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Marty Linsky

Marty Linsky

Co-founder of the leadership-focused consulting firm, Cambridge Leadership Associates, Marty Linsky teaches at the Harvard Kennedy School, co-authors the advice column, Leadership House Call and blogs at Linsky on Leadership .

Transparency Is Overrated

Transparency is not a moral issue. Or at least it is vastly overrated as a high moral value. It is a value-free tool to be employed when useful in the service of purpose, ideally noble purpose.

Apple is a case in point. Secrecy and paranoia seem to have served the company, its customers, and its shareholders well over the years. Saying that, Steve Jobs ought to know better than almost anyone that we are living in a time when control of information is increasingly a false dream. What worked for Apple before may not be such a good strategy going forward, tactically speaking.

If there were any question about how important transparency is, or how unimportant when compared to what is really important like world peace and health care reform, just watch the Obama Administration, which has sacrificed transparency in favor of the more noble goal of addressing tough issues every time the two have come into conflict. See the Guantanamo Bay "enhanced interrogation" pictures flap.

To take another example, there is little evidence that open-meeting laws have enhanced the quality of legislative deliberation or the willingness of legislators to deal with hard questions, but there is no doubt that those laws have helped lobbyists peddle their clients' interests.

By Marty Linsky

 |  June 23, 2009; 1:52 PM ET
Category:  CEOs Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Please report offensive comments below.

Apple's approach is certainly far preferable to Microsoft's.

Microsoft announces far in advance and ships late with missing features. Their partners and customers make plans around these announcements, and they all suffer when Microsoft fails to deliver as promised.

Apple refuses to acknowledge the existence of a product until they can sell it to you. This makes for a much healthier relationship with customers because they know exactly what they are getting and when they are getting it.

Posted by: frantaylor | June 25, 2009 11:30 AM
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"just watch the Obama Administration, which has sacrificed transparency in favor of the more noble goal ... "

and thusly renege on their campaign promises.

Posted by: mcoghlan | June 25, 2009 10:23 AM
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