Tag Archives: fast-growth

Culture of Secrecy

How can companies still think what they do is top secret. Note I’m not talking about intelligence, research or military organizations here. I mean general competitive businesses in a competitive marketplace.

How many of the projects we’ve been sworn to keep secret really needed or benefited from that? How many top secret projects failed to launch? Again I’m not talking about early gestation with limited resources, there’s a time and place for keeping something under wraps until it’s time – however even then most people keep it too secret for too long.

Enthusiasm is the hardest attribute to sustain in any endeavor.

I’ve found many companies with a Culture of Secrecy are really staffed by people avoiding scrutiny or responsibility. If they don’t say what they are going to achieve, they can’t be held accountable when they miss.

Everybody misses from time to time. Me included. Looking at what went wrong often more valuable than succeeding by a fluke.

Fear is the other great cause of the secrecy cult. Every manager worthy of the title has had an employee leave to work for a competitor. Weak managers of weak businesses respond by limiting the flow of ideas and information to the team that drives the business. They hope a defection cannot harm them again, without reviewing  if that harm was more than a bruised ego. This is overprotective thinking. When you fell over as a baby while learning to walk, you tried again until you mastered it. If a business is only as good as its secrets it has no better competitive advantage in the marketplace. Are there low barriers to entry for competitors?

Find your competitive advantange. That may be worth keeping close to the chest, but I doubt it. Your success flows from knowing what you do better than anyone else – what others cannot take from you.

Think of great global brands and great businesses like Coca-Cola, American Express, IBM, Toyota, McDonald’s. While some part of their operations are necessarily private they don’t have a culture of secrecy. Where do you want your company to be in 20 years?

For another perspective check out what Robin wrote a while ago at Snarkmarket on iPhone, Secrecy and Excellence

Just start!

Over the years I’ve attended various “… for beginners” Q&A’s for writing, film making, script writing, blogging, and other creative endeavors. I remember a fan asking Harlan Ellison what computer software he writes with and thinking “If you met Shakespeare would you want to know how he trimmed his quill?”.

Sure that’s a but sarcastic, but really you should have some content ready before you worry about the technology. Otherwise there is always a better camera/microphone/software/whatever just accept what you’ve got and get started.

That’s my philisophy and sometimes I forget it. Why wait for something to be perfect? Once the project is underway then spend time perfecting if that will increase results.

This came up mainly because I was coaching a blogger today and they wanted everything perfect before launching into podcasting. Just start!

Why do an MBA?

Surely that’s a dumb question to be asking myself right now. I had to answer it on the application. I’ve committed the money and time to it. I’ve even started the first course – Accounting and Financial Management.

That first course is looking to be as easy as I thought. Which on one level really frustrates me. Why am I paying to do a subject I am already unconsciously competent at? It’s a good way to ease into studying again after all these years.

Strangely I found myself wondering about some of my fellow students. They don’t seem to understand the broad accounting aspects of their businesses. Maybe it was me, but all my career I’ve been interested in the Profit & Loss Statements and Balance Sheets of my employers.

Back to the question at hand. Why do it? Career prospects? More money?

For me it the answer is to change my life. To understand business and industry with a new depth and rigour. To use to time to change my world-view and internalise my studies in a way I could not appreciate when I was an undergrad. My business interests are in fast-growth, entrepreneurial firms. That is where my MBA is leading, although I can’t say exactly where yet.