Full disclosure is when we share everything we know with our stakeholders.
Transparency, however, is focused on what our stakeholders need to know. It requires us to understand them and, most importantly, make a few judgment calls on what works best for the particular context.
There is a whole collection of organizations that runs teams built on a complete lack of transparency. That approach can work (Apple is a famous example) but it makes certain important assumptions on how innovation occurs. The belief system in such places is that a collection of central teams of innovators knows the answers and create the path for everyone else.
For everyone else, transparency offers a path to building trusting, innovative teams and organizations. The challenge in these cases is striking the balance between transparency and full disclosure. There is a time and place for both. But, the onus is on us to make sure we understand when each must be used.
(Having made the mistake of leaning on, and being burnt by full disclosure one time too many, I’ve learnt that it is probably safer to err on transparency as a default)
HT: The trust radar in Reputation Rules by Daniel Diermeier – for a clear explanation of the difference between transparency and full disclosure in the realm of crisis management. Transparency is the first step in Prof Diermeier’s “trust radar” below.