Three signs your corporate culture isn't ready for the open source way | Opensource.com

Three signs your corporate culture isn't ready for the open source way

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It's a good bet that the next generation of defining companies will have corporate cultures built the open source way-- around openness and collaboration, while fostering community and culture that extend outside the company walls.

In fact many of the defining companies of the first decade of this century show these characteristics (with one very notable exception we discussed earlier).

It kind of makes you want to rush in and see if you can change your old style corporate culture and get in on the action. But try to change too fast and your efforts may backfire.

So here are three signs that your corporate culture may not quite be ready for the open source way-- and some tips to help you move closer.

Sign #1: My company defaults to closed rather than open.

Are decisions in your company made in the open? Or behind closed doors? When a decision is made, is the reasoning behind the decision communicated clearly and openly throughout the company?

How about the physical work space? Does everyone have their own office? And if so, are the doors usually closed? If decisions, strategy, and doors are closed, you work for a company that defaults to closed rather than open (More on the concept in this post).

To move your culture from closed to open, start by being more open yourself. Try “showing your math” more often when you are explaining decisions so folks understand how you got to them. Start sharing everything you know, see if others reciprocate. Leave your office door open-- or get rid of the office altogether. Eventually you may notice that your default state has switched to open, and hopefully others in the organization will follow suit.

Sign #2: My leadership is not bought into the idea of an open culture.

An open cultural initiative will fail if the senior executive in your firm isn’t leading the effort. Period. Full stop.

Ask yourself: have you done a good job selling the value proposition of a more open culture in a language an executive can understand? Meaning, how will it make your firm more profitable, more productive, more innovative. Show examples of other companies seeing success with open cultural efforts (you'll find many of them in the "What We're Reading" column on the right side of this page). Does your executive speaks in numbers and data? Show him/her numbers and data.

If you make a good case and get interest, begin to test some small cultural initiatives. If they fail, learn from your mistakes, and try again quickly. When doing things the open source way, failing small and fast is good-- many small failures often lead to the biggest successes. Once you have some small successes under your belt, go a little bigger, and keep the executive engaged along the way.

Sign #3: My company has few windows and doors into the outside world.

A truly open corporate culture doesn’t stop inside the company, but extends to the community of customers, partners, and others that care about it.

Can those audiences see in? Can they collaborate openly with you? Innovation housed fully within your corporate walls isn't optimized for the 21st century connected world (read what Jim Whitehurst has to say about it here).

Companies that can effectively communicate and collaborate with the outside world have a huge competitive advantage. Authentic dialog and community engagement are key concepts that the most successful brands are beginning to master.

Start by asking yourself this simple question: Are we talking at or talking with? Look at your website. Look at your communications, marketing, product development, and service efforts. Are customers and partners contributing effort, ideas, and feedback, or are they silent?

If you find that most of your communications are "talking at" only, find a place to test whether you can establish authentic dialog with the outside world. Fortunately, all these awesome social media tools make it easy to try something small, even if it is just opening a Twitter account or a company blog. And if you want to move beyond open dialog and into open innovation, do some background reading-- here is a good place to start.

So do the three statements above describe your company? If so, don't despair. As my favorite fortune cookie fortune said "All is not yet lost."

Companies fighting the trend toward more open cultures are fighting the weather. Some may take longer to discover the benefits than others. But by starting small, staying focused, and positioning your efforts in a language that speaks to your executive team, you may be the person who begins an open cultural transformation in your company.

Do you already have an open culture at your company? If so, pass on some additional tips for becoming more open in the comments section below.

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About the author

Chris Grams
Chris Grams - Chris Grams is President and Partner at New Kind and author of The Ad-Free Brand: Secrets to Building Successful Brands in a Digital World.