Change Whisperer – Gail Severini, Symphini Change Management Inc.

WikiLeaks Paradigm Shift
December 7, 2010, 4:46 pm
Filed under: - Personal Reflections | Tags: , ,

The headlines on the latest WikiLeaks events focus on the information disclosed and particular situations but are there larger issues at play here?  Perhaps we are looking at a paradigm shift that presents some dangerous dilemmas.

Many have said such exposure will force openness and transparency.  Actually I am concerned that it will either eliminate difficult but necessary conversations or force them further underground.  As far as a world where we all participate – well, as much as I’d love to believe that we could have a “townhall” of equally informed participants to have rationale debate about our political options I have never witnessed this – have you, really?  We are not capable of that in our small town of ~45K inhabitants on a single issue!  I just don’t think it is feasible.

While I do believe in values of openness and transparency I also recognize that absolutes are dangerous.  Are there situations where confidentiality is appropriate?  There must be – so there must be a continuum.  I believe that international diplomacy is at one end of this continuum and there would be justifiable reasons to preserve confidentiality – not as a license for an individual rather for a group managed with oversight.

If we are brave enough to acknowledge that the very nature of diplomatic negotiations has been traumatized, can we look hard at “are we really better off for it?”  – in the short run, in the long run?  Few nations value openness as much as the North American continent – the WikiLeaks event will not change that. 

This is a fascinating ‘dilemma’ (as in “a problem offering at least two possibilities, neither of which is practically acceptable” Wikipedia).  Pandora’s box of boxes has been opened.  What will happen next?

  • Will WikiLeaks minimize what power brokers put in writing and thereby further reduce transparency? What increased risks will that create?
  • Has this catastrophically destroyed the trust of the recipients of those cables?
  • Is there an argument for ‘permissioned’ discretion (aka ‘diplomacy’) by authorized (“trusted”, I know this is …  ahem at someone’s discretion) representatives?
  • Is the risk of abuse or ‘permissioned’ discretion equal to or greater than the benefits of private negotiations?

Our world is becoming increasing complex – or perhaps we are seeing the complexity of it.  There are real problems underlying the WikiLeaks event that few are tackling.   

What do you think?  Do you see a world of absolutes – full disclosure or no disclosure? What do you think the outcomes will be?

1 Comment so far
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Thanks for your blog article Gail. I think this is a very important debate. You have made some excellent points. I am not sure there is a way to temper transparency, but I suspect this is a discussion that will continue for a while.

I am glad my blog post encouraged you to write it:

This type of balanced discussion, with arguments on both sides is the only approach to finding the “middle way”, as the Buddhists say. Thank you. Lianne

Comment by Lianne Bridges

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