Freedom of speech, transparency of information and new web technology: minimum basis for Open Innovative Society

In December Capgemini organized a round table session for clients in corporation with the Center for Inquiry of the United Nations and Mint Consultancy. The topic of the event was: “An more active role for companies in creating an open innovate society is vital for solving global social issues”

Several trends and developments describe the rise of an open innovative society. In this kind of society, there will be no differences between people and their role in the classic way of producer, consumer, owner, civilians and patients. Now the can play each role simultaneously. Key indicators for success are freedom of speech, transparency of information and the availability of new web technology.

Up to now this theme is mainly discussed in the academic world and global governmental organizations. The (global) business community is relative not active participating in the discussions and needed action to create an open society.
We organized this event to invite some of our clients like DSM and Friesland Foods to take their share in the process.

Our keynote speaker of the event was Austin Dacey. He is a philosopher who works as a United Nations representative for the Center for Inquiry, a think tank concerned with the secular, scientific outlook. He is also the author of the book: “The Secular Conscience”.

The key message of his speech is the power of the new concept Open Society: mobilizing the individual capabilities of people to create innovative solutions for social problems in the world. This new concept is also described by other new thinkers such as Charles Leadbeater in his book “We-thinking”. How to create an open society?

  1. Create the core of a basic idea for a social problem: enough to work on, but with enough possibilities for additions.
  2. Motivate and entice participants: treat the participants as ‘peers’ and not as employees, civilians or suppliers. Participants see their contribution as representing personal development and status. They are looking for concrete and practical benefits. Besides this, low entry barriers and user-friendly tools are essential.
  3. The need for (virtual) meeting places: a place where people can work together interactively and where clear rules of ownership (getting, using and returning) are established, based on new web technology.
  4. Self-distribution of work: an open working method based on high acceleration of the peer-to-peer review process that quickly identifies the good ideas and that can be elaborated upon.
  5. Think LEGO: innovations are split into a series of modules that fit together and can be integrated. The integration is regulated on the basis of clear, simple and centrally created design rules. These rules and protocols make it possible to allow mass innovation.
  6. A new form of leadership: these are no traditional corporate chief executives ore political party chief, but leaders with characteristics such as modesty, willingness to remain in the background, self-confidence, strong norms and values, passion and attachment. Their specifically top-down style of leadership makes large-scale, decentralized, bottom-up innovation initiatives possible.

Based on the ideas of Austin the participants discussed the role and responsibilities of business organizations. There are many road blocks ahead:

  • Large companies have already great difficulty to create this concept within the boundaries of their own organization, let alone to organize this beyond their boundaries.
  • Companies have to accept the paradox of interest: short term profit based on constrains in transparency versus long term value based on openness.
  • Many employees fighting the paradox of Security versus Freedom. People give up (personal) freedom to Executives, Financers, Governments in order to take key decisions and accept the consequences. In a lot of places in the world there are still many firm constraints to speak up freely without severe personal consequences.

All participants believe strongly in the new concept en the need for their active participation. Not only for their own business innovation capabilities to create short term profit but also to participate in enduring openness of the society in solving global issues. The key question still is how to begin and to endorse the initiatives?

Capgemini and the Center of Inquiry of the United Nations together will take further initiatives to play an active role en bring concrete solutions to clients and stakeholders.