Why Your Firm Should be Radically Open, Too

Photo by Paul Bica

Photo by Paul Bica

On Monday morning I sat down with my colleagues, our COO and our Chief Inspiration Officer for the weekly "Huddle." We shared our gratitude for each other and our clients, we discussed the upcoming calendar, and we reviewed the closing balance of the firm's bank account. Wait, what?

At Peer Insight we practice the principle of 'radical openness,' which means that each and every member of the firm, from the latest new hire to the CEO is privy to the business, financial and social well-being of the company.

Radical openness is a concept introduced in the TED ebook of the same name by Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams. The ebook postulates that companies (or even industries) can be more innovative and more successful if they break down their protective firewalls and allow for more collaboration with partners and even competitors. While the book mainly discusses radical openness as a principle to apply to an organization and its external partners and stakeholders, we've adopted the philosophy internally, to focus and engage employees on higher level initiatives and strategies that benefit the firm in the long run.

Each week in our Huddle, we review the ending balance of the bank account, projected and actual project fees and revenues and the opportunity pipeline. In addition to being consumers of this information, each Peer Insight employee contributes to firm decisions. For example, each time the opportunity to take on new work arises, we gather 2-3 Peers plus a proposal sponsor to participate in a 'bid/no bid' meeting. Together we decide if the project fits within the company's capabilities, and fulfills our guiding principles.

Radical openness works for us because it enables each member of the firm to take ownership of Peer Insight. When we look at the financials or see the project pipeline, we know that each of us is accountable for the health of the company. It also works to build trust, empathy and meaningful relationships at the office. No longer are we just a group of people that happen to get paid by the same company; now we are are stakeholders with equal say in the future and direction of the firm.

Here are some ways that you can create a culture of radical openness within your firm:

- Create meetings and touchpoints that give everyone a say. Like our 'bid/no bid' process, recurring meetings that allow each employee to express their perspective encourages personal investment in the firm as well as gives each person a chance to contribute to firm strategy.

- Create an open forum for both praise and critique.We use an evaluation process called '3+3s' to capture our thoughts after each project milestone or firm event. Each person presents around three items of praise and three items of critique about the given interaction. We typically do this as a group in order to give timely feedback to our colleagues.

- Passion, permission and protocols.The three P's of organizational innovation. Encourage your employees to pursue projects and opportunities they feel passionate about, give them permission to act on that passion and make them accountable by establishing project protocols.

What are your thoughts on radical openness? Would it work in your organization?

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Jessica Dugan

Hi, I'm Jessica. And the first thing you need to know about me is that I'm nosey. If there is something happening around me, I need to know what it is and why it's going on. It is this curiosity to know see, discover and be involved everything that lead me to my career in design research and design strategy. As a design consultant I get the opportunity to dive in and explore new cultures, new people and new problems and then create compelling services that improve the quality of life for us all. When I'm not sticking it into other people's business, you can probably find my nose in a good sci-fi or historical fiction book or stumbling around a museum or other historical landmark. I quite enjoy burritos, whether homemade, store-made, restaurant or delivery and on any given weekend it's safe to assume I'll be downing a delightful Mexican treat while chugging a home-brewed beer made by my husband.