Unless you’re in counterterrorism, nothing good comes from keeping secrets from those you care about. And believe it or not, a recent and infamous business debacle has a big lesson on the four most dangerous ways we try to hide things—even in our marriages.
For several years, I’ve followed the story of Theranos, the company helmed by media darling Elizabeth Holmes. This twenty-something genius was transforming the medical industry by creating (she claimed) a revolutionary technology that could test for hundreds of diseases and conditions with only a drop of blood. Imagine if a patient who needed to monitor various blood levels could prick a finger and test themselves multiple times a day! Imagine if pharmaceutical trials could catch adverse reactions in a few hours instead of days, or doctors could do on-the-spot analysis. She raised one billion dollars from investors, and the board included big names like George Shulz, Senator Bill Frist, and Henry Kissinger.Because I do a lot of women’s leadership work, I was excited to see a female CEO leading a startup that was poised to do great things.
Until, we learned, her entire platform was a house of cards about to implode. And it wasn’t because the technology wasn’t a great idea, or even because it couldn’t be achieved in some form eventually. It was because of the oldest temptation in the human race: the temptation to hide and keep secrets instead of being transparent.
The book Bad Blood, written by the Wall Street Journal investigative reporter who first uncovered the fraud, is a cautionary tale in many ways, but for me as a social researcher it is a case study on four secrets that will kill your relationship . . . whether that is a marriage or a business partnership.