Andrew Schnackenberg, assistant professor of management at the Daniels College of Business, recently worked with the Presidential Innovation Fellows, members of the White House program that brings top innovators into government to collaborate with federal agency partners on high-profile initiatives that save lives, fuel job creation, save taxpayer money and build a culture of entrepreneurship and innovation within government.
Dr. Schnackenberg researches the influence of a firm’s information sharing tactics on stakeholder perceptions of organizational trustworthiness, legitimacy, reputation and credibility using transparency. He was contacted by a group of Fellows working to identify ways that public and private entities can build trust in order to strengthen commitments to boost the United States’ cybersecurity. “The FBI is concerned about our nation’s infrastructure for cybersecurity, and the Presidential Innovation Fellows’ project is attempting to identify ways that the public and private sectors can cooperate for the betterment of both parties,” says Dr. Schnackenberg.
The Presidential Innovation Fellows team identified Dr. Schnackenberg as an expert on the matter through his 2014 article, “Organizational Transparency: A New Perspective on Managing Trust in Organization-Stakeholder Relationships,” published in Journal of Management. Co-authored with a West Virginia University professor, the research dissected the meaning of the term transparency and clarified the tangible mechanisms that organizations can use to convince external stakeholders that their firms are indeed acting transparently. Their analysis concluded that transparency is a multi-dimensional construct consisting of three parts: information disclosure, clarity and accuracy.
“The idea is that leaving material information out of conversations, disclosures and the like ruptures trust, just as distorting facts does,” Dr. Schnackenberg says. “When you have all three of these characteristics, however, the level of trust among the people involved is elevated. The Presidential Innovation Fellows were interested in how this kind of thinking applies to the situation that the government is facing about cybersecurity and information privacy.”
While transparency is a constant refrain in today’s marketplace, the problem, Dr. Schnackenberg continues, is that academics and professionals do not have a clear understanding of what it actually means. “Defining transparency was our starting point, and we then set out to offer ideas on how to manage it. Trust is a behavioral intent to be vulnerable, whereas trustworthiness is a perception. In this article, we’re saying that transparency is a predictor of trustworthiness.”