Thomas Friedman on transparency and the blog world

July 3, 2007

Do whatever you can to get ahold of the Tom Friedman column on the blogosphere. I’d provide a link but my local newspaper where I found the column in the July 3 edition didn’t include this column on its website.

Friedman tells about an encounter with a woman while waiting in line. She butted in front of him and they got into a confrontation. But now he says, he would never confront her. He would just let her in and apologize. Why this change of behavior? The blogosphere.

“Because I’d be thinking there is some chance this woman has a blog or a camera in her cell phone and could, if she so chose, tell the whole world about our encounter–entirely from her perspective–and my utterly rude, boorish, arrogant, thinks-he-can-butt-in-line behavior. Yikes!”

Friedman then shares insights by a new book by Dov Seidman called “How.” The point is in this age of extreme transparency, of digital memory that never dies, of instant transfer of information, how you live your life and how you conduct your business is more important than ever. “For young people, writes Seidman, this means understanding that your reputation in life is going to get set in stone so much earlier…For this generation, much of what they say, do or write will be preserved forever online. Before employers even read their resumes, they’ll Google them.”

And when it comes to business: “Companies that get their hows wrong won’t be able to just hire a PR firm to clean up the mess by taking a couple of reporters to lunch–not when everyone is a reporter and can talk back and be heard locally.”

But Thomas, that’s what at least some of us in this industry have been saying for some time. It is all about trust and trust depends on doing the right things (the “hows”) and telling your story well.

Friedman and Seidman also make the point about the opportunity this represents. Those who do their “hows” right, in other words conform to the public’s view of right behavior, have the opportunity to create trust and distinguish themselves from their competition on that basis.  “…it represents a rare opportunity: the opportunity to outbehave your competition.”

Great stuff, Mr. Friedman. This is the age of transparency and we’ll put Mr. Friedman in that growing group of thought leaders we like to call the “apostles of authenticity.”

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