Areas of Expertise

The Vital Lie

I recently listened to a dialog between Warren Bennis and Daniel Goleman on transparency.  The question they were reflecting upon was:  “Is Transparency Inevitable?”

I thought it might be fun to blog about this topic so I share below some of the take-aways for me from their conversation (which by the way is on a CD and entitled, “The Power of Truth: A Leading with Emotional Intelligence Conversation with Warren Bennis).

Daniel asked Warren why he felt transparency is inevitable.  Warren’s response?  Mainly because:

  • People need truth to operate effectively and efficiently;
  • Truth will make organizations and leaders more effective, more efficient and get more work, “capacity to motivate” out of people;
  • Transparency is like oxygen;

During this dialog they explored the obstacles to transparency.  And the idea that there are hidden ground rules to what we can and cannot say.  Such as, in any organization, there are four unspoken rules:

1. Here’s what we notice
2. Here’s what we say about them
3. Here’s what we don’t notice
4. We never say anything to outsiders about that third category – (Henry Gibson called this the “Vital Lie” — the operative fiction that hides a painful truth.)

Stephen M.R. Covey in his best selling book, “The Speed of Trust“, defines the counterfeits of “creating transparency” creating illusion, pretending, “seeming” rather than being and making things different than they appear.

Of course, we all have worked in places where no one addressed the problem that everyone knew about:  the peak performer who wasn’t held to the same rules as others; the budget games where numbers are exaggerated or the “story” isn’t clear; the arrogant doctor who makes mistakes but nurses are afraid to point them out.

So, just for fun… take a moment and consider your “vital lies”. And begin to think about what you can do as a leader to practice creating transparency and to create “a culture of candor.”

>> Do you have a great example of a vital lie or how a leader can create transparency? Please share.

Enterprise Trends with Implications for Learning

Alex Williams over at has an interesting post on 5 Enterprise Trends to Watch in 2010. While he doesn’t specifically address training or corporate learning, I think the trends he is predicting will have a significant impact on our industry.

I particularly like his reframe of the term social media. “Social media has to be one of the most over-used phrases of the year but it should not reflect on the increasing need for community management practices within the enterprise. We expect community management to become an increasingly valued role.”

I think Williams has a valid point. It seems to me that what we need to focus on in the learning space is learning/knowledge community management rather than “social learning.” One benefit of this shift in language could be an easier sell to enterprise leadership. Investing in managing the organization’s “knowledge community” does not raise the same red flags as “social learning” often does.

One other trend that could begin to have direct implications is what he labels “The Big Sync.” Users are demanding that more and more information be automatically syncing between their mobile devices and other tools that they use such as computers. Not only do we want constant access to important up-to-date information like email and contacts, but more and more we want to be able to do some work on one device and then continue that work on our mobile devices.

As Mobile Learning becomes more ubiquitous, we will need to explore strategies and implementations that will allow for real-time syncing of up-to-date information. Shelf life for training content may soon be measured in days or even hours rather than months. We also need envision to designs that accommodate the users accessing the training on multiple devices. Just like me email, I may start a learning session in my office, but want to complete it while waiting for a table at lunch.

The other trends he spotlights could have implications as well, however, these two though struck me immediately. His short post is definitely worth a read.

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