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People Innovation In Action™

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Kingsley Dennis

Open-Source Everything
In our complex world we can no longer work with industrial-era hierarchies where information travels in linear paths, usually from the top-down in micro-management bite-sizes. Today is the distributed-era; of people collaboration, communication, and networking.

A new paradigm marks the opening decades of the 21st century. We need to be willing, open, and receptive to new models, systems, and values. We are, quite literally, shifting from one set of C-Values – Competition ~ Conflict ~ Control ~ Censorship – to a new set: Connection ~ Communication ~ Collaboration ~ Consciousness.

Hierarchy is a restrictive structure that does not fully utilize the potential of collaborative information sharing. To foster People Innovation in Action the hierarchical model must shift toward one of the collaborative community. The notion of secrecy must be replaced by one of sharing, which fosters integrity in human relations. Integrity in human systems requires diversity; and diversity will achieve inspired human innovation. My call is therefore for an embrace of an open source culture that facilitates community sharing and development.

Open source is a philosophy and/or practice that promotes the free access to all levels of information, whether it be in design, management, human resources, etc. In an age of distributed networks the way people and information connect must now move from a vertical model (top-down, linear), into a horizontal model (distributed, non-linear). The embrace of the open source culture will foster Transparency, Truth, and Trust:

Transparency – will generate flows of truth
Truth – will generate trust between people
Trust – will provide the engine for successful human collaboration, creativity, and inspired innovation

Leadership now requires an open source culture where individuals are able to harness the distributed intelligence of the collective. Ben Gilard (in Business Blindspots) wrote that, “Top managers’ information is invariably either biased, subjective, filtered or late…Using intelligence correctly requires a fundamental change in the way top executives makes decisions.” It has been said that in a room full of experts, the greatest intelligence is to be found in the room, not in the individual experts. The wisdom is in crowd-sourcing and collective-sharing information. Examples of this abound:

In 1906, Francis Galton, known for his work on statistics and heredity, came across a weight-judging contest at the West of England Fat Stock and Poultry Exhibition. An ox was on display and for six-pence fair-goers could buy a stamped and numbered ticket, fill in their names and their guesses of the animal’s weight after it had been slaughtered and dressed. The best guess received a prize. Eight hundred people tried their luck. They were diverse. Many had no knowledge of livestock; others were butchers and farmers. In Galton’s mind this was a perfect analogy for democracy. He wanted to prove the average voter was capable of very little. Yet to his surprise, when he averaged the guesses, the total came to 1197 pounds. After the ox had been slaughtered, it weighted 1198. Yet not one single person alone came close to the final weight.*

Another, more recent example:

Harrison Owen (author of Wave Rider: Leadership for High Performance in a Self-Organizing World), relates a story of how he was asked to organize a two-day Open Space technology conference for a large engineering company that had spent more than two years, and millions of dollars, designing an airplane whose door would not work as planned. This open source/open space conference brought together everyone who had worked on the door from top managers, designers, to everyone on the ground crew; including even those who had just touched the door. All compartmentalization of information was abandoned. The result was that the two-day conference fixed the problem at a cost of almost nothing to the company. Results were achieved in a way that was not possible by traditional top-down management structures.

It’s time to crack open the box on how we think, behave, and work. In this new era of creative, connected minds we need to utilize the greatest asset we have – ourselves. The 21st century will be era of human-centered innovation based upon the principles of Connection ~ Communication ~ Collaboration ~ Consciousness.

The killer idea for the years ahead will be open source everything. Now, let’s go out there and crack the box open, and distribute the contents.

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