Tag Archive for 'open source'

Five videos to help explain the New Game in business

To be a winner in the New Game requires an understanding from the bottom to the top of an organisation that if you are going to make best use of people’s talents to provide the goods and services folks want, in the way they want, you will - sooner or later - have to embrace three key concepts:

  • Openness (of information, innovation and internal/external communication);
  • Collaboration (among diverse groups of people including employees, customers and communities);
  • Sustainability (since this is the only viable future for business and civilisation).

The web and advances in technology allow us to organise ourselves in a fundamentally different, and more productive way - bringing people and information beyond old boundaries together to solve the challenges we face as businesses, societies and an interdependent planet. Some sectors will have to face this challenge sooner than others, but the direction of change is now clear and even those who feel they have some years’ breathing space need to accept that change will hit every sector eventually, as nimbler competitors who “get it” emerge to challenge the status quo.

But among senior and not-so-senior people in traditional organisations who can see or sense the arrival of these changes, many feel they are a “generational thing”. They believe their current senior management and overarching culture just aren’t ready for these ideas, so they do not push the agenda, preferring instead to wait until some mythical young turk steps up to take the reins of the business. But push we must. Because even in organisations where change is likely to be slower, decisions you make now could impede your ability to succeed in future.

One reason many are reluctant to take on the mantle of ‘change agent’ is that they don’t feel they have appropriate ammunition or language to persuade sceptical boards and colleagues of the need to move in this direction. Well, here are five talks which provide a good primer on the key rules of the New Game. They do so with clarity and passion, as well as containing some great quotations and examples to counter detractors’ arguments, bring waverers on board and inspire.

1. Charles Leadbeater on Innovation (TED)

Business thinker Leadbeater explains back in 2005 why decentralisation, collaboration and openness are key to successful innovation, and why incremental innovation is not enough.

2. Clay Shirky on Institutions vs Collaboration (TED)

In another prescient 2005 talk, social media guru Shirky talks about how the social web will bring vast changes to the organisational landscape.

3. Ray Anderson on the case for Sustainable Business (TED)

Floor-tile entrepreneur and former environmental offender Anderson provides a compelling business, as well as moral, case for pursuing sustainable business. It’s worth watching in full, but those turned off by equations might like to forward to his conclusions, which start at the 9min 10sec mark.

4. Jeff Jarvis on “What Would Google Do?” (YouTube)

Author and journalist Jarvis gives a comprehensive talk on how businesses need to change, based on his book “What Would Google Do?”. There are some great concrete examples of game-changing ideas for different sectors.

5. Tim Berners-Lee on the “Next Web” (TED)

The fact  the inventor of the web has thrown his weight so passionately behind the idea of open, linked data is crucial - particularly since those you’re trying to convince will likely have heard of him. In other words, his is a highly credible name to drop when you’re making that New Game business case.

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Open IP, social responsibility and the new game

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a blog post over at Steria Exchange outlining why the threat of litigation over digital copyright infringements highlighted the need for a ‘commercial commons’ – a pool of information, software, media and other resources that could be shared freely among individuals and organisations. This could benefit everyone enormously – making open web collaboration easier and helping businesses  to innovate products and services far more rapidly and cheaply than in the past. Some of the mechanisms to enable this are already well established, including initiatives such as open source and Creative Commons. But while these point the way forward, they will need to be built upon and championed more widely.

Opening up intellectual property also has clear social benefits. The front page of Saturday’s Guardian reported that Andrew Witty, the new boss of drugs giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), plans to put all its proprietary chemicals and processes that could help find new drugs for neglected diseases into an open ‘patent pool’, so they can be freely shared by researchers everywhere. In an unprecedented multi-pronged initiative, the company is also slashing the prices of drugs for the developing world, reinvesting 20% of profits it makes in the poorest countries in hospitals, clinics and staff for those countries, and spearheading a collaborative hunt for treatments to tropical diseases.

This bears out what I wrote in my opening post on this blog about the need for enlightened businesses to put social and community responsibilities ahead of short-term profit. Witty clearly understands this and is to be highly commended for making a radical move that marks out GSK as a pioneering corporate player of the new game. As he told the Guardian: “I think the shareholders understand this and it’s my job to make sure I can explain it. I think we can. I think it’s absolutely the kind of thing large global companies need to be demonstrating, that they’ve got a more balanced view of the world than short-term returns.”

Commenting on GSK’s move in Monday’s Telegraph, George Poynter echoed this message, arguing the credit crunch could herald a new moral economy. “In a new environment in which earnings growth is less available to avaricious shareholders, competition begins to have looser parameters and the demand on directors is not so much to prosper as to survive. GSK may well be recognising that its own survival, and that of its competitors, is dependent on the survival of its markets. To serve its markets is, in the long run, to serve its shareholders. This is an important development, because it implies that the market economy has to adjust structurally before corporate morality can follow,” Poynter wrote.

I share Poynter’s view, but the reasons for GSK’s move go beyond both altruism and the long-term survival of its markets. This will also boost the company’s reputation among the public and governments, as well as putting pressure on its competitors to follow suit (which Witty has called for). More profoundly, it illustrates how social responsibility is central to the hunt for talent. As a global player in the pharmaceutical industry, GSK needs to attract the best scientists and researchers in order to stay ahead of the competition. Most of these people would relish the chance to work on projects, or for a company, that helped to solve pressing real-world problems, rather than just developing lucrative products to line shareholders’ pockets. At a stroke, Witty has made GSK the most attractive pharma company for the most ambitious and talented researchers in the world.

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An opening gambit…

If you think the purpose of business is to make money, you’re wrong. The purpose of business is to best serve its customers and the communities with and within which it operates. Those that succeed in doing so will make money as a by-product, but that is neither their purpose nor their right. Our failure to remember that, and to enshrine it effectively in our regulatory and political systems, has led to catastrophic results – for people, the planet and most recently the public purse. The current financial crisis shows all too clearly what happens when business forgets that its first duty is to its customers and communities – and not to profit. At some point, the bubble bursts and you’re left with a sticky mess.

Recession is here and depression, it seems, may be just around the corner. But when we emerge from this downturn, the most savvy and successful organisations will be playing a new game where flexibility, openness, agility and collaboration are what count. The new game is being made possible by new technology, but it’s being driven by people – and their desire to create a more dynamic and sustainable business world that fosters good ideas and supports talented people.

Companies must also put what the jargonistas call ‘corporate social responsibility’ at the very heart of their organisational strategy, not just as a glib clause in their ‘statement of corporate values’ or marketing literature. There are people who pooh-pooh this as unattainable and idealistic. They maintain ‘ethical business’ is an oxymoron. They say it is unrealistic to expect companies to engage in activities unilaterally that would make them less profitable or competitive.

More enlightened businesses, however – including some of the world’s leading organisations – recognise things like sustainability, open collaboration (both within and beyond the walls of their organisations) and the need to attract talented people are connected issues that they have to take very seriously indeed. They don’t think doing so will make them less profitable or less competitive. Quite the opposite: they realise it is absolutely critical to their long-term success. They know they must operate in a way that balances the needs and concerns of a wide range of communities, many of whom will increasingly be socialising, collaborating and sharing information online – including their customers, their employees, their suppliers, their partners, campaign groups and ad-hoc online coalitions.

I have been arguing many of these points for over a decade, but we are now reaching a tipping point for their acceptance and adoption. Yet many businesses, individuals and legislators are woefully uninformed about and unprepared for the changes they need to make. What do they need to know to start playing? What moves should they make, how quickly and in what order? Are they fit enough? What are the obstacles on the course? How much luck do they need? What’s the cost of entering? How should they put together their teams? How do they win? Who’s already got a head-start? In this blog I plan to explore the rules of this new game, as well as commenting on other connected developments and conversations (and I hope starting some). Some of the answers  are out there, others still need to be articulated, developed or formulated.  But one thing’s certain – you’d better not take your eyes off the board.

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