If you are of a certain age, the Russian word glasnost and name, Mikhail Gorbachev, should trigger memories of the opening and breaking up of the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). If you are not of a certain age, the Internet with its naked transparency and infinite memory will lay bare what that historic event, led by former USSR President Gorbachev, is all about. And from it you will learn that glasnost means transparency.
And transparency is our topic today as we all rapidly embrace a digital (on-line) world courtesy of the pandemic inspired new normal we find ourselves in. And the transparency can be glaring.
For instance, in the traditional (offline) world, a business could hide behind a complaints or suggestion box; not so the digital one.
Remember the "Iimpeach (Woman Representative) Gathoni wa Muchomba backlash that followed her justification and demand for increase in Members of Parliament salaries immediately following her election? Or maybe, this report: "A few years back, all Kenya Power would have needed to do was to switch off the public attention (from the #SwitchoffKPLC backlash on Twitter) was make a few calls or fire a letter to the mainstream media reminding them of its big advertising budget.
But the ground has since shifted, with the corporate-bullying-proof social media particularly proving a live wire for Kenya Power. A single tweet or Facebook post by one disgruntled customer can now spark a storm of complaints about the same problem or different ones. (Otieno Odotte, Sunday Nation May 13, 2018). Or, much more recently, and on a much more positive note, Stephen Omondi, the carpenter that moved from zero to hero following an innocent image of a piece of furniture he had crafted and posted on Facebook.
In three days, because of a targeted post here and a strategic share there, a staggering three million people knew about him.
If you don't remember any of these things all you have to do is 'ask' the internet. It's that transparent and could even prove me wrong.
As businesses and sellers go digital, heightened awareness of transparency becomes all the more important. And transparency is a difficult thing to transition to, especially coming from a largely traditional way of doing business.
Not that the Internet is a new thing, no. However, many sales people and businesses could still forge ahead because digital was an alternative. So they could, say, ignore that complaint that didn't seem to gather much momentum.
But now, when digital is taking centre stage and traditional is being shadowed, acute awareness of how to, at once, exploit the benefits and mitigate the risks of transparency, becomes paramount.
This doesn't mean helplessly laying yourself bare for all to see. It does mean however that suddenly, for sellers and businesses, statements like, "We don't think much of digital" or worse, a stubborn, "Face-to-face has always worked for us" can only spell doom.