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Daniel Hulme
Daniel Hulme

What is: Open information?

Posted on 3 June 2016

In an age where information gushes freely on a shiny river of light, the future is touted to belong to organisations that excel at ‘capture and share’ so that the possibility to generate insights and make decisions can be available to each and every person.

Information that streams openly through an organisation often looks chaotic. But it is the nutrient of self-organisation; everyone feeds off of it.

The basics

When all information is available freely people organise rapidly and effectively around changes, be they with colleagues, customers, or environments. People need access to information that no one could predict they would want to know. They themselves didn’t know they needed it until that very moment.

When information is available everywhere, different people see different things. Strategists will see opportunities that others overlook. The factory worker will see detail the strategist ignores. There is a need for all the available eyes and ears to consult the accessible data so that fast, integrated, effective responses can take shape.

Open information idealistically means brutal transparency in all areas including finances, work activities and individual contribution. This lends itself to honourable behaviour and smart, agile, well considered decision making.

What does it look like?

You must remember a time as a child when you were asked to do something ‘just because’. You might have toed the line, but you stood no chance of using that experience to behave appropriately in a different scenario, you probably just remember being incredibly grumpy. In a hierarchical structure certain individuals hold information that prevent others from acting. Generally this is not done consciously, they simply don’t know what the other person needs to know.

“#Transparency is the currency of trust”

In practical terms self organising teams tend to make copious use of the best communication platforms such as Slack, Skype, Asana etc and will give time and resources to other innovative mechanisms that support the sharing of knowledge from workshops and demos to newsletters, from retreats and pair working to ‘lunch and learns’. They make it easy, they make it honest, they make it fun.

Cheat sheet

Open information has a few key principles which we explain below.

Knowledge Share Information about real day-to-day work gushes freely. Copious use of Slack, Skype, Asana or other project management and comms systems links distributed teams and connects the individuals between the most prized face-to-face encounters.
Consultation Process Used to describe the decision making process. Broadly framed as an imperative to seek and hear the opinions of as many people as appropriate, in appropriate forums, over an appropriate length of time.
Retrospectives A Retrospective is a practice where teams get together to reflect on the way they work. Formats change but focus is on how and why rather than what. Emotion and personal development talk is commonplace.
Agile An established software development process that delivers a ‘minimum viable working product’ at each milestones. Team are multidisciplinary and work effectively as requirements change constantly, making each iteration relevant and useful. This methodology is now being applied outside software engineering across many areas of self organising organisations.
Intrinsic Motivation Self organisers hold to the idea that once finances answer basic needs folks tend to be motivated by extrinsic factors such as the desire to achieve mastery of something, a pull towards autonomy over tasks and time and a wish for connectedness both to their immediate community and to a higher purpose.

Related topics: open informationwhat is

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