You’d be hard-pressed to find many companies in existence today that don’t cite transparency as a key part of their business strategy. But as Tim Russell, manager of organizational development at Nintendo, reminded attendees at last week’s Financial Brand Forum in Las Vegas, being truly honest in business and in life is not for the faint of heart.
According to Russell, the root of the word “sincere” is often thought to have derived from the Latin words “sine cera,” meaning without wax. In ancient Greece and Rome, the phrase was posted on marble statues for sale, indicating that the sculptor had not covered up potential flaws in their work using wax as a fill-in.
While obvious chips and cracks in your organization are never desirable, psychological tools like the JoHari Window support the idea that owning rather than obscuring such issues can help establish more trust with your peers and your members or customers, Russell explains.
Josh Reich, CEO of the Oregon-based company Simple (which was recently acquired by BBVA), says a big part of his company’s success has been its ability to embrace bumps in the roads rather than hiding behind “the edifice of not making mistakes.”
As a customer-friendly brand for online, mobile, and card-based financial services running on the rails of a behind-the-scenes bank, Simple has taken many proactive steps in the name of its user experience, including teaching customer service representatives to use the same tools as its digital developers so they can help solve problems from the outside in.
Yet Simple’s website also includes various features meant to keep these efforts honest, Reich says, including a public, real-time service status report and even a historical timeline of previous delays, outages, and updates.
Examples of Simple's status screens (click to enlarge)
This concept is not a foreign one for many tech users. In fact, Microsoft and Apple have long offered a similar option for the reporting and tracking of service outages and subsequent fixes among their various product lines.
Credit unions do operate in a far different environment than these businesses. Yet with consumers and regulators alike seeking out the faux and the willfully deceptive with a white-hot searchlight, it’s much better to be a humble student than a rapidly melting maestro.