Would it be crazy to run a company in which every email sent to anyone was made public? 

Stripe, a payment start-up based in San Francisco, actually does this. Founded by brothers Patrick and John Collison, Stripe uses its transparent email policy to make almost every internal email public and even searchable for employees.

Stripe’s founding engineer, Greg Brockman, recently wrote in a blog post:

We value autonomy, rigorous debate, and avoiding hierarchy to the extent that we can. Startups often pride themselves on having a flat management structure but are eventually forced to put a formal coordination infrastructure in place as the number of actors grows.

So far, our experience has been that an ambiently open flow of information helps to provide people with the context they need to choose useful things to work on. It doesn’t eliminate the need for other kinds of structure, but it does make emergent coordination much easier and more likely.

Brockman wrote that the open policy makes everyone happier while averting internal conflicts before they arise.

On Quora, co-founder Patrick Collison also pointed out that the potentially secretive information, from metrics to new products, are things most people at start-ups are already aware of.

He wrote: 

The key and potentially secret information (metrics, upcoming products, plans) is stuff that everyone knows at most start-ups. (At least, they should.) So Stripe isn't very different here.

I find that our policies mostly affect cases where it doesn't seem obviously important to actively make information accessible to others. This stuff isn't usually of particular value to anyone outside the company, but it can often make internal workflows much more efficient -- people don't need to block on asking questions, they can take cues from how others are solving similar issues, etc.

Would you have an email policy like this? 


Published on: Mar 28, 2013