A conspicuous absence of process transparency

The Firm as a Collaborative Community is a book about collaborating. It's assembled from the contributions of numerous collaborators. Most of the chapters make passing reference to other chapters and/or their authors. The preface mentions getting together at Rutgers University for three different meetings. 

The book makes no mention of how those meetings went for the participants or what was learned about collaborating from the process. The release of the book relied on a freemium model of offering the first chapter as a free pdf download while charging $125 for the printed book. There was no disclosure of how the decisions were made to use a freemium approach or to target the market segments that perceive high prices as adding to the book's value.

There were no tie-ins from the exploration in the book of exit and voice approaches to collaboration, and the approaches used by the various authors in collaboration on this volume. In short, there was none of the process transparency that was preached as essential to the formation of trust that provides the basis for collaboration. The book does not practice what it preaches.

We don't know why the book sends contradictory messages to its readers like "do as we say, don't do as we do". Here are some typical explanations that might apply to these authors and their conspicuous absence of process transparency:

  • Their collaboration on the book resembled Detroit automakers setting up "collaborations" with parts suppliers who felt pressured, threatened and squeezed by the buyer side of the exchanges.
  • The personalities / social characters may fit a pattern of "deference to authority" and "reliance on autonomy" that cannot interact with, openly contradict or gradually incorporate other viewpoints -- without enduring a crisis in confidence.  
  • Their process of collaborating on the book may have revealed them to be inept - which could only undermine their positioning themselves as authoritative experts.
  • Their approach to transparency may have been socialized by schooling and employment in hierarchies which hide behind firewalls, respect fortress mentalities and reward the formation of silos. 
  • Their sharing of their own collaborative process could turn off their target market of high level executives in old economy corporations who were eager to sign huge consulting contracts with them.
  • Their awareness of who practices process transparency may be limited to bloggers, new journalism models and therapy groups, but no colleagues, experts or executives.
  • They were unconsciously teaching what they personally need to learn by first giving others they advice they need to listen to themselves, and slowly letting their own messages sink in.

Whatever explanation(s) actually fit the authors' collaboration, the value proposition of the book has been limited by their lack of process transparency. It's loaded with good ideas, insights and case examples. It's ideal for becoming more of an expert, like the authors themselves. It falls short of nurturing our own collaborative praxis.


  1. I find it interesting that Wikipedia has been banned by a number of librarians (including at my son's school) because it is not "reliable", and yet, this book by "experts" would be considered fine, yet we don't know how it was created.

    The advantage to wikipedia is that the process for creating the article is transparent and there is no claim to reliability. Many "published" books which are edited by faceless editors, often with a certain bias and agenda, are never questioned by academia. It was not until I was in a Ph.d. program that my professors required that we find out about the authors of resources that we used (what is their training, what might be their perspective on the topic which they were writing about, how might they be biased for or against certain subjects). I think this should be done starting at the elementary level, not to mention being reinforced at the secondary and undergraduate level.

  2. Thanks for these wonderful insights into the complexity of trust issues. I suspect those librarians twho ban Wikipedia are developing trust on a different basis from process transparency. The animal kingdom (including humans) exhibit herding instincts that give us the urge to "stick to our own kind". A zebra could easily trust a small horse that showed up covered with black and white stripes - without checking on the horse's breeding or lineage. Librarians may trust anything that shows up as "ink on paper in bound volumes" for the same reason, while dismissing digital resources as "not our kind".

    Process transparency sets a new standard. If librarians are not trusting Wikipedia, there may be more of that process of authoring, flagging, editing, & deleting -- that could be disclosed. On the other hand, the kind of trust cultivated by process transparency is good for collaborating, which may be a very different activity from purchasing, validating, or using texts unilaterally.

    I sure agree with your advice to start questioning sources at an early age. Along those lines, I'd add that students ought to see educators as "teaching what they're being", objectivity as subjectively biased, and fictional narrative as a biography of the author.