Sometimes It's Good to Share the Secret Sauce

Should companies have secrets?  Sometimes they should, but I think companies too much believe that secrets are their secret sauce. 

I think you have to look at privacy differently from individuals and companies and governments.  At individuals we should have the choice of how public and private we need to be.  Government I think needs to become transparent by default.  In the middle are companies and companies shouldn’t be forced to be radically public, but I think they would be wise to be far more public because in being public it opens up all kinds of new opportunities for them.  First is trust.  A more open and transparent company is just hiding less on its face.  Very importantly, by opening up I think you have the opportunity to collaborate with your customers and your public as well. 


When I wrote my first book What Would Google Do I speculated about the idea of collaboratively designed cars and people made fun of this and they said this is ridiculous Jarvis, it was done before, it was called the Homer.  Homer Simpson designed a car with two bubbles and shag carpeting and lots of cup holders in it and bankrupted his cousin’s car company, it would be a disaster.  Well along came a company called Local Motors that did and does manufacture collaboratively designed cars now.  They have contests to pick the main design and then the community of customers and it’s possible to have that, the community of customers comes in and helps design the parts.  Jay Rogers, the president is still responsible for making economically viable and safe cars, but he works collaboratively with his customers who are there because they want to be and one customer came in one day and designed a new taillight and everybody loved it.  They said, “That’s great.  We got to have it.”  And Jay went and priced out how much it would cost to tool up to make that part and he said I love it too, but I just want to let you know it’s going to add $1,000 to the cost of every car and the community of customers said never mind and they went through a list of parts and they picked a Honda taillight that cost only $75 that I wouldn’t even know was from Honda.

Now the moral to the story there is that when you give your customers the opportunity, the respect and the tools to collaborate with you they will if they have that trusted relationship and they can make design and even economic decisions with you.  It’s very important right now that just passed in the US is the so-called Jobs Act, not standing for jobs, but standing for the ability to do new lower scale investment and startups and this has already been the case in the UK and I heard from a company there called Escape the City that put out an offer for their customers to invest in the company and in three weeks they had 2,200 members as they call them promise up to 15 million dollars and they’re not going to raise all that, but that’s a pretty impressive view.  

Now what does that really do?  It really says that that company sees its customers and its members and its investors and owners as the same people.  What a new relationship that is and the only way they’re going to maintain that relationship is by being very open and public with that community.  So I think that companies have to consider being open in many ways.  We see some examples.  We see Best Buy for example has a Twitter account called Twelpforce, Twitter Help Force with 3,000 employees behind it.  Try it.  If you’re having problems at home with hooking up your HDMI to the what-cha-ma-jigger go in there and ask a question and I guarantee you you’ll get answers fast because there is 3,000 people who know stuff behind it and Best Buy is brave enough to let their employees talk directly to the public because they do it anyway, just face-to-face.  Now they can do it online.

Now I'm not arguing that companies must reveal absolutely everything.  Should companies have secrets?  Sometimes they should, but I think companies too much believe that secrets are their secret sauce.  Do you really want to be the company that is known for having secrets or the company that is known for having a good relationship with your customers?  Should companies reveal all their books in public?  Well I could argue both ways for that.  Would it make your employees more open or make them more paranoid?  I don’t know.  The point is that you are forced to be public now more than ever because people are going to talk about you anyway on Twitter, on Facebook, on Google+, on blogs.  I started a little bit of a kerfuffle with Dell Hell many years ago and so the conversation is going on with or without you.  You have no choice.  You already are more public than you ever were.  You have to join in and when you join in don’t do so because you’re forced to.  Join in because there are benefits to talking with the public, your customers. 

In Their Own Words is recorded in Big Think's studio.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

Befriend your ideological opposite. It’s fun.

Step inside the unlikely friendship of a former ACLU president and an ultra-conservative Supreme Court Justice.

Sponsored by Charles Koch Foundation
  • Former president of the ACLU Nadine Strossen and Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia were unlikely friends. They debated each other at events all over the world, and because of that developed a deep and rewarding friendship – despite their immense differences.
  • Scalia, a famous conservative, was invited to circles that were not his "home territory", such as the ACLU, to debate his views. Here, Strossen expresses her gratitude and respect for his commitment to the exchange of ideas.
  • "It's really sad that people seem to think that if you disagree with somebody on some issues you can't be mutually respectful, you can't enjoy each other's company, you can't learn from each other and grow in yourself," says Strossen.
  • The opinions expressed in this video do not necessarily reflect the views of the Charles Koch Foundation, which encourages the expression of diverse viewpoints within a culture of civil discourse and mutual respect.
Keep reading Show less

3 ways to find a meaningful job, or find purpose in the job you already have

Learn how to redesign your job for maximum reward.

Videos
  • Broaching the question "What is my purpose?" is daunting – it's a grandiose idea, but research can make it a little more approachable if work is where you find your meaning. It turns out you can redesign your job to have maximum purpose.
  • There are 3 ways people find meaning at work, what Aaron Hurst calls the three elevations of impact. About a third of the population finds meaning at an individual level, from seeing the direct impact of their work on other people. Another third of people find their purpose at an organizational level. And the last third of people find meaning at a social level.
  • "What's interesting about these three elevations of impact is they enable us to find meaning in any job if we approach it the right way. And it shows how accessible purpose can be when we take responsibility for it in our work," says Hurst.
Keep reading Show less

Physicist advances a radical theory of gravity

Erik Verlinde has been compared to Einstein for completely rethinking the nature of gravity.

Photo by Willeke Duijvekam
Surprising Science
  • The Dutch physicist Erik Verlinde's hypothesis describes gravity as an "emergent" force not fundamental.
  • The scientist thinks his ideas describe the universe better than existing models, without resorting to "dark matter".
  • While some question his previous papers, Verlinde is reworking his ideas as a full-fledged theory.
Keep reading Show less

UPS has been discreetly using self-driving trucks to deliver cargo

TuSimple, an autonomous trucking company, has also engaged in test programs with the United States Postal Service and Amazon.


PAUL RATJE / Contributor
Technology & Innovation
  • This week, UPS announced that it's working with autonomous trucking startup TuSimple on a pilot project to deliver cargo in Arizona using self-driving trucks.
  • UPS has also acquired a minority stake in TuSimple.
  • TuSimple hopes its trucks will be fully autonomous — without a human driver — by late 2020, though regulatory questions remain.
Keep reading Show less