Some Very Good Reasons To Show Your Work


Tuesday, 8.08pm

Sheffield, U.K.

A lack of transparency results in distrust and a deep sense of insecurity – Dalai Lama

I was working on a presentation when I came across Austin Kleon’s commentary on a HBR article by Ryan w. Buell on operational transparency.

Kleon points out that the overall message from Buell resonates with his idea of “Show Your Work”.

It’s worth looking at why, however, in a little more detail.

The image below is an extract from the presentation and shows what Buell found when he looked at how people reacted to different levels of operational transparency.


When you can’t see what someone is doing for you then you tend to think that they must be putting in less effort.

For example, you probably don’t think that Google works all that hard to get you a result – but behind that microsecond response is a gargantuan machine.

You don’t get appreciated that much when you’re invisible.

Let’s say you’re locked away in a backroom beavering away on a client’s account – if you spend a week doing something and no one knows about it how much are they going to appreciate your service?

How much are they going to value what you’re doing?

Buell found that people who couldn’t see what was going on were less satisfied with their suppliers.

But things get worse.

When what you do is a black box, when it’s opaque then people trust you less, are less loyal to you over time and don’t really want to pay for what you do.

Now, how many times have you heard service professionals moan about how their clients don’t want to pay them.

It’s especially common in sectors where there is a hard-charging, sales-driven mindset.

Although, arguably, all sectors have that to some degree.

Let’s take a few examples.

How many of you think that estate agents or recruitment consultants are worth what they’re paid?

The chances are that you get messaged every so often by a recruitment firm – someone who wants to charge you 20% or more to find you an employee.

What do they do for that money?

In my experience few agencies actually take the time to explain what they do.

The ones that do are more likely to be given a chance.

Many service professionals are, however, reluctant to give away too much – seeing value in their secret or proprietary methods.

But the days of such approaches is perhaps behind us.

Before the Internet perhaps you listened to people who claimed to have knowledge that no one else did.

Now, that’s unlikely.

Having secret knowledge, that is.

What Buell found is that showing people what you did – increasing operational transparency – helped improve the score on how customers thought and acted about you.

And this fits in with an emerging trend in the world of work and business.

If you get better at designing your service around the real needs of your customers – and if you collaborate with them in an open and transparent way they are more likely to want to work with you.

The value of things like trust and loyalty cannot be overstated.

In today’s world whether your business survives at all will probably depend on whether you get that.

Maybe we should refer to the old days as BI – Before Internet.

AI is here to stay.


Karthik Suresh

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