An open system or organization must look at its environment for two reasons. The first one is to ensure its delivered output meets the continuously changing environmental needs. The second one is to look for inspiration, predict what the environment will demand next, create the demand and provide the first and/or the best offer to gain a competitive advantage and thrive in it.
The boundary separates a system or organization from its environment. As today’s environment changes faster than ever before, the demands for permeability to the system boundary are greater than ever before, forcing the system to cooperate (openly sharing, without any quid pro quo) and collaborate (working together for a common objective) to survive and thrive¹.
In his last blog on innovation, Professor Jay Rao from Babson College shares the evolution of the current business models in the communication world, where information and knowledge, rather than goods, are the main transactions through the system boundary. Closed systems are better for the user experience, because they can control better what is going on inside the boundary. However, open systems are better for the industry players and thus innovation. The information technology world proves once again that only open systems survive.
Never before has humankind had so much access to information and knowledge, and never before has there been such a possibility for sharing knowledge in a cooperative and collaborative mode. Forgotten are the times where the company’s R&D labs were locked to protect their intellectual property. Instead, companies finding ways to share their knowledge. The Open Innovation trend, although it must address some risks (IP protection, internal R&D constraints to the use of external technology, etc.) seems to be irreversible². Would you agree with this position?
Finally, the abundance of information poses also the challenge of identifying that which adds real value, separating it from the rest. Whereas internet did not exist 2500 years ago, Confucius already had it clear in his mind: “When you know a thing, to hold that you know it, and when you do not know a thing, to allow that you do not know it – this is knowledge”.