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WikiLeaks Scandal Holds Lesson for Your Business

The unfolding WikiLeaks scandal may seem a world away from your day-to-day business life, but with the news that WikiLeaks will soon reveal corporate secrets, business owners should be perking up their ears and paying attention.

That’s the finding of a researcher who has determined that corporate secrets, such as the ones WikiLeaks may soon reveal about Bank of America and BP, are necessary, if not essential, to organizational survival and competitiveness.

“Secrecy that delays competitive retaliation provides competitive advantage,” said Ronald Dufresne, assistant professor of at Saint Joseph's University. “Furthermore, secrecy provides leaders more freedom to be creative and open to unique ideas behind the scenes before needing to air those ideas publicly.”

Dufresne’s research applies to small businesses, as well.

No matter what the size of the organization, there are commonly secrets that are good for the organization to keep, Dufresne tells BusinessNewsDaily. Employee salaries is one example, he said. “It’s in place to stem off internal conflict within organization. It’s not a bad secret to be kept.”

But, you can go too far in keeping too many secrets or the wrong secrets, he said. Especially since often it is well-informed employees who keep an organization’s wheels greased. [Read: Bosses Don't Always Make the Best Decisions ]

In determining whether a particular secret should be kept, business owners or their management teams should ask themselves three questions, Dufresne said.

  • Should secrets be shared within the organization and/or to an external audience?
  • How much of a secret should be disclosed?
  • At what time and at what rate do I want to disclose secrets?

An essential process in managing secrets is to compartmentalize information so individual organizational members or departments are unable to “connect the dots” and transform that information into intelligence. Dufresne argues that the key is to find the balance between compartmentalizing secrets so “no one individual can put the secrets together to comprehend the ‘bigger picture’” and “expansive transparent knowledge sharing,” because “tilting too much one way or the other jeopardizes the organization’s long-term competitiveness.”