This is not a political blog but from time to time we do find lessons in the world of politics which apply to business. I’m saying this up front since the topic from which I’m pulling a lesson today – the whole Obama birth certificate controversy – is totally political and raises strong feelings on both sides. Yet within the heated arguments is a truth which holds for either side.The BBC has a pretty good summary of the controversy (the non-US source is intentional) and the gist of it is that some say the President Obama was not born in the US (despite a Hawaii birth certificate) and, therefore, is ineligible to be president. In recent days, an alleged Obama birth certificate from Kenya has surfaced and it has been debunked as a forgery. Why anyone would think they could get away with fabricating something in the digital age is beyond me but apparently there are people who do.
Which lead to today’s subject. Companies, people and politicians need to remember that we live in an age when there is virtually unlimited access to information. Fakes of any sorts – resumes, financial documents, and birth certificates – are going to be uncovered given enough time and enough motivated researchers.
How many business problems have arisen due not to mistakes themselves but to the actions the company took subsequent to the error? We’ve seen it in politics over and over – Watergate, Bill Clinton, various governors. It’s not the crime – it’s the cover-up.
I’m an advocate of companies being as transparent as possible (with the caveat that not everything – trade secrets, personnel records, etc. should be public). It’s a dual-edged sword. Engaging partners and customers in conversation leaves footprints and it becomes easy to find inconsistencies or outright lies. However, the decision isn’t IF your company should be transparent – it already is whether you like it or not.