E L S U A ~ A KM Blog by Luis Suarez

From the blog

Welcome to the Era of Radical Openness

Gran Canaria - Roque Bentayga in the WinterIt looks like this is the year of Transformation, of Change, of Thinking Forward -out of the box- in terms of what may well be awaiting us in the next 5 to 10 years, within the corporate world, trying to figure out what next. Or, better said, where to next. You would remember how at the beginning of the year I decided, for myself, to start making the move away from Social Business into Open Business, and how, just recently, I also decided to move further along from driving adoption of Social Business into facilitating the adaptation to Open Business. Exciting journeys so far, for sure, more specifically, from the perspective of how both concepts (Although not necessarily rather new) are already starting to catch people’s attention in terms of how organisations could as well be provoking their own business transformation just like it is happening in our very own societies, all around a single key concept: The Era of Open.

Indeed, it is undeniable how the whole mantra of being open, specially, in a business context, is starting to catch up plenty of steam and a whole lot of attention , more than anything else, perhaps, as a reflection of what’s happening out there with a good number of global (or local, for that matter!) events, where more and more knowledge workers (AND citizens) are demanding a whole lot more openness and transparency in terms of how organisations across sectors and industries actually function around their day to day business operations. It’s been fascinating to witness how the current financial econoclypse, the social unrest, the massive workforce shift and those very same global events I referenced above are leaving a profound mark in terms of how it may well be about a good time now for the corporate world at large to re-gain back that social responsibility towards society through becoming more open and transparent in how they operate as well as how they communicate.

Open vs. Closed. That’s it, really. That’s what it is all about. “Connected, messy, loose and open“, as my good friend, Harold Jarche, wrote about brilliantly a couple of months back. It’s essentially what the Open Social Web is helping provoke on a scale that’s going to be rather tough to stop, but also to ignore, or neglect, specially, seeing the huge impact those open collaboration platforms will have over the next couple of years, if not already. And I am sure that, at this point in time, you may be pondering about going a couple of steps even further and start thinking about Radical Transparency. Or Radical Openness for that matter. 

I can imagine how a good number of people out there may have just gone, a little bit, into panic mode when reading above about radical transparency. The thing is that we don’t know (yet) whether it might help out the business world to come back in good shape aiming as sustainable growth, or to help re-define a whole bunch of the business operating models (and processes) carried on from the 20th century that would help us address a good bunch of the business problems we still face today. Take, for instance, employee engagement: still the number #1 business problem in today’s corporate world. 

The thing is that Radical Transparency can be really good for employee engagement, as David Zinger wrote nicely about earlier on this year, picking up from a piece from HBR under the rather enticing and suggestive heading of “Why Radical Transparency Is Good Business“. The challenge, as I have written about a couple of times already, and I am sure most folks out there would be thinking along these terms, too, by now, is How Open Is Too Open?

Ahhh, the limits and the limitations. They always have to be with us, don’t they? The constraints that little by little keep regulating and overruling our lives, whether at work or on a personal level. Those constraints that once they start being part of our own comfort zone(s) it’s almost impossible to get rid of them in order to keep evolving along. That’s what’s stopping us at the moment from progressing further into exploring that whole new Era of Open. Jacob Morgan pretty much nailed it when he recently blogged about it and what it would mean. To quote: 

We talk about openness, transparency, and sharing, but how far would we be willing to go with it? Would you feel comfortable working in an all glass building where people can see everything you do and every move you make? I do believe that organizations need to be much more open and transparent but there’s a balance that needs to be struck here

Yes, indeed, there may well be a need for a balance at some point, in terms of how open and transparent you would want to become over the course of time. The thing though is that I have always believed that people should not be transparent. It’s organisations the ones that need to be transparent. And the more radical they are in that approach, the more each and everyone of us would benefit from it. This is essentially all about how much you would want to protect and hoard your own knowledge as an organisation understanding that what may have worked relatively well in the 20th century does not guarantee it will work the same in the 21st century. In fact, it won’t. That’s why we need to provoke that mindset shift from sharing knowledge on a “need to know” basis into “default to open” or, basically, sharing publicly everything by default unless you have been told otherwise. 

That being told otherwise pretty much refers to what I think is the only one use case scenario for which organisations may still want to hoard and protect their knowledge. That is, when that piece of content truly is confidential and of a rather sensitive nature. Mind you, you should still challenge it a great deal, if you feel that what may have been flagged as confidential in the past, may not necessarily mean it needs to be in the present or near future. Remember, the more that you may be able to share out in the open, the more visibility, the more re-findability, the more reuse your content will go through. And that’s a good thing. 

That’s essentially why I am such a huge fan of both mantras “narrate your work” and “working out loud“, without forgetting for that matter “Observable Work“. In my new job role, the rate of confidential, rather sensitive information I am exposed to on a daily basis has increased quite a bit from my former role, yet, time and time again, I keep challenging my own assumptions and those of others in terms of opening up and what it would mean for our overall efforts if we do. Vast majority of times I have discovered how the reason why people may not want to share their knowledge and information is not necessarily because they may not want to, but more because of inertia taking over with mutual agreements along the lines of “Yes, that’s how we have been doing business over here for a while and we never thought about questioning or challenging its status quo, because we thought it was all right. It was working“. Well, obviously, it’s not. Because if it were, I could guarantee you that we would not be having the good number of the business problems, challenges and what not we keep facing day in day out. 

Jacob, later on in the article, quoted: “Being open and transparent is a scary yet interesting thing but as with everything else there needs to be a balance” and I keep thinking that perhaps that balance needs to be a bit unbalanced after all. Yes, of course, it’s going to be scary. After all, it’s new ground, within the business world, that we  are trying to cover over here, right? I mean, when was the last time you heard of an organisation, the larger, the better, whose main mantras were to become more porous enough to permeate throughout on both openness and transparency? I haven’t heard of many so far, when trying to strike that balance. Yet the potential for that unbalance is massive, and here I am thinking that perhaps one of the things we could do is to get started with it and aim for radical openness instead. The one Jason Silva shares across in this absolutely exhilarating, inspiring, refreshing and thrilling short video clip: 


“RADICAL OPENNESS” – for TEDGlobal 2012 by @JasonSilva from Jason Silva on Vimeo.

What do you think? Ready for some yet?

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