Abandon Text!

W. H. Auden once said: "Poems are not finished; they are abandoned." I have been abandoning writing projects for many years, since only the pressure of deadline and high expectations ever got me to finish, or even start, anything of merit. This blog is an attempt to create a more consistent, self-directed writing habit. Hopefully a direction and voice will emerge.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Even more see-through

I wrote yesterday about the current business craze for "transparency," and as folks wrote in their comments I found the need to clarify:
  • Both the Wired articles and some of you did make the point that many processes require secrecy. Industry mavens suggested that Steve Jobs and Apple did such a good job on the iPhone because they didn't seek input from everyone. Kenny pointed out that George Washington insisted on absolute secrecy during the first Constitutional Convention, presumably so the Founding Fathers could stay focused on building a lasting framework for a government and not get bogged down in the political influences of the day. I didn't mean to suggest that every aspect of business or life be made glaringly public. I just think that openness is generally more constructive than secretiveness, and that we could afford to let the pendulum swing the other way for a while.
  • In my own personal work, I found that writing about transparency actually helped me be a little more transparent. That morning I shared a lot more of my current problems with my co-workers, and as a result I got extra help that I needed to deal with an emerging crisis with a customer. All too often, people hide their problems from the very people who can help them. (Ok, ok, I hide my problems from the people who can help me. Some people have no trouble complaining about all their problems to anyone who will listen.)
  • The biggest surprise in greater transparency is how little people actually care to look. I remember in my teenage years when I was angsting about how I looked or acted, and my mom said, "Don't worry; everyone else is too busy worrying about themselves to notice." It was true then, and its still true in business. Nobody has time to ogle your calendar or read your notes. A lot of it is pretty boring. This is one of the great liberating insights of greater self-knowledge: there's an awful lot that you're hiding that you don't need to hide.
  • As Montaigne wrote: "No man is a hero to his own valet." Some things need not be shared, not because their secret or important, but because they are mundane or boring or gross. As Ernest Becker emphasized in The Denial of Death, most of our social taboos revolve around hiding the fact that we are animals, and I see no reason why the notion of radical transparency needs to cross those lines. We don't need webcams in bedrooms or bathrooms.



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