Back to the open vs closed issue…
I wrote a few posts in the past where I presented a problem that many of you trying to build an open enterprise may face. There is a broad spectrum of views on the new economy, and that is because we don’t have a well-established theory yet. This is normal in times of transition, of paradigm shift. We are going through a period of wide experimentation, during which many models are proposed and tried. When you form a group/community around a project you may include in it individuals with different views, from the classical to the most radical, to the gift economy and cash-less society. How are you going to set the degree of openness of your organization in a democratic manner, in this context?
This is a very important issue, because it is directly related to the perceived rate of success of the venture. This is a very divisive issue!
In our case, some of the original members of Sensorica were not at all initiated to the new economy. They thought that the best way to bring our high tech sensor to the market is by creating a corporation, which is what I call a box. My views on the open enterprise are concentrated in the Discovery Network model. My first strategy was to educate. That failed, because without concrete examples of success my partners did not want to spend their time reading about open innovation. My second attempt was to infuse the organization with new blood, taking in open-minded members, and showing the power of open collaboration. The activity level went up, new ideas started to pour in, and some hardliners started to see the advantage of opening up. But at some point they started to feel insecure again. They felt that the risk of betrayal was growing, and feared that some of these new members could still our knowledge and jump over us to the market.
I have to admit that we haven’t reached the critical mass yet, and reputation mechanisms are still not fully engaged to stabilize our relations. In a sense my partners’ insecurity was justified. I tried to appease their feelings by explaining that know how is the most important asset in the new economy, NOT knowledge; but that didn’t work either.
Finally, one member proposed a wonderful compromise.
In a few words, we decided to create a separate company, a box, called Hyperion Inc., which will take under it the Mosquito sensor and everything that comes with it. 3 members went under Hyperion. Sensorica WILL REMAIN an open and decentralized value network, composed of individuals AND organizations (formally treated exactly the same). Hyperion will be a member of Sensorica. I formally dissociated myself from Hyperion, to become an individual member of Sensorica.
Hyperion will be a fully independent and autonomous entity, as any other member of Sensorica, BUT it will commit to act as an important contributor to Sensorica. Hyperion will need my input for further developing and improving the Mosquito sensor, which is definitely going under Hyperion, and I will need Hyperion to be part of Sensorica, to allow me to develop this collaborative environment. I will act as a consultant for Hyperion ONLY for matters regarding the Mosquito sensor (I am a co-inventor), which is not in contradiction with the open value network concept. Members can exchange freely among themselves within this collaborative space, as long as we respect the one member one vote rule for democratic decision-making. Hyperion has only one vote like any other member (see more on decision-making). For all new projects I will act as Hyperion’s collaborator within the Sensorica open and decentralized space, like any other member of Sensorica.
We have created a membrane around a few founding members to provide them with a more secure space in which they will be able to operate and to fully express their skills. Moreover, Hyperion will be able to get some funding as a classical entity, which will in turn have an impact of the development of the whole Sensorica community.
The only difference is that, at this moment, Hyperion doesn't want to share the knowledge around the Mosquito sensor with everybody else in Sensorica. That is the only thing! But in the near future other companies will become members of Sensorica, and we cannot force anyone to open up entirely. In my view, Sensorica is a collaborative environment that will put A LOT of pressure on members to open up. You cannot benefit from collaboration without opening up, to some degree, to everyone in that space. Knowledge has to circulate in all directions for happy things to happen! This is the trick my friends, right there! Environments like Sensorica are like melting pots where hard shell corporations melt down and blend with everything else in there. They get infected with the collaboration virus and get cured from competitiveness, because of purely economical reasons. The new technology creates an economical environment that benefits social beings; it's all about exchanging, socializing, coordinating, and collaborating at the global scale. In my view, this is the essence of the new economy.
Having said that, Sensorica should NOT have a strict policy on total openness. Members can keep their secrets. If WE are good enough, we'll create an environment in which it does NOT make economical sense to keep too many secrets. If we can't incite to openness we can't force it. That's my motto. The new economy comes naturally. The world is changing in a natural direction. We just need to follow it, like going down a river.
This restructuring solves two major problems at once. It creates a secure space within Sensorica for members who are not too keen on the new economy, and it provides us with a way to plug ourselves into the present-old economy, to suck in seed funding for our new projects through classical means.
So how open Sensorica should be? That still remains an open question. It's a process... But by putting in place this membrane around Hyperion we are now in a better position to reach a compromise. I think the level of openness will adjust itself in time, based on how every member will perceive the benefits of open collaboration, once value created starts to be exchanged on the market. We already have a first customer in sight!