Is your business transparent?

I’m often asked about the biggest differences between the corporate and startup worlds, having made the switch from corporate law to start Hugo in San Francisco. It wasn’t trading my suit for a hoodie or my latte for a RedBull. The biggest adjustment for me has been getting used to the inherent transparency in new age companies.


The concept of ‘need to know’ is part and parcel of the corporate world, referring to sharing information only where it is critical to complete your job. A junior employee doesn’t ‘need to know’ what we’re charging our client, mid-level managers don’t ‘need to know’ hiring plans for the next quarter and the engineering team doesn’t ‘need to know’ about a key partnership in the pipeline.

However, how do you categorize information that you could technically complete your job without but you would do a much better job, with? What about information that you could absolutely do your job without, but you would be a far more engaged, motivated employee with?

This is one of the key differences between the fast-growing, high-ROI startup world and conventional business. Knowledge is power and information sharing is in the DNA of agile, rapidly-growing startups – not just where teams ‘need-to-know’! Walk into any young tech company, and you’ll see ‘Ask-Me-Anything’ meetings as standard, no offices or doors, instant chat and file storage with open access and in some businesses, even publicly accessible remuneration data!


According to a McKinsey study, nearly 80% of senior executives said communication is crucial for growth, yet only a quarter of them felt their companies were good at sharing knowledge across the company. We strongly believe that what was previously ‘nice-to-know’ is now ‘need-to-know’. The competitive landscape of business dictates that where knowledge sharing was previously a point of difference, it is now best practice for three reasons:

1. Customer Empathy

It’s likely that only a small proportion of your team is customer-facing. That means the majority of your business never talk to your customer – the same majority who are charged with keeping your business running and directly or indirectly providing goods and services to your customers. Sharing the full picture with respect to customers means the wider team can truly understand your business’ customer. Having access to customer feedback, insights and knowing what makes your customer tick arms your entire team with true empathy for the customer they are servicing. That means better quality, more customer-centric decision-making.

Customer insights are therefore no longer nice-to-know. You need a way for your entire business to ‘hear’ from your customer so that they can do their best work every day and make decisions that truly represent the customer’s interests.

2. Engagement

Simon Sinek speaks to how leadership can inspire action with ‘Why’ and the measurable impact that sharing information can have on team productivity, morale and motivation. The data also support a key relationship between information sharing and employee engagement – a 2015 report found that:

  • Over 80% of employees want leadership to share more info and data about the business
  • One in four employees have, or know someone who has, left a business due to a lack of transparency on business direction and performance
  • Over 50% of employees say that more company info and data being shared had a significant positive impact on their productivity and performance

Leaders who speak openly about the state of the company gain trust and the onus is therefore on you to create business-wide practices of knowledge sharing – the state of business, what you’re hearing in meetings and how key projects are progressing and you’ll quickly create an even more trusting, loyal motivated workforce.

3. Two Brains are Better than One

No doubt your largest investment as an organization is in your people. You’ve spent substantial time and money in finding the smartest team you can to solve your business’ greatest challenges. However, perceived efficiencies cause us to rely on our people for input in their area of specialization or focus.

One of our most valuable strategies at Hugo is to have many more brains working on our greatest challenges, based on information sharing across the business. An idea or opportunity comes from someone on our team not directly responsible for a solution every day – simply because we exposed everyone to the insights. Having a culture of knowledge sharing across the business, therefore, unlocks the potential for solutions, feedback, and opportunities from so many more sources within your business.

Hugo – A Practical Solution

Having recognized the tremendous value of sharing knowledge with our team early on, we were inspired to build Hugo to create a culture of knowledge sharing for our own business, and now many others. We know that best practice with business knowledge is a competitive advantage which can achieve by making meeting insights shareable and actionable. Read more about how we achieve this with Hugo, here.

How do you share knowledge and create a culture of transparency in your organization?

Darren is a Co-Founder of San Francisco-based, Hugo – the meeting note platform that keeps your team connected with what your customers are thinking and saying. It enables fast-moving teams to make meeting insights shareable and actionable in their existing tools.