GLC 2016: Is Radical Transparency a Principle in the Making?

As the GLC progressed last weekend, I noticed a theme running through the sessions I was attending and the keynotes: transparency. Transparency in decision making, transparency in finance, transparency in crisis, transparency with officials, etc.

Our leaders are advocating transparency because it reduces Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt, a.k.a. FUD. Keeping things secret allows for FUD to spread and we all know how our community loves a little drama.

But transparency is also scary. What will your critics do when you hand them all your knowledge? But that is not what you should be scared of. Instead consider what your colleagues are unable to do because they are unaware of your knowledge.

At my day job we have been using the term “working out loud” for some time to describe our commitment to transparency and a quick web search will reveal speakers, books, TED talks, etc. on this topic. In essence “working out loud” is sharing everything you are working on. Now this sharing may not be entirely public, but solo work and knowledge hoarding is quickly becoming a Bad Thing even though it can be a difficult cultural adjustment. Working out loud (WOL) starts with three questions:

  • What am I trying to accomplish?
  • Who can help me?
  • How can I contribute to them to deepen our relationship?

And it requires three commitments from you

  • Trust each other. Your network wants to see to thrive. Let them help you.
  • Commit to sharing. Your network needs to you to share so they can thrive. Do it.
  • Adopt a remote first mindset. Online tools broaden your network. Use them.

And since everything we do has to be radical, I ask you to throw yourself into being transparent in all aspects of your life. Let’s call it an experiment and take about at GLC 2017.

Top photo by Chuck Revell

About the author: Scott Kelley

Scott Kelley

Scott Kelley is full-time nerd, part-time geek who has been hacking stuff since 5th grade. After getting degrees in math and physics, he has worked on a range of projects from top secret death machines to children’s toys to observatories. He currently spends a lot of time worrying about how you might kill yourself on playa.

One comment on “GLC 2016: Is Radical Transparency a Principle in the Making?

  • Jesus What Evs says:

    Scott, I hope this, in particular financial transparency, becomes a principle of Burning Man.

    When I see transparent financials, there’s a huge shift in my attitude toward an organization. Happened with Burning Man and Wikimedia, back when both were very transparent. Now, they’re far less transparent. In both cases, you can no longer drill down and

    And it is a key attraction to most of the theme camps and art and camp projects I’ve been involved with – either that, or it was pretty apparent that there were 1 or more of what we’re now calling “patrons” paying for a lot – or the budget was so small, considering the results, that thrift was apparent.

    So I guess I’m happy with any of these – and one can’t necessarily tell the difference between the second and third scenario.

    Lastly: Scott: Typos. s/see to thrive/see you thrive/ and s/take about at/talk about it at/

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