Friday, 25 November 2011

Form follows fun, feedback, framework, and freedom

Last week I was given a conversation starter, on Radical Openness.  I was teaching and virtulaly meeting and only managed to give it thought this week.  I splurged out a stream of consciousness which I thought in the spriti of radical openness I woudl share... :-)
Can I start with a strange story and dilemma? One of the principles I started Pentacle ( my network ) on was that of "no boundaries" - everything is open. I've had new members comment on the fact that they could actually see the financial numbers in invoices and that it was a great shock and surprise! Not something which would have happened in any organisation they'd participated in before. We even have a shared email box with absolutely everything that everybody can see. The fascinating dilemma is that the bigger the network gets the more useful the volume of freely accessible information but at the same time new joiners respond increasingly negatively against the openness -. I don't fully understand it but i have some hints and hypotheses. I would be really interested to hear your views on why this should happen. At the same time the ‘old hands’ who do understand the value, slowly seem to begin to resent the contributions that they are making. It's really fascinating. My dilemma is whether to respond and recreate the old world of secrecy or to be even more open about the challenge this new set of attitudes is creating –
with the possibility of making it even more amplified?

I am always more attracted to the bigger patterns than the individual events so for me any glimpse at the pattern is

I guess we learnt from Radical Honesty that to achieve sustainability and a happier, healthier life, that there needs to be a “life force” and emotion to selecting when to be free not to stick to being a fanatic about any single idea. And we know that the more open the system the more we can provide use and value to people. I think it was June Cohen who explained how, with Ted’s open translation project, quality was assured by incorporating the very simple principle of interdependence so that the pair of translators and reviewers were interdependent. What I am intrigued by is if other self organising catalysts such as ensuing feedback and feedforward could possibly enable faster penetration of better quality ideas

On a different scale if ideas are to propagate and continue to propagate there needs to be an energy source – fuelled by the passion of the inventors or by a resource or financial loop. Without this ability to ‘loop it up’ the source becomes a ‘flash in the pan’ and . One of my colleagues uses a model which involves being radically open with all the teaching materials he generates, a bit like the MIT open courseware program but instead of relying on donations or waiting for some of his students to die and leave him money, he protects fiercely the software which can be used to accelerate or deliver the projects that the learning supports and uses paid for courses to fund his activities and family.

Open software development in IT has demonstrated the power of radical openness – and created a new set of dilemmas and issues – mostly on the political front about involvement application ownership use value and direction. The Free software FOSS movement’s debates and the unspoken question “Shouldn’t a programmer deserve or ask for rewards of their creativity? And on what is meant by ‘free’ continues to haunt the concept. The real value of Radical Openness I suspect will emerge once we systematically apply it to the real ‘no go’ areas like national security, state secrets, or even areas like the pay checks people take home. We will need to be aware of the emergent effect openness can create. Here in the UK we decided to make public top executive salaries about two decades ago . Like many decisions we did not attempt to glimpse the future. I wish we had because there were a number of unforeseen and unexpected consequences. Once the numbers were known, a salary arms race began at the top of the organisations. The Shareholders wanted to know why their CEO was so badly paid compared to other CEO’s - Was S/he not good enough ? Was their investment at risk? Could they not recruit that bette paid CEO from the competition which had been doing a bit better than their company recently?

The other side of the coin was also exposed enabling the CEO’s to target better remuneration by switching sides and loyalties and the rest is history. Today we discover that over the past couple of decades the pace of pay rise at the top is over 30 times the average (of course I over simplify the story but the question I wish to ask is, When we decide to firmly eject the genie from the bottle how can we tip the balance towards happiness and fun and health? Or is it possible that with out radical openness being firmly established we cannot see the implications of being open?

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