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Open is a gateway drug -  Liam Barrington Bush
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Open is a gateway drug - Liam Barrington Bush

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By the time your organisation has implemented all of the applications of ‘open’, you'll have deconstructed most of what we think of as being an 'organisation’. And maybe that’s a good thing.

By the time your organisation has implemented all of the applications of ‘open’, you'll have deconstructed most of what we think of as being an 'organisation’. And maybe that’s a good thing.

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  • Just to get things started, quick show of hands: how many of you think open can change the world?And another quick poll: how many of you might describe yourselves as anarchists?...right... Not quite as many of you... we’ll see if we can change that at all in the next 20 minutes or so...Here’s why: Open is dangerous stuff. We might think of it as associated with inarguable concepts like sharing, transparency, giving, collaboration, but it’s a lot more than that.Open is a gateway drug.
  • ...and before you know, it –
  • BAM! Anarchy!But before we get into that, let’s quickly recap the space most of our social change organisations are currently in...Sometimes I think the worst indictment against them is that things like Dilbert and The Office have become as popular as they are.
  • I like to believe that if a more enlightened group of humans from the future travelled back in time and found these relics, they would be utterly confused and have no idea why such tragically absurd creations could be considered funny. It’s only because we are used to such a high level of tragic absurdity in our organisational lives, that Dilbert and the Office don’t just baffle us, like trying to understand a sub-culture we have no reference points with.But here’s the main issue: All of our default organisational structures, processes, habits and behaviours are based on the assumptions of closed, proprietary, controlling hierarchies.This is the result of centuries of closure. Enclosure of the commons, of community life, of art, of work, of ideas, of property...
  • Marx highlighted one of the most critical losses of these closed systems as it affects work: the alienation of labour that results through division and specialisation.Essentially, he argued that by breaking work down into so many specialist component parts, workers lose their sense of ownership over what they are creating. In essence, the feeling you get from adding three screws to a table moving along an assembly line, is not the same feeling you get from designing and building a table yourself, from scratch.But there was a flipside to the alienation that Marx described – the alienation of responsibility for the work we do. If you’re adding a few bolts to a cruise missile each day, odds are slim you’ll feel responsible for the family in an Afghan village that it tears apart.The more closed and divided the systems, the more alienated we become from the overall results of our work, good or bad; we feel like cogs in a machine, rather than human beings with agency to shape the work we do, for better or worse.And we experience this at work, but also more widely.
  • ...Even our most democratic national elections are parts of incredibly closed systems. Voting is to our democracy what the assembly line is to our work. It offers us this tiny moment of engagement with the wider democratic process of governing our lives, and then closes up again for another 4-5 years.Both systems give us controlled moments to engage in a pre-defined way, with something broader that we feel we have no influence over, nor real responsibility for the results of.Which is just another way of saying that closed is our default system setting in so many realms, taking its toll wherever we find it.Openness is a core component of healthy democracy, whether in a society or a workplace. In the context we are in, open is revolutionary stuff!
  • Examples: Creating the Future – livestream their meetings, including board meetings, inviting anyone along to observe or take part People & Planet – have no formal hierarchy, but co-manage a colleague, offering them support and a space for reflection, but without any of the top-down compliance powers – primarily for mutual support Netflix – offers their salaried staff as much paid holiday time as they want, realising their contributions to the company are not measured in the number of days or hours they spend sitting at their desks, but on the quality of work they do Occupy camps all over the world have used consensus decision-making processes in groups of hundreds and even thousands, At Brazilian industry company, Semco, staff are training in financial literacy, have all the company books made available to them, and are free to set their own salaries, based on the work they do and what they feel they need, knowing that all their colleagues can see what they have paid themselves. Countless Argentine worker-run factories, occupied after their foreign owners abandoned them, have come to lead their various fields by getting rid of management all together, and sharing the administration of the business amongst staff. At a European Commission-funded African aid organisation, local grant recipients are brought together each funding round to collectively determine how much funding each project should receive. Platform London blog their learning processes, involving anyone with the interest and experience to contribute. This means looking at everything from ethical fundraising to equalities issues that the organisation struggles with, and making a range of internal organisational resources that emerge from these open processes. Greenpeace UK, following a range of ongoing trolling problems on their Facebook page, asked their Facebook community of over 140,000 people how they should keep trolling from disrupting the discussions people came to their page for, eliciting hundreds of constructive replies and leadning to ????????
  • Examples: Countless Argentine worker-run factories, occupied after their foreign owners abandoned them, have come to lead their various fields by getting rid of management all together, and sharing the administration of the business amongst staff. At a European Commission-funded African aid organisation, local grant recipients are brought together each funding round to collectively determine how much funding each project should receive. Platform London blog their learning processes, involving anyone with the interest and experience to contribute. This means looking at everything from ethical fundraising to equalities issues that the organisation struggles with, and making a range of internal organisational resources that emerge from these open processes.Ukuncut would ask their networks what tax-dodging companies they should target, then collectively carry-out research on those companies, and then encourage people to take their own forms of peaceful direct action against whatever storefront was closest to them. Greenpeace UK, following a range of ongoing trolling problems on their Facebook page, asked their Facebook community of over 140,000 people how they should keep trolling from disrupting the discussions people came to their page for, eliciting hundreds of constructive replies and leading to ????????
  • We often talk about open relating to the outside world, but most organisations are just about as closed, in how their internal processes are run, as they are with what they make public, as decisions and information are concentrated in the tops of the hierarchy.But if we open up – inside and outside – what are we left with?
  • Essentially, the question I want to ask is: Is an organisation more than the sum of its closed parts?Or without it’s hierarchies and sign-off processes and closed-door meetings, does it become something else entirely?
  • ...And thus, open provides the breadcrumb trail to a healthier democracy... But one which probably has less to do with the current versions we’ve experienced, and more to do with... Basically, once you’ve installed Linux, you’re just a hop skip and a jump from anarchism...One of the learnings of open, is the breaking down of the fictional internal/external organisational divide – but if we try to do open without dealing with both, together, we will minimise the potential impact of either kind of change – and ultimately, of the change we’re able to produce in the world.For example, if an organisation has an open data policy, but a closed internal decision making process, the former will inevitably be restrained by the latter.So what are some of the ways open is changing how we organise?
  • That description, read aloud and without a lot of wider context can sound a bit Utopian.Maybe it is.But is it any more so than the machine metaphors we’ve used to describe our organisations for the past 150 years? Is it more naive than to think you can optimise a organisational machine, by tweaking and refining all of its parts, finding the single best way to do everything that it does, and then simply hitting the ‘on’ switch?What that vision ignores are the fundamentals of context and relationships – and the inevitably complex nature of groups of people working together... Particularly on things that many or all of them believe passionately in!
  • Open helps us to re-experience the whole of what it is we do, rather than being relegated to the corner cubicle we’ve been assigned under the industrial work regime.Open is what we do in our families, in our communities, with our friends, and in our mosques and churches and synagogues. Its what we do in moments of disaster. To paraphrase Peter Kropotin’s writing a hundred years ago, open cooperation is how species – human and otherwise – evolve and grow together.There is nothing more natural than open groups, self-organising for their collective good.So with that in mind...
  • So don’t stop with software or hardware – open everything! From your behaviours and working habits, to your organisational structures and your political processes.Open is a fundamental challenge to the assumptions of ‘closed’ that most of us are still stuck with, which are sucking the life out of the people stuck within them. And they are not about to make themselves go away, so it’s up to us!If we want open, we have to be open. Nothing is off limits.Open wide!Thank you.
  • Transcript

    • 1. CC chipgriffin on Flickr Liam Barrington-Bush / @hackofalltrades #morelikepeople / #odc13
    • 2. ‘...It’s just a little bit of open data ...a quick hit of open software ...a sneaky taste of open
    • 3. ‘Open’ is a gateway to
    • 4. I’ve got a bad feeling about this...
    • 5. Voting: if it made any difference they’d make it illegal.
    • 6. The many faces of ‘open’ • Open meetings? – Creating the Future • Open peer management? – People & Planet • Open work/life balance? – Netlflix • Open decision making? – Occupy
    • 7. The many faces of ‘open’ • Open organisational management? – Argentine worker-occupied factories • Open grant making? - ????? • Open organisational learning? – Platform • Open direct action? – UKuncut • Open ...troll hunting? – Greenpeace UK
    • 8. Open software Open data Open Open space organisatio n Open meetings Open management Open hardware Open decision making Open jobs
    • 9. But if your organisation’s... • • • • • • • Creations are free to share Work isn’t bound by time or place Innovation processes are collaborative Decisions are made collectively Meetings are more like conversations Teams are accountable to one another Jobs are flexible and always changing ...then...?
    • 10. ‘It’s an organisation, Jim, but not as we know it.’
    • 11. anarchism. Why does it work better than the alternatives?
    • 12. Because its aligned with the ways we work together in the rest of our lives. To be open, is to be human
    • 13. Open everything!
    • 14. @hackofalltrades / morelikepeople.org /

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