I’m hoping for a discussion.  In some of my prior posts I’ve noted that transparency, participative management, and collaboration within and across organizations, while long standing ideas, are now easily possible.  My question is:

What evidence, tools, and techniques do people in mainstream organizations think they need to move in this direction?  

A few colleagues and I will be writing a proposal for a research center/think tank focused on these issues and your comments would be a great help.  The return is that we may then be able to then provide you with the evidence you want and background on effective tools and techniques you think would be helpful. Social technologies and the Internet have given us the levers to make transparency, participation, and collaborative innovation available to all of us.  I often say there are at least three forces working to make organizations more transparent and participative.  These forces are:

  • Technology Tools: Social technologies that give us, and our organizations, easy access to our networks of friends, colleagues, and possible collaborators, at any time and from any place.
  • Organizational Practices: Many organizations are shifting from hierarchical management to forms that are more open.  The books, The New How, The Power of Pull, Transparency, Open Leadership, and Empowered, and Macrowikinomics, chronicle the benefits of an open approach and some of the downsides of more hierarchical methods.  (The authors are all realistic about just how open you might be.)
  • People: Gen Y, and the rest of us, are demanding greater transparency and participation in the design of their work.

These three forces, when woven together (using our systems savvy), give us a solid foundation for creating powerful, innovative organizations... sometimes. The same forces that push us to this more open, collaborative organizational environment also must be effectively managed to keep us from chaos.  

This blog often highlights examples of how companies have used technology, organization, and human capability to proactively innovate around new directions, emergencies, or more basic organizational change (examples), but I don’t have hard evidence-backed frameworks for when these approaches will work and when they won’t -- especially not in modern settings. The examples from the organizations highlighted in this blog, and in the books mentioned above, are great beginnings.  We can all learn from examples. However, we can all also learn from broader research that may let us know why some approaches work in some organizations, and help you predict the approach that may be best for you in your setting.

If your organization is already of this open form, what evidence moved you in that direction, or has your organization always been that way? What questions remain open? If your organization isn’t moving to a more open form, why not?  What evidence would it take to begin? What can faculty in a business school do to help -- either through our research or our teaching?

Background reading: These are my reviews of some of the recent books touching on these topics.