What We Reveal Helps Others, but It’s Not Easy

Sou Fujimoto, House NA, Tokyo, 2010. Photo: Iwan Baan.

Even though these stories deserve attention, they are difficult for families to talk about, especially when they feel they’ve been ignored by the media and sometimes even the police.

Journalist and podcast host Connie Walker, quoted in Frontier Magazine

An Introduction
The Oxford English Dictionary offers more than a dozen definitions for the word exposure. Two are “the action of uncovering or leaving without shelter or defense” and “the action of bringing to public notice.” One sounds negative, something done to you; the other potentially positive, done by choice. But the stories below suggest these two definitions rarely exist in isolation. And while transparency is rarely easy, the good it does often outweighs the challenges it presents.

The End Need Not Be a Closed Door
Last month, HAWRAF, a promising young design and technology studio in Brooklyn, shut down. This happens often with small businesses, even growing ones that hold promise for bigger and better things. What was unusual was how HAWRAF went about the process: “Here’s our [Google] Drive, scrubbed of all the stuff that would get us sued. It represents the tools we used and created for ourselves and we hope it can provide some insight for anyone who might be curious about this stuff, too.” The generous act shed light on how one team dealt with challenging conversations: partner equity, enumerating company values, pricing. Read more in Eye on Design and Fast Company, or in partner Carly Ayres’s post at It’s Nice That.

Demystifying Startups
Business leaders have long known transparency helps employees understand and buy in to a corporate vision. In recent years, they’ve realized the public appreciates candor, too. Alex Blumberg created a hit for his nascent podcast company with Startup, which told the story of … his nascent podcast company.

One trend is the “how I failed” memoir; another is to reveal the harrowing near-miss disaster that precedes ultimate success. Sahil Lavingia recently published a classic example of the former, titled “Reflecting on My Failure to Build a Billion-Dollar Company.” And Ivan Zhao, founder of the rapidly growing Notion, divulged how the company “pulled itself back from the brink of failure” on the Figma blog.

Being Transparent with Personal Stories
What you choose to reveal has not only business implications, but human ones. The poet and essayist Elisa Gabbert offers advice on how to write about friends and family with examples drawn from literature. Mary Karr, the best-selling author of three memoirs, including The Liar’s Club, puts it well in this radio interview: “I’ve always sent my manuscripts out to people I write about not because I’m afraid of landing all sweaty on ‘Oprah’ but because I kind of mistrust my own memories.”

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