Corporate transparency (was: MS remedy, usenet for all time)

Jeff Bone
Thu, 13 Dec 2001 18:20:53 -0600

Gordon Mohr wrote:

> On *could* argue? Hell, we both just *did* argue this,
> a little over 3 months ago...
> I guess the meta-consciousness is picking up old derailed
> trains of thought.

Indeed we did, and indeed it is.  Since it's been floated again, a
response I forgot to make to Russell's comments.

Russell says:

> Eliminating corporate secrets won't [create perfect
> competition]. There would
> still be competition based on different beliefs about what
> strategy best supplies future needs, on what business
> processes best execute that strategy, on relationships,
> on execution ability, and on any of the many other factors
> that now provide differential performance in the market
> place. At the most, this eliminates *only* competition
> based on differential knowledge of what lies behind the
> corporate wall.

I think this perspective misses the value of some kinds of corporate
information.  "Competition based on different beliefs about which
strategy best supplies future needs" for instance:  eliminating all
corporate secrecy would take this from the realm of belief into the
realm of forecasting;  simple tracking of performance in a given
market would enable you to pick which forecasters to trust, then
simply access their market sizing, product strategies, sales
strategies, etc. and use them to compete *before* they had gained any
advantage from them.  I.e., it totally levels the playing field,
pushing competition to happen only on a cost basis and eliminating
the incentives for competing effectively.  Relationship competition
is largely eliminated, as all goods are the same and the only
difference is price.  Execution competition still happens, but then
you simply get a totally amped-up corporate culture where the goal is
to deliver before the other guy...  Not that we don't already have
that to some degree, but the pressure is magnified TREMENDOUSLY if
everybody knows exactly what and how you're about to so something
before you've even had a chance to do it.

On the whole, I'm particularly conflicted about all of this.  Perhaps
it should be reserved for companies of a certain size / status ---
say those with a greater market share than x% in some market (who
defines markets, and on what basis, and who provides authoritative
share numbers?) --- or perhaps it's a public company thing.  I'd
guess that eliminating corporate secrets would take away every last
incentive for many early-stage businesses;  there's already a big
enough problem with, say, Microsoft stealing good ideas from smaller
players, what if they had immediate and constant access to your
innovation?  I suspect this would only serve to entrench the bigger
players further and kill innovation utterly if applied uniformly to
all corporate entities.


> - Gordon