Living our values: openness [2/7]
Part two of a blogpost series on the InSites Consulting company values. The new economy is flooded with the promises and virtues of openness: open collaboration, open working space, open sourcing, open innovation, open universities, open government. The driving forces behind the continued uptake of openness are unstoppable: mobile and digital technologies connecting everything and everyone to one another, the new Gen Y and Gen Z digital native generations expecting and demanding brands and organizations to be open and authentic and the worldwide economic crisis painfully showing the lack of answers which more traditional, closed models have.
“A mind is like a parachute, it doesn’t work if it isn’t open.” – Frank Zappa
The impact of openness (or the lack of it) on business performance, corporate reputation and branding is more clear than ever. A negative example is Apple, recently having been accused of allowing improper labor practices with Chinese teenagers working 11 hours a day putting together iPhones in questionable circumstances. A positive example is Procter & Gamble acting as a pioneer in open innovation, tapping into the collective wisdom of people who are not on its payroll, thereby increasing product innovation rates and reducing innovation costs.
With increased openness shaping the future of businesses, it is important to understand it requires building and cherishing an open company culture. Don Tapscott and Anthony Williams convincingly outlined the underlying principles supporting the power of openness in their latest book “Radical openness”. They make a compelling case for openness as the starting principle for successful business. The cost of sticking to the old ways of thinking and working is higher than the cost of transforming to an open-mind model. They highlight four key principles behind the concept of openness: collaboration, transparency, sharing and empowerment. All four dimensions are reflected in the way we describe our openness value at InSites Consulting:
With boundaries becoming more fluid and open, organizations are increasingly driving value from people who are not on their own payroll. Stiven Kerestegian, Senior Manager Open Innovation at LEGO, put it nicely: “99.99% of the world’s smartest people don’t work for us.” But openness evidently also relates to facilitating intra-company collaboration, having people work together and tapping into wisdom of the internal crowds. At InSites Consulting, we strongly believe in the power of external collaboration, co-creating the future of marketing research together with clients, academics, competitors, consumers and several other stakeholders. Our Global Community Moderator Network provides a natural extension of our team of consultants with more than 150 highly experienced moderators in 30+ countries helping us connect with consumers all around the world. And our internal collaboration platform SharePoint helps our people collaborate more effectively across 5 different offices.
Organizations and brands are becoming increasingly naked by the day, either unintentionally with whistle-blowers leaking information that has been kept a secret or intentionally with values and integrity as an integral part of companies’ business models. I love the way Don Tapscott refers to it: “Sunlight is the best disinfectant.” We can run, but we cannot hide: the world around us becomes increasingly transparent. One example of the way in which we stimulate transparency is our “Employee Happiness Barometer”. On a weekly basis, everyone at InSites Consulting indicates how ‘sunny’ his or her week was through a kind of weather report, allowing coaches to feel the pulse of their coachees’ happiness in an ongoing way.
Owning assets and intellectual property is less and less a necessary ingredient of business performance. We are moving from an owning economy to a sharing economy, with resources being shared among a wider population of users. Jeremiah Owyang, Partner at Altimeter Group, recently illustrated a number of great cases on how sharing is even relevant in the luxury segment. All too often, it appears that defensive legal actions used to protect current business models have their limits. Just think about the music label industry that is now in danger of collapsing through music sharing models such as Spotify. At InSites Consulting, we practice what we preach in our books The Conversation Manager and The Conversation Company. Whatever we learn, we share through people, accelerating content spreading through social media. Our Social Media around the World report was among the top 3 most viewed presentations on SlideShare, with SlideShare even developing a case around it. Freely sharing the e-version of our latest book “The Consumer Consulting Board” is another way of demonstrating the importance we attach to sharing.
Knowledge and intelligence get increasingly distributed and disaggregated, bringing more freedom and empowerment to individuals. Especially younger generations expect to have the power to make a difference, using digital technology to lower transaction, communication and collaboration costs. By giving our younger team members important responsibilities from an early stage onwards, we build a strong, agile and positive organization. Our Marketing manager Anke Moerdyck as well as our Employee Happiness Manager Kim Verheyden are both Millennials, keeping our brand and culture fresh. Our partnership structure is also instrumental in supporting empowerment, allowing anyone in the organization to become co-owner at a certain point.
There is no way back. The open world is here to stay and is expected to further accelerate. The future will be less about money, power or size, but more about agility, networking and sharing. Are you ready?