“There are two ways to fail with absolute certainty: The first is to abandon rationality, the second to trust it blindly.”– Blaise Pascal, mathematician and philosopher.
It’s hard for business-as-usual to play a credible part in solving the big challenges of our time, from wellbeing at work to sustainable growth. We propose a solution around embracing the dreaded C-word, and embarking on a process of Creative Transformation to build a culture of creativity. The first step? Openness.
When we founded a company called We Are Open in December 2020, we had an unusually strong feeling we’d landed on something powerful. We didn’t quite know what, but it felt right, like a door opening. You won’t find it in any economics textbook or MBA curriculum, but that’s how you know you’re on the verge of something meaningful. Cultivate an openness to that feeling and stay with it, rather than immediately grasping for any and all data that could prove to yourself and others that you’ve acted rationally. We know making that argument to your boss is not always the easiest, so we’ll make the case for you. The key ingredients are openness, time and trust.
Soon after opening the shop, we came across Johan Norberg’s book Open – The Story of Human Progress, in which he makes a devastating argument for openness, showing how it strongly correlates with success throughout history, from individuals to companies to civilizations. The Economist picked it as Book of the Year. According to Norberg – and us – (though we’re still waiting for The Economist to notice) the single most deciding factor in humanity’s progress has been the courage not to make immediate decisions, daring to keep processes and decisions open as long as possible (but not longer). Try it, no matter how uncomfortable it feels.
Soon after that, the biggest design festival in the Nordics, Helsinki Design Week, picked their 2022 theme (you guessed it): “We Are Open”. According to the organizers, openness to what we don’t know is the most crucial part in any design process. That’s why they consider it their duty to raise the appreciation of openness, both as a strategy and design method.
So do we. The world needs Open, now more than ever. From the road to zero to the epidemic of loneliness, from threats to democracy to how we relate to AI, all wicked problems directly influence your bottom line. In order to thrive, both as a business and as a species, we need to cultivate an openness to listen and learn from one another; to build together, not in silos; to collaborate, not compete. Says Norberg: “Our rational brain has to start to listen to our creative brain. The more we open ourselves to points of view beyond our own and to unintuitive solutions, the better we all do.” Financially, too, we’d add.
Companies can either proactively shift their culture towards a mindset of openness, where they see their role as building something new that works better for all–including companies themselves–or be faced with the destiny of California’s famed vineyards, withering away in a drought they played no part in creating.
We want to be crystal clear: the openness we advocate for has nothing to do with procrastination or only trusting your gut. Open is driven by both intuition and data, thus avoiding Pascal’s both ways to fail with absolute certainty. Open is the best method we know of to create unfair advantage, to a strategy that takes you from incremental change to leaps of progress. That’s why we’ve chosen Open both as our name and our method. Open frees us from what is: it lets us imagine, then build, better processes, companies and communities.
What will Open look like, for you? The first step towards openness is a leap of faith: daring to declare “We don’t know…yet.” There is no model of openness that works for all. Open is a (gasp) feeling. A feeling that I am trusted, and can trust in others. A feeling that we don’t have to have all the answers, that it’s more important to sort of know where we’re going, even though we have no roadmap how to get there, yet. Open frees us from the straightjacket of best practices, from copy pasting what’s worked yesterday, and from thinking that strategy is also our best shot for success tomorrow.
That’s not a bad start. At least then it’s possible you aren’t just changing the ink cartridge in the copier but designing a time machine, instead.
This post by We Are Open and more for Creativity 2030 initiative here; https://www.mrktng.fi/luovuus/