For several hundred years now, most businesses have fought to keep things secret. Ingredients, techniques, processes, suppliers, you name it. Anything that might be a competitive advantage would attempt to be shielded from competitors and the public. In fact, the patent system was set up, in part, to curb this tendency: share your novel idea with the public and the queen will give you exclusive use of it for a certain period of time.
But does all this secrecy make sense?
In some cases, certainly. Secrecy can can do all sorts of things. It can build mystique, or protect something that legitimately gives you an advantage.
But most of the time, it’s not the secret that gives the advantage. If it is, it’s probably not much of an advantage to begin with.
Take the fabled Coca Cola. A recipe only known in whole to two people, who never travel together lest an accident or catastrophe cause the secret to be lost forever! But what would happen if the real recipe got out? Would Coke sales plummet? After all, the recipe isn’t patented. There would be nothing to stop competitors from manufacturing copy-Coke. Sure, Coke could lose a few sales, but the effect would be negligible. Coke’s secret to success isn’t its recipe. Coke’s success is based on its ability to deliver a can of sugar-water to a village in the middle of Africa for 35 cents. It’s a vast manufacturing, bottling, distribution, sales, and advertising network that’s so efficient it doesn’t even hum. Coke’s success is based on trust in a brand. It’s based on the product’s ability to make you feel a certain way. It’s not based on the ingredients.
Ask any chef. If the ingredients and the preparation were the key to their success, there wouldn’t be hundreds of new cookbooks published every year. There’s no way literally every popular or successful chef would be willing to put all of their recipes in a book and sell it to anyone with $19 to spare. It would be career suicide. But of course, the ingredients and the preparation are not what make a successful chef. Excellent recipes and preparation are necessary, but not sufficient.
So, recognize what is actually the key to your success. What service or product are people actually paying you for. It’s probably not the most obvious thing you do. Once you’ve identified that, take a page from the chefs and share everything else. Only good things will come of it.