In the past few days, I have been in two gatherings with 'Chatham House rules' - one a gathering of IT leaders from the same industry sector, the other of community leaders. Both were really valuable - the first to an IT vendor testing propositions, both to the participants themselves.
So what? Well, first, it is a truism that we live in a 'world without secrets'. Whether it is CCTV on our streets, or the use of Facebook by one party to declare a relationship or marriage to be over, we can find ourselves living much more public lives than previous generations. And, whilst that's sometimes about media intrusion, it is also to a very significant degree our own choice, directly or indirectly. Second, in both of my meetings, it was the decision to go counter to this prevailing public trend that enabled the meetings to be so valuable.
So, IT leaders go private, and can give the feedback they really want to, without finding themselves lampooned by their competitors or lambasted by vendor sales people. Community leaders can talk freely without fear of media misinterpretation, or of doubts, uncertainties and politically-incorrect opinions being held against them, and so forth. Sounds good to me - but not the norm. So why do we so rarely stop to make choices in this sphere? Is information sometimes less valuable when shared widely, because the wide sharing precludes certain outcomes? Worth thinking about when blogging, tweeting, status-sharing?
And of course, there's the paradox that to 'go private' requires lots of trust. More trust than going public, because the latter in no way relies on trust - we know once it's out there, it's out there. So, perhaps the real question is what is it that makes us willing to trust each other? Enlightened self-interest? Or something more? I hope so. I think so, too.