Promoting A Culture of Openness

Synchronicity? I’m not really sure. I wanted to talk about the importance of promoting a culture of openness and guess what I read on Dave’s Scripting News this morning. A lengthy post about how his interaction (or lack thereof) with companies who are not promoting openness (but instead the typical old business approach of control and exclusivity) left him feeling detached from those companies and not really wanting to have a relationship with them or share anything with them again. Who were these companies? One was Microsoft (which probably won’t suprise a lot of people) and the other was Google (which probably will surprise some people).

All I can say is that obviously a change of culture is occurring at Google. The small personable culture that everyone assumed they had is slowly disappearing and being replaced by that familiar old business culture that we’ve seen in other larger corporations. The following quote taken from their website is proof enough of this change (although I’m wondering how Danny Sullivan got it because Google has an Iron Curtain around their Zeitgeist Conference site and you can only get in with a password).

All speeches and discussions at Zeitgeist are off the record. To ensure that our presenters and attendees can speak openly, no press coverage or blogging is permitted.

The hilarious thing about this quote is that it sounds like they are trying to promote openness (i.e. "ensure that our presenters and attendees can speak openly") when in fact they are promoting control, closure, and exclusivity as Dave mentioned. I mean what is so open about, what sounds like, a bunch of fearful zealots huddling within a fortress speaking in secret so that no one can attack them (and question their motives in the press or in the blogosphere). Or are you trying to tell me that when these presenters speak on the record they are not speaking openly and truthfully about things because they can’t? Either way you word this, it just leaves a bad taste in your mouth and doesn’t make you want to trust these people very much or have a relationship with them.

Businesses need to start waking up and realizing that every action they do (and don’t do) defines their culture. That culture they are defining is in turn influencing and affecting others who come in contact with it. If that culture counteracts the culture that others are trying to promote with their own actions then those people will not want to interact with you because they won’t want to interact with the culture that you are promoting. In a nutshell, you can talk all you want about how great a culture your company has but those interacting with you will define that culture by your actions not words.

For example, by relaying most of my thoughts on this site (even the ones I’m not sure about) anyone can take them and build off of them. Potentially this allows groups of people to collaborate and collectively solve problems or discover solutions which may not have been possible before with just one person. By sharing my thoughts and by being open with them, I’m giving them out in the hopes that we can all become stronger through our shared knowledge.

Of course my focus is on creating a better world, not making craploads of money. Therein lies the problem I think. When people start talking money, that’s when the walls are built, fear starts to spread, and people start whispering their ideas behind closed doors. That’s when the old culture of business begins to clamp down on things. When you talk about changing the world though, borders are broken, hope is spread, and people start shouting their ideas from their rooftops to as many people as they can reach.

We need to promote this open culture because it is the culture that every good relationship is built upon. It is the culture of the world.