Sharing Kane

Just the other day I revisited Orson Welles’ early masterpiece “Citizen Kane” that details a news magnates rise to power and prosperity and ensuing fall back into obscurity and possessionlessness. Nearly universally hailed as the greatest film of all time, the uncannily wise writer and critic Jorge Luis Borges referred to the movie as a “metaphysical detective story” that invites the viewer to piece together a motivation for the protagonist’s calculating actions through the scenes provided. To me the film’s most salient quality remains its exploration of created reality versus shaped reality, depicting a man who desperately sought to shape the events according to his own will, tragically shaping them to protect him from his deepest insecurity. Charles Foster Kane decided what events were newsworthy and which were not so that he effectively fashioned the world in his image.

In an admittedly kooky way, yesterday’s blog entry by David H. Freedman of the New York Times’ blog post in which he discusses the benefits and the downsides of retaining a degree of secrecy regarding one’s business ideas crosses ideological paths with Welles’ film (http://boss.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/02/21/got-a-great-idea-tell-everyone/?ref=smallbusiness). Bouncing his ideas off of a certain Jason Freedman’s blog post in which the young entrepreneur explains his reasoning for not ever choosing to go into stealth mode when the latest and greatest epiphany occurs, but instead to unrelentingly share it with all those he comes into contact with. I believe that “Citizen Kane” lends itself well to this conversation here. Either one can attempt to control and manipulate one’s public image to gain some business advantage, by highlighting what’s positive and eliminating the less appealing attributes; or one can embark on the route of (authentic or not—might not matter) transparency. To me the two options distinguish themselves in that the first option especially benefits those who have already decided on a business image they want to maintain whereas the latter have most likely have not yet and are seeking to gauge the public response to their idea. Here are the Freedman II’s reasons for sharing his ideas:

1) Your idea isn’t that great; it’s your execution that will determine your success.

2) Your product’s first iteration won’t be good enough, and you will fail if you don’t get smart investors and entrepreneurs to tell you how to fix it fast — before you run out of money.

3) Being secretive will prevent you from getting enough of that advice.

While I agree that Freedman’s approach should be considered for those intending to arrive at some kind of long term success but have not sensed any unified direction in which they are heading yet. You cannot find any better advice than getting real people to say real things in the field. Especially in the age of the internet where the tools for appearing transparent are more prevalent than ever, getting real-time interactions are quickly becoming novelties. But if you have gotten most of your ducks in a row, I would warn from exposing too much to the public. Once you’ve given away several bits and pieces, it gets trying to even retain gigabytes of information and will have to work as hard as Charles Foster Kane to keep the public from getting a look at secrets you would rather not have them be privy to.

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