Book Review – The Naked Corporation: How the Age of Transparency Will Revolutionize Business

Estimated reading time: 3 mins

The main thrust of this title is to show us that the technology and the Internet is exposing the shenanigans of corporations more than ever before. Web2.0 and social media technologies allows information to flow almost unimpeded through viral channels, and can stem from valued customers, pissed off employees and corporate terrorists alike. Although it’s aimed at corporate behavior, it applies to small companies and freelancers too. Whatever the size of organization, our customers, colleagues and investors are writing about us.

The recommendation of the book is to run a tight, clean ship, or lose customers!

The web is a ‘wonderful tool’ for consumerism, allowing all consumers to compare product info, product flaws, customer service experiences and consumer satisfaction. Today, we can share our opinions and ideas about products freely, and share our experiences with brands. And it also gives disgruntled employees a platform to air the dirty corporate linen! What’s more, whistleblowers and activists can easily upload embarrassingly sensitive documents and images for all to see, particularly investors and the governance departments of parent companies.

The result can be a disaster for brand reputation and, eventually, serious loss of business or talent from the organization. Who’d want that? And how do organizations avoid it?

The authors of the book advise that organizations institute a strict policy of ‘transparency’ – that is where the company discloses all information (except, perhaps, product information that provides a competitive edge), which the authors believe is a practice that fosters strong business partnerships, increases the morale of its workers, boosts performance and productivity, and (very important in today’s climate) attracts ethically conscious consumers and money-men (investors). This isn’t just a concern of the big firms – it applies to all companies, right down to the one-man/woman-band. Even as a small-time independent, your customers will hear about any dirty tricks you’ve employed (or are thinking of employing!)

The authors, Tapscott and Ticoll, discuss real obstacles to transparency, particularly issues such as intellectual property rights (IPR). They use real examples of the misadventures and intrigue surrounding big-brands such as the restaurant giant McDonalds. If you pick up this book you’ll recognize many of the examples from past and present, and you’ll soon identify the theme of the book that it’s all about ‘sustainability’ through ethical behavior and responsibility – particularly relating to social and environmental matters. The book links these behaviors to business success and financial outcomes; perhaps sometimes done a bit glibly (or conversely, over-engineered), but their points are undeniable nevertheless. The message is: act responsibily, tell people what you’re doing and what you’ve done, and you’ll be OK (probably).

Or perhaps the message is: The Internet will weed out the sheisters.

What I liked about this book is that much of the theory is grounded in scientific/management research from studies over several decades. Although it emphasizes the point that this is a new phenomenon borne from the Internet Generation, it demonstrates the effect of ‘Information Theory’, ‘Knowledge Workers’ and ‘Network Effects’ theories – none of which are younger than 30 years. So the boffins of the mid/later 20th century were right! So if you’ve been a Business Student at any time since flares first came in, then your time wasn’t wasted.

There is one flaw in the argument, but one which the authors fully acknowledge. Just because information flows, it doesn’t mean it is useful, relevant, current or accurate. The bane of the modern professional society is ‘information overload’. Too much information (especially if it conflicts) can be as bad or worse than none at all! So if some critic has written about review about your product, then flood the blogosphere with many more conflicting reviews! :mrgreen:

You can pick up this book for about 20 bucks from Amazon – it’s well worth a read.

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