior Management Consultant at Acando in Sweden, will be holding a presentation at this year’s Enterprsie 2.0 SUMMIT. He is going to talk about transparency and the challenges that come along with it for the organization.

1.) Oscar, could you please give us three tags that describe what to expect from your talk?

SocialBI, Innovation, AmbientAwareness

2.) Your main thesis is that transparency is the key to Enterprise 2.0. Why do you think so and what is the explanation for it?

Transparency is very much about finding out what we don’t know we don’t know. Among many things, the open and multi-directional communication that social software enables fosters efficiency as employees can get access to information they might need to make (the right) decisions. It fosters innovation as ideas can be shared and find their ways to the people who can bring them to the market.
I will explain this in more detail in my keynote at the conference, but I think my tags above might provide some clues.

3.) What do you think about the following: “Transparency is something that emerges by the usage of social software tools but cannot be forced or created.”

Transparency is about making our decisions and actions visible to others. It is about sharing information. It is about knowing who provided a certain piece of information. It is about accountability and recognition. It is about credibility. It is about increasing our trust in the information that is shared, and the people who shared it. It is about bringing people and their ideas together.
Even though social software is designed for transparency, it does not create transparency in an organization by itself. Transparency comes when people start to use social software to share information, because transparency is what they will get by default. By default, everybody can access the information that is shared since openness is the default in social software. Restricting access to it requires an active decision and action from someone.

4.) Does transparency tear down the classical managerial approach?

If by “classical managerial approach” you mean the command-and-control style of management where information is kept secret unless it’s needed to command someone, then I would say: Yes. Management will need to accept and adapt to the fact that information disseminates much faster in networks than hierarchies and that setting the information free is mandatory to enable this in a business context. However, the trend with increased openness and transparency within organizations is just one of the things forcing management to innovate itself.

5.) Besides the cultural changes that come along with transparency – which other effects do you see for the corporation?

There are always risks that need to be managed when increasing transparency, relating to such things as privacy and security. Some people might experience the feeling of information overload (until they have created and/or tuned their filters). These risks can be managed, and they will need to be managed – the potential value that might come from increased transparency is simply greater than the potential costs. The greatest risks most organizations face are related to lack of transparency; bad decision-making, rework and waste, inability to innovate, low productivity, disengaged employees, failure to understand and satisfy the needs and expectations of customers. These are things that might put them out of business.

6.) So if everything is transparent in the end, how does the enterprise gain competitive advantages in markets which are classically based on information asymmetry?

Everything won’t ever be transparent, but everything that should be transparent should be so. We must all become better at judging which information could be shared and which shouldn’t. Systems that restrict or even prevent us from sharing make us act without thinking. Many people have become used to these rigid systems and when they switch from these to more freeform tools, they might use the freeform tools to share information without thinking – because they’re used to not thinking. With email, that happens every day already. Even though there are more complex security and privacy concerns related to email than to most social software, hardly anyone ever questions the value of email today.
At the same time, we are deceiving ourselves if we think that having unique access to certain pieces of information is what will create competitive advantages. Today, and even more so tomorrow, real competitive advantage is created by talented people who are able to find relevant information and turn it into actionable knowledge and create value together. The challenge is to find, attract and retain these people and create an environment where this talent can be used to its full extent. Transparency is mandatory in such an environment.

7.) What are your expectations for the upcoming Enterprise 2.0 SUMMIT?

I hope to have a positive, concrete discussion and exchange of experiences with other practitioners.