Clear room in your head for the next buzzword: radical transparency.
Wired magazine astutely decided to make this topic front and center in the minds of its readers by not only giving it the cover story treatment in its most recent issue, but also by putting Jenna Fischer (Pam from NBC's The Office) on the front cover, who becomes naked, but shielded by a giant placard, if you lift the Mylar sheet over the cover.
The Office is compelling because a "documentary crew" has set up within the offices of fictional paper company Dunder-Mifflin to document its every move: triumphs and, more consistently, foibles. It is an admittedly fictionalized depiction of radical transparency, a concept where individuals and organizations are totally open to the public about their lives and/or businesses, through various conduits, such as blogs, the media, video, and Web sites.
Wired's choice of Dunder-Mifflin as an example of radical transparency is both interesting and puzzling. What if executives who might buy paper from the faux "office" saw the "documentary"? They might find the painful incidents it depicted compelling. But would they still want to be clients?
Radical transparency might work for fledgling consumer-facing companies with little to lose. But Fortune 500 and b-to-b companies are unlikely to derive an overall benefit. This radical transparency, among larger companies, is a chimera. There are too many factors, disclosure issues for one, that make this unlikely.
There's no doubt that a movement is under way to humanize companies, and it seems PR's history of "media training" that shields executives in CEO-speak has done much to erode their credibility. But will CEOs openly sniping about competitors and CFOs grousing about budget woes foster a better relationship with stakeholders? It sounds more like a good comedy.