Radical Transparency: Truth & Trust

What is radical transparency or radical candor?

A concept coined by Ray Dalio, billionaire founder and CIO of Bridgewater Associates, one of the world’s largest hedge funds, and further discussed in detail in his 2017 book Principles: Life & Work.

Dalio believes strongly that radical transparency results in the best decisions, independent thinkers, and the highest level of growth and development for his employees.

Radical transparency is based on the search for the TRUTH and a foundation of TRUST.

What is the Truth?

The truth is tricky. One person’s truth is not another’s.

The truth is not a question of right or wrong, or written in stone at a point in time. It is “the search for” the truth that Dalio sought, a process of uncovering the untruths, finding flaws, and admitting mistakes.

For Dalio, the truth is an accurate understanding of reality. It is the unencumbered exchange of ideas, beliefs, or feedback. It is information flowing as freely as possible. An “ask me anything” culture.

Dalio’s goal was to employ independent thinkers willing to push back and challenge group think.

Similarly, Steve Jobs was all about being proven wrong to get it right. To make the best decision possible. To pursue the best ideas.

The quest for the truth can be a powerful check on ego. It can shine a light on potential blind spots. We all have them but creating a culture of radical transparency, information flow, and one that encourages direct challenges to elevate the whole, is powerful.

Why Does Trust Mean Everything?

Let’s be honest The truth isn’t always easy to hear. I often refer clients to the trust equation presented in the book, The Trusted Advisor.

Credibility + Reliability + Intimacy …. Divided by Self-Orientation.

Radical transparency depends on two of these factors (1) intimacy and (2) self-orientation.

Intimacy. How much you trust the person strictly based on your emotional connection — you trust what they say because you trust the person, because they are fully authentic when you deal with them.

Self-Orientation is about how much they’re in it for themselves or the perception of self-interest.

Radical transparency depends on building strong, personal relationships. When tough feedback is given, one must believe that it is being given in their best interest, to support growth and learning.

Why Delivery is Key?

In theory radical transparency drives performance. In practice, however, it can go wildly astray.

There is a fine line between radical candor and brutal honesty — aka candor that humiliates, demoralizes, belittles, and overwhelms.

Kim Scott, a former Google exec, says radical transparency is the combination of direct challenge + caring personally. Delivery that is kind or sincere. Again, aimed at serving someone else’s best interest and their success, rather than your own.

It means delivering feedback in a respectful, humble manner. Humble = open to being challenged equally, to having your truth challenged.

Dalio has his teams’ meetings recorded and available for anyone to listen to. He also creates baseball cards highlighting an employees’ strengths and weaknesses based on employees rating each other across 100+ attributes on a 1–10 scale. Big. Bold. Will work for some, and not others.

A final note, I am not holding Dalio out as the poster boy for corporate culture, far from it. There are plenty of articles, and lawsuits, challenging his methods. But, the concept and outputs of radical transparency, are the ideal.



I help women entrepreneurs scale businesses. I am a business consultant and legal advisor.

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Kate Carney

I help women entrepreneurs scale businesses. I am a business consultant and legal advisor.