Strategizing Radical Transparency
Sometimes very simple ideas are counter-intuitive. Radical transparency clearly is one of them. Let me define the concept, ask why one would want (not) to go â€œradically transparent,â€ and how to implement the strategy.
What is radical transparency?
Radical transparency is a management approach in which all decision making is carried out publicly and the work flow has open application interfaces. It is a radical departure from existing processes, whereÂ (a) decision making was never fully open, to ensure security and the discretion of the decision makers and (b) the work flow was a black box, where outside intervention would be looked upon as outside meddling.
|Decision Making (policy cycle)||Ensure access to draft documents, allow commenting, and include the public in final decisions.|
|Work Flow (implementation process)||Design application interfaces that allow the public to access the work flow in real time, participate in a granular and modular fashion, and|
What is the value added of the approach?
It is important to realize that radical transparency is not a requirement put upon a process from outside stakeholders, but an actively chosen strategy. So why go transparent? Radical transparency impacts value identification, capacity, and legitimacy of any project.
|Value definition||Value definition profits from the wider discussion. Group think is potentially avoided.|
|Legitimacy||It increases legitimacy, because stakeholders are involved in the decision making process and trust is increased.|
|Capacity||Capacity is increased if radical transparency allows you to integrate â€œself-selected expertsâ€ into your decision cycle and resulting work flow. It saves costs!|
When to apply it?
As with any management strategy, radical transparency is not a panacea. So the question is what types of problems are amenable to the approach and what types of problems are better left in the dark.
|Coordination Issues||In today’s world, many issues are coordination issues. The legitimacy and quality of standard-setting will approve dramatically.|
|Consensus Building||Many issues today have become trans-national and cross-sectoral. This means that there are no established and institutionalized decision making procedures. In such situations, radical transparency can dramatically increase the legitimacy (and effectiveness) of the procedures.|
|Uncovering distributed expertise||In today’s world expertise is not anymore monopolized by professionals. However, finding this distributed expertise is expensive. By utilizing radical transparency (in combination with functioning quality control), one allows for self-selection of expertise.|
|Utilizing the love of the amateurs||There are topics where we know that amateurs will be very willing to cooperate. Think of the inclusion of amateur astronomers in the identification of new meteors.|
When to not apply it?
There are other issues, where it is best not to pursue a radical transparent approach:
|Security||If radical transparency endangers (national) security, the topic should be off-topic. However, it makes sense to clearly and openly delineate the boundaries of such limitations.|
|Privacy||If there is no way of ensuring the anonymity of data and if the issue would impact the privacy of individuals, the approach should not be used.|
|Secrecy||If the competitiveness of an enterprise depends on the secrecy of the process (think the Coca Cola formula), radical transparency shall not be used.|
|Design||If the design of the output should follow a specific (totalitarian) idea, it is not sensible to open up the process. Apple Computers uses this approach.|
|Capture||If the platform is relevant enough that it can be captured by off-topic participants, management of the process becomes tedious. This has happened with the UFO believers and the Obama birth certificate debaters on the Open Government Initiative.|
How to design radically transparent procedures (a rough guide to implementation)?
|Define what data you will free.|
|Explain the limitations explicitly, outline the next steps to full transparency.|
|Make sure you make all data available in machine-readable format, ideally in real-time. Do not massage or edit it!|
|Do not define who will be able to access your data, let your collaborators self-select. But, define standards for participation, do this in code and convention.|
|Structure the conversation, define expectations, but allow for flexibility and participation in the debate about the core principles of the collaboration. Do not ask open questions like â€œwhat do you think of Europe? How do we integrate minorities?â€|
|Reflexivity||Design reflexivity into the process. Use work flow mapping and meta-data on the deliberation processes to mirror the community back at its members. Sophistication will increase.|