Chapter 5: Openness, Why are progressive businesses open?

Hello shock-heads,

Hopefully you are not yet suffering from gout due to your Christmassy over-indulgence, and are instead primed and ready for some snippety business reading, eh.

So, having finished Leadership, we’re now onto a core element of how a progressive, social business *is*, which is open.



The world we now live in radically more open than that which is existed even five years ago. With the digitization of information, our society is only beginning to scratch the surface of what it is to live in a world where openness is easy and increasingly the default. Do you remember the first time you were sent an email you shouldn’t have seen? Who can forget poor Claire Swires and her email to her boyfriend (or was it fiancé?)! With the prevalence of Facebook, incidents like these happen every minute of every day across continents and hundreds of millions of active users. We are still coming to terms with the incredibly low-friction and massively high reach of sharing in the age of the Internet, even today.

Wikileaks releases top secret government records, journalists are able to hobble media empires and members of parliament through careful and persistent chasing down of digital information. Hacktivists Anonymous expose the names of visitors to paedophilia websites and hack Iranian government email systems. Videos of rogue employees misbehaving at work go around the globe in minutes, amongst billions of hours of video footage of kittens, double-rainbows and other oddities and extreme events that transcend themselves to become popular ‘memes’, ending up on t-shirts and in popular parlance.

And our young people are growing up in an age where they may have thousands of friends in social networks, a digital footprint of photos since they were babies that have been published in some form on the internet without their permission and are so creating new norms and new behaviours which have older generations shocked at the lack of privacy.

On the plus side, we can look up user-generated reviews of the restaurants we plan to eat in, the hotels we plan to stay in, of the tradespeople we plan on hiring to work in our homes. We can learn from other parents in Mumsnet, from other car-lovers in Pistonheads, from other gardeners and geneaologists and learners and whoever else we seek, in the ecosystem of niche communities that create a flow of open, helpful information that could never have existed before.

Hard-edged corporations too, even those with the glossiest of brands such as Proctor & Gamble and TK, have begun to share their most troubling and tricky business problems through crowdsourcing platforms and innovation marketplaces like Innocentive to collaborate and co-create solutions with networks of independent problem-solvers and customers alike.

Why is the progressive business more Open?

First and foremost, it makes sense for a progressive business to be more open because openness itself is irresistable. We cannot stop this trend, we cannot hold back this tide, so surely and inevitably we must instead celebrate and harness it.

That may be a little too based on faith alone. Businesses that are inherently more open cannot be driven simply because of some far-off understanding that one day the world will be more like this, can they? There must be some shorter-term reward, something more imminent, more pressing, more rewarding sooner. There must be jam today for openness to be a powerful part of this radical business movement.

In fact, by being more open a social business opens up tremendous new opportunities for itself, its people, its customers and wider stakeholders. These benefits include:

•    More powerful commitment and smarter problem solving internally thanks to greater openness around information and performance internally
•    Lower cost and higher impact marketing through the sharing of valuable information from the inside of the organisation to the wider world
•    Drastically lowering the cost of R&D through innovative and blended approaches to creation
•    Serendipity and unexpected consequences from outsiders making connections and creating possibilities where the organisation could not see or make them (not only in ‘innovation’ but in progress and activity generally)
•    To reduce costs and massively increase consumer loyalty and word of mouth buzz by capitalising on the trend towards greater participation between creator and consumer, including crowdsourcing, co-creation, crowd-funding and so on
•    And as a result of all of these, substantially reduced risks through being better prepared and more able to cope in an open world, which in turn creates a competitive advantage over slower, more reluctant competitors

Just a quick one today to set the scene. The next extract will outline 7 practical areas where the power of Open can be applied 🙂

How was that? Please provide feedback: via comments on this post, via email to, tweets @willmcinnes #cltrshck.

Next extract: 7 areas that open can be harnessed.

Thank you for your support.

Merry thingybob, Will

One thought on “Chapter 5: Openness, Why are progressive businesses open?

  1. Re the trend. I think you need to reword that para. I know what you mean but I didnt find it clear. I think you are saying that if businesses don’t become open they will be a) left behind b) be caught out.

    Re the benefits. What about the time and mental energy saved by not having to remember one’s lies or part truths?

    What about the time and money saved by not having to build expensive systems to keep things secret (eg I worked for one corporation that built a separate network just for its HR people so there was no risk of anyone apart from HR knowing what the top earners earned).

    Can you give some examples of how collaboration is much easier when people know the facts? Ie some corporates don’t share basic financial information – how then can employees be expected to solve problems, with only partial info?

    Is it worth saying something about who gains (or think they gain) from the opposite of openness?

    Hope that helps

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