Seth Godin posted an interesting blog post back in April called Why You Might Choose to Be in Favor of Transparency. After coming from the National Conference for Media Reform, transparency was an issue at the forefront of my mind. As a member of the media, and from the perspective of the grassroots organizations that were arguing for transparency in the way business is run, the way politics occur, and they way mainstream media is funded etc, it's obvious that for the little people, transparency is vital. Information is empowering, and when the public knows what's going on, they can add their voice to the discussion, make informed decisions, and demand change.
But I've always had a hard time finding an answer to this question: why would big business, the private sector or the government WANT to be transparent? Ethical issues and idealism aside, how does someone who believes in total transparency and accountability convince everyone else to, especially when it might not be convenient for them?
Well, Godin answered that for me with a simple truth: book reviews make book sales go up. Especially in the information age, when information seems to be infinitely available, a product supported by little to no consumer-generated information is not going to make it. I know personally that if I'm buying something online or choosing one product from another, I instantly count out the items with no reviews.
I love his idea of the chicken farmer taking transparency to the extreme to use it to his advantage. The chicken farmer who is trying to legally block anyone from taking pictures or videos of his farm is missing an important detail-- besides the fact that hiding your business like that broadcasts that you have something to hide, you're simply shooting yourself in the foot by not giving customers what they want. Imagine the chicken farmer that put a live online video stream in every chicken coop, like Godin suggests. That farmer would not only make the news, but he'd garner so much support and create so much buzz, he'd be laughing at the first chicken farmer all the way to the bank.
As a business practice, transparency is now inevitable. It's a key mentality for entrepreneurs in any industry. Consumers want information, and the company that provides the most information will win.