Open Doors

April 9, 2003

in Knowledge Innovation

Remember the “open door”.  It’s both a metaphor and archetype we carry from our earliest childhood.  In business good managers are encouraged to have an “open door” policy.  There is something about corporate closed doors that imply secrets, lack of willingness to communicate, or just insecurity.  Or maybe infer the manager wants to be alone, don’t bother them etc. 

Before e-mail, some managers might just phone, while I suspect there was a lot more face to face contact.  In a world in which it takes more time to write an e-mail than call over the cubical why are e-mail volumes growing? Why are so many happy to remain in their office and type?  We know all the nuances of face to face communciation are important.  It more than just words. Still today we have more global teams, more individuals collaborating with less face to face frequency.  How do we help them? How can they connect on more personal levels? Why is it that walking down the hall can be strange territory?

Meanwhile more in and out bound e-mail means the firewalls and boundaries become more difficult to cross and manage.  Appropriate solicitations from a new supplier less likely to make it though.  While customers find logging feedback even more impersonal.   The organization effectively closing doors.  A collection of trends that can make organizations and their communities less open.

For the most part I believe the majority of organizations want the open door with less risk. The problem is how?  Similarly in a world in which “connectivity” determines competitive advantage, constantly expanding and connecting who and whom becomes more and more important. 

The challenge takes place on more than one level.

  • Individual profiles
  • Personal contact lists
  • Corporate contact lists
  • Attention Economics
  • Security
  • Spam / Unwarranted solicitations

What we need is a solution that is at once

  • more open – enhances sharing – more personalised
  • increases enterprize security, and risk management
  • builds and accelerates trusting exchanges within and across the community. 
  • reduces work, adds efficiency and accuracy,
  • qualifies external connections. 

Is that, open doors, expand circles, make new connections, harness  social capital?  From the enterprise point of view empower attention economics while retaining important connectivity and network links even when an employees become alumni. 

What’s the business model for the solution?  We should look to boundary costs, the edge of the network. That where new offers take place, that’s where new learning and customers are found.  The doors open — teleportation (or a simple message) just costs a few cents. In some businesses this agency is a referral fee.  Between friends – an introduction.  Both are legitimate approaches, both increasingly frustrated by current solutions. 

Locking up your coporate employee profiles is not the solution.  To do so shrinks your networks and the hidden social capital that exists beyond the boundary of every company. An intangilbe perhaps, goodwill maybe, a lesson already learned by software companies testing beta versions and getting free R&D.  Value your profiles, value your employees and thus add value to their networks and you will be rewarded.  The connections they make will create new value.  

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