In 1982, hedge-fund founder Ray Dalio predicted a banking crisis among emerging Latin American countries. Sure enough 16 of them defaulted that August, turning the 33-year-old Dalio into a star overnight. Testifying before Congress, he doubled down, predicting that the global economy and stock market would soon suffer the same fate. But this time, he could not have been more wrong. He had focused so intensely on Latin America that he neglected data from the rest of the globe—the economy and stock market soared. His hedge fund, Bridgewater Associates, took a massive hit.
A humbled Dalio then sought out smart people who disagreed with him to open his mind to other points of view, double check his assumptions, diversify his bets, and ultimately raise his probabilities of being right. Bridgewater rebounded and today, with more than $160 billion under management, is the largest hedge fund the world. Now a billionaire, Dalio credits transparency as key to both his and the company’s rise. “It is why we made money for our clients during the financial crisis when most others went over the cliff,” Dalio told The New Yorker in 2011. “Our greatest power is that we know that we don’t know, and we are open to being wrong and learning.”
What is radical transparency?
Dalio cares about finding meaning through work and relationships—a theme underlying many of the most successful corporations in history. As we learned through the story of Google’s Kim Scott, the internet search giant built an emotionally positive and productive work environment by replacing BS (i.e. being overly polite or overly rude) with honesty. For both Scott and Dalio, radical transparency provides the foundation for this emotionally open work culture.
In a 2016 article published in the Harvard Business Review, management professors Sigal Barsade and Olivia A. O’Neill reinforced the need to build not only a cognitive work culture, but also an emotional work culture. Emotional work culture consists of “the shared affective values, norms, artifacts, and assumptions that govern which emotions people have and express at work and which ones they are better off suppressing.”
While cognitive culture is mainly expressed verbally, emotional culture mostly spreads through non-verbal cues like body language and facial expression. Unlike cognitive culture, companies rarely cultivate emotional culture. Research from the past decade reveals that emotional culture impacts employee satisfaction, burnout, teamwork, financial performance, and absenteeism. Numerous empirical studies illuminate the formative effect emotions have on how people perform tasks, engagement, creativity, commitment to their companies, and decision making.
Positive emotions consistently correlate with better performance, quality, and customer service. These findings remain across industries and organizational levels. Conversely, negative emotions like anger, sadness, and fear generate negative outcomes, such as poor performance and high turnover.
Credited as the father of radical transparency, Dalio defines the culture as one in which people say what they believe. Bridgewater is now an idea meritocracy. The best ideas win. “In order to be successful, we have to have independent thinkers—so independent that they’ll bet against the consensus,” he said during his Ted Talk. “You have to put your honest thoughts on the table.” In other words, transparency liberates employees to be themselves, sparks ideas, and allows the best ideas to shine. – Read More
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