Words-worth: Transparency

'Transparency' is one of the great business mantras of our day. To be transparent is to be open, accountable, honest. Transparency is the opposite of secrecy. In management, it means not only informing colleagues, suppliers and customers of your decisions, but letting them see the process by which you arrived at them.

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Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

It's a lot to ask. The word is from the Latin preposition trans-, meaning across, and the verb parere, meaning to appear or be visible. 'Transparent' was first used in English in the 15th century, in its literal sense. The figurative sense, open in behaviour, is first recorded in Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream. Its use in business took off in the late 20th century: the international anti-corruption body Transparency International was founded in 1993 ('not transparent' is diplomatic language for 'corrupt'). A good thing then, transparency. Yet if you call a person 'transparent', it's not a compliment. That's the thing about transparency: you can't just look good; you have to be good. A lot to ask, indeed.

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