The Evolution of Open - Notes from Open Everything

Day 1 of Open Everything at Hollyhock has passed and I’m now up far too late blogging about it.

Numerous insights, but possibly the most interesting occurred during the spectrogram exericse where we asked participants to physically locate themselves along an axis (in our case a piece of tape along the floor) in response to questions we asked them.

The most interesting was a two dimensional spectrogram where we first asked people if “The Organization I work for is open.” Then, after participants chose their spot along this first axis we asked them to migrate along a Y axis according to the question “I personally work in an open manner.” Below is a re-creation of how the participants distributed themselves around the room.

Obviously definitions of “open” and “how open” one is was up to each participant - but then this is the point of a spectrogram!

At first blush it simply seemed that many people were personally open (or trying to act in an open manner) in their jobs and that there was pretty equal distribution between who was in an open vs. closed organization.

However, the distribution of people in the quadrants was not random. Those in the bottom right quadrant (quadrant 2) tended to be people who were in more conservative institutions like universities, governments and traditional companies. These people were the IT professionals, consultants, organizers, etc… but more importantly, they were rabble-rousers within their respective organization, trying to initiate change. In short, you had CHANGE MAKERS trying to shift their org into a more open space.

In the top right-hand quadrant (quadrant 3) were people in emerging open source projects and generally smaller organizations that were striving to be open. This was a group of people who’s organizations were become increasingly open. These ACTIVISTS believed in the open idea and were excited about where they - and their organizations - were.

Finally, in the top left hand quadrant (quadrant 4) were the VETERANS of the open movement. Here were people who worked in well established open source or open projects. Their challenge was they were experiencing the limits and issues of being and acting consistently in an open manner. As they push about against the most extreme limits of open they saw the necessity and value of not always been completely and totally open (for example, there are only so many thinking processes, conversations, and discussion, I can take the time to share).

So the big ah-ha was realizing the growth curve that people and organizations go through as they engage in, and become, more open. First you have change makers who agitate and work to enable organizations to adopt open methodologies. Then as the organization becomes more open people become activists, celebrating the open idea and pushing it into all areas of the organizations. Then those within the organizations begin to run into the operational and practical limits of open and, importantly, recognize the importance and role of “private” or “closed” as essential and so guard it. Critically, I also think that those in quadrant 2 or 3 are often measuring open differently then those in quadrant 4 - who because of their boards and/or stakeholders, hold themselves to a very high bar.

The best part about this is that it means there are individual and organzations lessons to be drawn as one migrates through these stages. It also means thatt those passionate about open, but in radically different quadrants (say 2 vs 4) may have very different priorities and/or concerns. This doesn’t mean that they aren’t both equally committed to a common ideal, just that they are looking at it from very different places.