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The Advantages Of An Open Culture

Should a closed environment now be a thing of the past?

24Aug

If you asked Vladimir Putin for one word that he wouldn’t want the Kremlin to be described as, he’d probably say ‘corrupt’. Another adjective - 'open’ - wouldn’t be far behind though. After all, praising a secret service for having an open culture would set a pretty dangerous precedent for international relations, and goes against any notion that it’s advantageous for a country to keep its cards close to its chest.

Thankfully, most business leaders don’t have international relations to worry about. And although it would be incorrect to trivialise the decisions made by CEOs of more traditional companies by comparing them to those made by a major international secret service, information leaks - barring those which involve customer data - don’t normally have a catastrophic effect on the public.

In fact, through concepts such as open innovation, companies are increasingly finding that sharing secrets can help them become more successful. Although the notion of inter-company sharing is relatively new, it’s a strategy that a number of major corporations - including LEGO, GE and Samsung - have got onboard with. While this represents an important change, it’s arguably the growing trend towards intra-company sharing that has allowed the ideation process to develop and improve.

The hierarchy which most businesses used to adhere to would probably be described by most Business Studies teachers as a ‘them and us’ situation, where management would literally work above their subordinates, looking over them to make sure that they weren’t slacking off. As time’s moved on, this has become less and less prevalent, with Millennials, in particular, keen to work in flat and open organizational structures.

Another part of office life which has changed considerably over recent years is the approach to teamwork. Unless you work in a call-center - where those horrible individual booths break long desks up into rows upon rows of tiny prison cells - you’ve probably seen open desks and shared workspaces being introduced as they encourage people to discuss their work and ask for advice.

This has impacted the once prevalent ‘them and us’ situation by moving senior management onto the same desks as those who are lower down the organizational structure. For those new to the working environment, for example, this gives them the opportunity to speak to senior members of staff without having to go through some painfully bureaucratic hierarchy. That’s not to say, however, that the latest Facebook intern is going to sit next to Mark Zuckerberg, but there’s a chance he’ll be able to speak to his boss’s boss without having to book a meeting two months in advance.

The advantages don’t just lie in improved team working, but a working environment where people don’t feel like they’re easily disposable and just a name on HR payroll. It heightens their aspirations to succeed at the company and inspires them to want to make a difference.

While closed environments do continue to exist, management teams have, in the main, adjusted to a working environment where they work on a more level playing field with their subordinates. This should make their outputs more creative and ultimately successful.

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