posted 3 Sep 2007 in Volume 11 Issue 1
The Gurteen perspective
Open and transparent?
By David Gurteen
When considering knowledge sharing or creating a more collaborative culture, we often talk about the need for people to be open and for more transparency. These two concepts are usually used interchangeably and often without too much thought as to what they really mean.
For a long time, in my mind, I have made a clear distinction between the two. Recently though, I was interviewed about knowledge sharing and the interviewer asked me what the difference was, as she thought they meant the same thing. I gave her what I felt was a simple answer at the time, but thought I’d try to articulate a more detailed view of the differences, as I see them, here.
To my mind, to be effective as a knowledge worker you need to network – to share more; to work more collaboratively; and, to work in a way that facilitates continuous informal learning. Two of the major complementary behaviours that underpin this are the need to be ‘open’ and ‘transparent’.
If you are open-minded, not closed, you are open to new ideas, to new thoughts, to new people and to new ways of working. When you come across new things you are curious and eager to explore them. You are non-judgmental and you look to engage other people in conversation – not so much in debate, but more in dialogue.
You deliberately go out of your way to discover new things. You are an explorer!
You ask for criticism from people – not praise. You are not afraid when people challenge your ideas – in fact you welcome it. This is how you learn. You are willing to ‘let things in’. People can ‘come in’. Hence the word ‘open’.
If you are transparent, you work in a way which naturally enables people to see what you are doing. You publish your activity and your ‘work in progress’ as a by-product of the way that you work. You deliberately go out of your way to try to be honest and open about who you are. There is no façade, no pretense – with you, people get what they see.
You speak in your own voice. You are authentic. Others can see clearly who you are, what you are doing and why you are doing it.
You do not try to hide things out of fear of being seen to make a mistake. You actually want your mistakes to be seen. And you want others to point them out to you – that way you get to learn and to get even better at what you do. You make it easy for people to find you and to connect with you. You ‘let things out’. People can ‘see in’. Hence the word ‘transparent’.
Being open and transparent is a state of mind and more about general behaviour than the use of any specific tools. But if you are open, and transparent the more likely you are to blog; to ‘Twitter’; use wikis and other social-networking tools; give talks; publish papers, articles or newsletters; keep your calendar online; have an online presence indicator; and, write regular status reports on your activity and much more besides.
Being open and transparent are not the only traits of an effective knowledge worker, but I do believe they are two of the core behaviours. So do you think openness and transparency are important? If so, just how open and transparent are you and what might you do to improve?
David Gurteen is the founder of the Gurteen Knowledge Community. He can be contacted at www.gurteen.com.