Transparency is a competitive advantage

Although I’ve made mention of the sole Fortune 500 chief executive officer to post his own blogs, I’d not visited Jonathan Schwartz’s site until recently.

What I saw really impressed me, especially in light of today’s closely controlled corporate messagingJschwartz  environment (i.e. the tightly choreographed debut of a certain brand new news anchor on a major broadcast network comes to mind).

In one blog, the Sun Microsystems CEO talks all about his recent customer, analyst and media meetings in New York City. He openly discusses the types of products about which he briefed the various audiences. He also admits that a last-minute cancellation by rival Dell Computers made his schedule much more robust. In another blog, Schwartz walks the reader through a particularly difficult and slightly embarrassing prospective customer presentation to a major government agency.

How cool is this? How many CEOs do any of us know or work with who would be willing to open up and share this sort of insider talk with the world? Schwartz does it because he believes it’s the fastest and most effective way to communicate with every one of Sun’s constituent audiences: the Street, employees, customers, supply chain partners, etc. And, although he says he does so within S.E.C. guidelines, I have to believe Schwartz absolutely drives Sun’s legal team nuts. Which warms my heart to no end.

In my opinion, Schwartz is the digital version of Daniel Boone, blazing a trail that, I guarantee, other CEOs will soon follow, especially as younger and more tech-savvy Fortune 500 chief executives take the reins.

Despite what some critics may say, the Web 2.0 phenomenon will only continue to grow. In fact, according to Technorati Founder David Sifry, there’s a new blog being launched somewhere in the world every second and there are nearly 50 million blogs overall (up from only 1.6 million only two-and-half years ago).

CEOs will catch on. It’s only a matter of time. And the smart ones will do so for exactly the same reason Schwartz says he did: his blog provides transparency and nowadays, transparency is a competitive advantage. Sure, open communication is no guarantee of fiscal success — Schwartz has a long road ahead — but it has to help.

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