We discussed in a previous post how new initiatives are changing the way we make cars, houses, furniture, clothes, and probably, in the end, everything we actually make. We said it is a consistent movement, but if so, what makes it so? All of these projects share a common model:
- Don’t protect the knowledge. Share it. It’s probably the hardest thing to understand as we’re living in a society of strongly protected knowledge with patents, trademarks and copyright. But an open source model enables the rise of a community, and that may be worth much more than the copyright that you’re protecting. So you need to switch from “Don’t copy me!” to “Please copy what we do, use it in another market, improve it and try it in ways we haven’t”.
- Make a network based on open standards. No need for one company to rule everyone. People will be able to join as they like and do things you would never have thought of. Open Standards are essential as they are what ensure you can use your improvements with other people’s together.
- Adopt a horizontal governance that is open to contribution. As there is no hierarchy between the entities of the network, there will be no boss deciding what is to be done. Decisions need therefore to be made on a consensus basis so that everybody in the community feels empowered.
- Produce locally and customize. That’s what open source is about. A new group can emerge anywhere to use what you’ve designed for their own needs, and adapt it to their reality. You could download your next piece of furniture, for example, cut the pieces in a workshop close to your home, and adapt it to your own living room. Forget about boring everyone-has-the-same furniture!
So at this point you might be wondering why you should consider this instead of a good old proprietary control model. The real question is actually this: how long can these proprietary models survive, each in their own silo, while communities gather to build something common? It’s not about giving up the project, but about growing the community by empowering people and enabling diversity. In other words, it is not a threat, it is an opportunity.
But yet some critical success factors need to be kept in mind in order to get that community actually growing. The community needs to be taken into account to set the right governance, organize the right communication, set the right standards, and document them so others can join. And most importantly, encourage the initiatives so that people feel empowered.
So whatever you do, whatever the domain you’re in, you should consider it, because it is the world of tomorrow.