What is an Open (Source) mindset?


An Open organisation is based on a set of shared values and practices:

  • transparent communication
  • sharing and collaboration
  • distributed and remote teamwork
  • embracing failure and working iteratively
  • inclusiveness and diversity

The Open organisation

From my experience, it is crucial for any organisation that wants to be successful with its Open Source efforts to adopt a culture of “Open by default”. What does this mean?

(By the way, when I talk about Free and Open, I’m not exclusively talking about software development. Free and Open can also allude to certain way of working together, a certain culture, or a set of values.)

There are a few generally accepted features of an Open mindset: Collaboration, sharing and transparency. And then there are a few more markers of FOSS projects that are more contentious: the license (is it Open or Free?) and the issue of [meritocracy].

Values and practices

First and foremost, communication and transparency are crucial. Without continuous communication no Openness. Communication channels should be synchronous (calls, face-to-face meetings, chat etc.) as well as asynchronous (email, wikis, commit messages, project management or planning tools etc.). Making most of those conversations open to interested parties increases transparency.

With increased transparency comes increased opportunity and readiness to share. You are sharing your code, or your research results or your marketing plan or your product idea in order to get others within your organisation or community to collaborate with you.

Collaboration is a hallmark of the Open mindset. Almost anything will be better if it isn’t a solitary enterprise but a collaborative one.

In a way, embracing Open also means that you let go of control. I strongly believe that embracing failure and giving up some of the control over a task (delegating, if you will) will lead to a better outcome. This is why working Openly also means working in iterations. You will deliver the best solution/plan/version at a given point in time, receive feedback, go back and improve. And then, do it again.

In an Open organisation there is not only a strong sense of shared values and shared work, but also the opportunity to work in a distributed manner. As I argued before, any type of Open project will have problems succeeding if it doesn’t allow for remote contributions or distributed collaboration.

And lastly, building an Open organisation or project requires an inclusive and diverse group of collaborators. Diverse teams lead to better products and more innovation.

Did I miss anything important? What’s your take on the Open mindset?

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