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The Principles of Open Business – Principle Four: Sharability

Part V in a series of blogposts describing the 10 Principles of Open Business

Our fourth Principle of Open Business is one which would be easy to mistake for a simply tactical implementation: Sharability.

Packaging knowledge for easy and open sharing both internally and externally

But Sharability is as much an organisational design principle as Networked Organisation since there must be a cultural/philosophical recognition of the value of sharing over hoarding.

Once again, we invite you to score your organisation against this Principle and offer a guide at the end of this post to help you do so.

The antithesis of an organisation built on the principle of Sharability is one which is built on the principle of Secrecy.

It’s likely there will be one or two things about the way your organisation does or makes something which is unique, or at the very least so special that it gives you a perceived competitive advantage over rivals.

But, if you are honest, these very few special things are worthy only of pockets of secrecy – rather than the cultures of secrecy they are too often allowed to generate.

In such cultures the belief is that the competitive advantage is not in the best fit with the needs of the market, but in the delivery of the fastest first approximation. Cultures driven by the principle of Sharability are more likely to value best fit over first approximation.

Cultures driven by Sharability prefer Creative Commons and Open Source to locked filing cabinets and patent wars. They do so because they believe that sharing knowledge is the fastest way to the best solutions. Centuries of scientific discovery support them.

At the day-to-day implementation level, those driven by the principle of Sharability design every document to be shared easily, internally and externally. They may implement social technologies which are default shared documents to encourage collaborative approaches. They may value tagging of documents to enable the easy discovery of relevant work happening elsewhere in the org. They may make external stakeholders part of their document iteration processes. They will provide default accessibility to all the work within the org for anyone inside or out to discover – with opt-outs following strict criteria.

It may be that, like 90:10 Group, they share what they have learned with the world both to generate interest but also to expose the thinking to new challenges to improve it. This blogpost is an example.

They certainly won’t be relying on printed documents or email.

Among the powerful benefits they will receive are that Sharability:

  • Taps into peer-to-peer distribution networks reducing cost to market and of targeting
  • Raises thought-leadership profile
  • Breaks down internal silos and external / internal barriers
  • Encourages the repurposing of information – raising value and cutting costs
  • Delivers connections for lateral thinking and new perspectives
  • Value exchange reinforces connections and relationships
  • Allows cost and time efficiencies, reduces duplication
  • Ensures an organisation learns collectively and more quickly
  • Improves the spread of internal best practice

Two examples of businesses benefiting from applying the Principle of Sharability:

O’Reilly Media: Sharing what you know pays dividends – even when it’s all you’ve got to sell: When O’Reilly removed the DRM anti-sharing mechanism on its e-books it saw a rise of 104% in sales within a year. (Source BoingBoing.com)

IBM and Linux: In 1999 IBM announced its support for the Linux operating system and has remained among the largest contributors to this open source ever since.

The return:  Linux is supported on all modern IBM Systems, Over 500 IBM software products run natively on Linux, IBM has developed a full line of implementation, support, and migration services and facilitated thousands of migrations to Linux. It has served tens of thousands of customers with hardware, middleware, and service products. (Source IBM.com)

Is your organisation closer to Goal State or Worst Case? Rate yourself. Share your thoughts.

Goal State (Score 5/5) Knowledge/thought leadership in all formats is created in such a way that it can be easily and readily published openly, and shared. Share functions are built into each document/asset. Creative commons is the default.

Worst Case (Scores 1/5) Knowledge created in the organisation stays within the organisation. Anything published outside is done so with extensive copyright protections in place.

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