Sunlight, as the saying goes, is the best disinfectant. And it’s tempting to think that if we just shine a light on wrongdoing, wrongdoing will go away. Hence when Volkswagen’s diesel emissions scandal came to light, German chancellor Angela Merkel demanded complete transparency in response. When contaminated meat or vegetables are recalled, consumer advocates demand more transparency from food supply chains. When obscure financial instruments threaten the global economy, transparency is the proposed solution. Whether the questions raised are about police officers’ use of force, politicians’ use of email, or managers’ use of compensation, the answer is the same: more transparency.
"When Transparency Backfires, and How to Prevent It" is from hbr.org, published on July 21, 2016.