My sister, Laura (Radboud University in Nijmegen, NL), our colleague Gordon Müller-Seitz (TU Kaiserlautern), and I have looked at an open strategy-making process of Wikimedia, the non-profit foundation behind the free online encyclopedia Wikipedia. In the paper “Closing for the Benefit of Openness?“, which is now open access available at the journal Organization Studies, we find that “simply” opening up preexisting organizational processes tends to reproduce or even reinforce social inequalities already in place. To enable broad participation and to reach out to particularly marginalized groups, openness is depending on certain forms of (procedural) closure. Pleas find the abstract of the paper below:
A growing number of organizations subscribe to ideals of openness in areas such as innovation or strategy-making, supported by digital technologies and fuelled by promises of better outcomes and increased legitimacy. However, by applying a relational lens of inclusion and exclusion, we argue that, paradoxically, certain forms of closure may be necessary to achieve desired open qualities in strategy-making. Analysing the case of Wikimedia, which called for participation in a globally open strategy-making process, we show that openness regarding participation in crafting strategy content depends on certain forms of closure regarding procedures of the strategy-making process. Against this background, we propose a two-dimensional framework of openness, in which content-related and procedural openness are characterized by a combination of open and closed elements.
As Maximilian Heimstadt has announced earlier this week, we are currently working on a textbook on “Organizing Openness”. Given the topic of the book, we plan to also openly document the process of writing the textbook itself.
In the course of a kick-off meeting to launch the project in Vienna, we therefore started a blog on “Organizing Openness: Concepts and Cases” under O2C2.org (you can also follow the blog via Twitter at @O2C2project). In addition to continuous updates on the blog, we will also link to working documents for each of the chapters on the page “Textbook-in-Progress“, which will be open for anyone to comment.
Every year, Wikimedia Germany together with two partners (VolkswagenStiftung and Stifterverband) supports a small number of young scholars who are interested in the idea of open science. For eight months, these “Open Science Fellows” receive support to realize their own open science project outside the constraints of their research institution and culture. I was more than happy when in late September I got the message that my application for the class of 2017/18 was successful.
From October 2017 until 2018 I will receive financial support and mentoring (by the amazing Ina Blümel) to develop my personal open science project: Together with Leonhard Dobusch I will work on a management textbook on “Open Organizing” in which we intend to cover phenomena (e.g. open innovation, open strategy, open government) as well as theoretical concepts of openness (e.g. transparency, participation, boundaries). To make this project as open as possible, we will not only report on our progress on a dedicated blog (to be launched), but will make the textbook available as Open Educational Resource (OER). Using an open license (CC-BY or CC-BY-SA) anyone will be allowed to use, share, and remix the learning material for any purpose and at no cost.
Thomas Gegenhuber and I have tracked open strategy-making practices on blogs of two ventures (Berlin-based mite and buffer in San Francisco) over the period of four years to answer the research question “how new ventures use open strategy-making as impression management over time?”. The article entitled “Making an Impression Through Openness: How Open Strategy-Making Practices Change in the Evolution of New Ventures” has now been accepted for publication in Long Range Planning as part of a special issue on Open Strategy (edited by Julia Hautz, David Seidl and Richard Whittington). The abstract reads as follows:
While previous open strategy studies have acknowledged open strategy’s function as an impression management instrument, their focus has mostly been on short episodes. The impression management literature, meanwhile, pays openness scant attention. By studying how new ventures engage in open strategy-making, we track how open strategy-making and respective impression management benefits evolve over time. Specifically, we draw on a comparative case study of two firms’ blog communication on strategy-related issues and corresponding audience responses over a four-year period. We identify three distinct modes of how organizations engage in open strategy-making with external audiences and show how each mode is related to a specific set of impression management effects. Having established the impression management functions of these modes, we then demonstrate how open strategy-making contributes to new ventures’ quests for legitimacy as they evolve. In the launch phase, dialoguing with blog audiences helps a venture attract endorsements for its organization and products. As the venture grows, concentrating on broadcasting relevant strategic information may attract media audiences’ additional support for pursuing openness as a desirable organizational practice.