This principle is the corollary of the previous one, Surprise. A military unit preparing to attack an enemy defensive position wouldn’t advertise its intentions and plans beforehand, or at least would try to minimize any information leakage. By the same token, it would be wary of potential attempts at sabotage or intelligence infiltration.

The same applies in business. Security is critical to preventing the leak of critical and sensitive information to competitors. Leaking such information prematurely can give an advantage to a competitor or a stakeholder that is trying to undermine your efforts. There are three key practices to prevent information leakage and ensure greater security:

  • Only divulge plans internally on a need to know basis. This means only employees who are directly involved in a project need to be in the information loop. And even then, only for information which they need to know to do their respective jobs.
  • Don’t assume that the things that appear commonsensical to you, or that are common knowledge internally, are also common knowledge externally. Competitors might be very envious of your knowledge, even though you think it’s relatively trivial.
  • Provide plenty of public information about your activities, products, practices, etc., as much as is reasonable within the constraints of the other two practices. Apple generally is very secretive, and has pulled off the opposite of this tactic for a very long time, but it is a very risky approach that can easily backfire. It’s better to provide plenty of harmless information and to keep mum on strategically critical information.

© 2012 Richard Martin. Reproduction and quotes permitted with full and proper attribution.

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