TED Conversations

Rachel Lehmann-Haupt

Senior Editor, TED Books, TED Books

TEDCRED 20+

This conversation is closed.

How much of your information do you share? How much should corporations share? TED Books Q&A Friday at 3pm Eastern!

The way people connect and collaborate is undergoing an astonishing transformation. Smart organizations are shunning their old, secretive practices and embracing transparency. Companies are widely sharing intellectual property and releasing patents. And movements for freedom and justice are exploding everywhere.

In their new book, Radical Openness: Four Unexpected Principles for Success, authors Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams show how this revolutionary new philosophy is affecting every facet of our society, from the way we do business to whom we choose to govern us.

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Authors and TED Speakers Don Tapscott and Anthony Williams will be joining us soon for a one-hour live conversation, Friday 2/8 at 3pm Eastern!

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Closing Statement from Rachel Lehmann-Haupt

Thanks everyone for joining the conversation - and especially thanks to Don and Anthony for such thoughtful answers to our questions and thoughts.

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    Jan 30 2013: About seven years ago I published everything I knew about organisation, personal and management development openly on the web. It's been one of the best things I have ever done. It's been lovely to get comments where people have used and adapted my stuff, they don't need permission, and totally amazing to see how many countries it has reached. I might have made more money by selling the ideas, but the spread would have been slower and much less fun!

    The site is here http://www.nickheap.co.uk

    I am sure that one of the reasons science has progressed so well is that people do share, test and build on each other's ideas. If we all did more of this we would make and faster better progress, together.
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      Feb 8 2013: that sounds great. But our thesis is that the way to make more money is through transparency, sharing and collaboration.
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      Feb 8 2013: Oh, and by the way I agree with your point about science. But science is stalled today because it's not fully embraced the new opportunities for sharing. See Anthony's comments about those in the pharmaceutical industry who are trying to change that.
    • Feb 8 2013: Promoting serendipitous innovation is one of the best reasons for companies and individuals to embrace openness. You never know how others may build on your ideas and sometimes great things happen as a result. In the book, we talk about how companies like Google and Apple use radical openness to make it easy for talented developers to build new applications for the iPhone and Android. Today, both companies have in excess of 750,000 apps developed entirely by third parties.
  • Feb 8 2013: The real problems begin when our personal data is assembled into profiles, matched with other info and used by employers, law enforcement officials, public sector agencies and other interested parties to make judgments about (and decisions affecting) individuals, such as whether to hire them, or whether to admit entry, or to calculate benefits or terms of an offer, etc. In such circumstances, the effects of privacy loss can include discrimination, especially if the data is inaccurate.
    • Feb 8 2013: How do you guard against that? Can you restrict how public and private organizations amalgamate data? Wouldn't you have to limit both?
  • Feb 8 2013: Been a fan since you wrote The Naked Corporation. How's this book different than that?
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      Feb 8 2013: Thanks. The Naked Corporation was a very good book and I'm proud of it. But the timing (10 years ago) was awful. The world wasn't ready for it. Also the new book Radical Openness takes a broader perspective on openness -- four meanings, transparency, sharing IP, collaboration and empowerment. The Naked Corp was about transparency only.
  • Feb 8 2013: It's an individual choice to decide how much to share, but we do see real benefits in some cases. We wrote about the health data shared by members of PatientsLikeMe—a vibrant healthcare community whose participants suffer from debilitating chronic conditions such as ALS, Parkinson’s and bipolar disorder. Their data is rendered anonymous and then aggregated to inform research conducted by doctors, pharmaceutical and medical device companies. At the same time, sharing information among peers gives patients with similar conditions an invaluable source of support and helps them make smarter decisions.
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      Feb 8 2013: Well Patients Like Me shows that there are some benefits to personal openness. People there with, say ALS typically use their real names. But they don't have a lot to lose either. This is a deadly disease and so naturally they air on the side of sharing to help them manage the disease.
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    Jan 30 2013: I'm usually inclined to share information, because I think as I share one idea it "clears" my head for new ideas to come in there. Also, if you share ideas, you get interesting ideas back.
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      Feb 8 2013: Indeed. But it's important to differentiate between transparency (communicating information) and sharing (giving up intellectual property assets). Both are good ideas for companies. Both are often bad ideas for individuals.
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    Feb 8 2013: We're almost out of time. Any closing comments from Don or Anthony?
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    Feb 8 2013: Is the idea of radical openness in any way reactionary? I'm thinking specifically about the public's mistrust of Wall Street after the economy tanked. Do you think we, as consumers, are responding to companies like Zappos that share more information because we feel like we've been let down by a culture that was protective of information?
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      Feb 8 2013: Agreed. the whole sub-prime meltdown was caused in part by a lack of transparency. If the banks had been open they wouldn't have been able to create this mess.
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      Feb 8 2013: IN fact, in Macrowikinomics, Anthony and I argue that banks should start sharing risk management data to help them get a valuation of all the so-called "toxic assets" on their balance sheet. If they placed these assets in a commons and let the world's leading modellers go at them, the values could be determined and the assets disposed of. Evey Wall Street needs to open up, just to save itself.
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    Feb 8 2013: Those are great examples, but what about Facebook or Instagram, everyone sharing everything. It's clearly good for the companies...but Is there a point where it's too much to share everything - are we losing something here?
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      Feb 8 2013: When it comes to each of us as individuals, Anthony and I think we all need a balance between the public and private. Just as the complete loner and hermit lifestyle is not optimal (we all need and benefit from human interaction and relationships) so being a completely public person undermines one essence of what it is to be human – to be private, reserved and discreet.

      Develop and implement your own personal privacy strategy. When you share consider the benefits. But realize that withholding most information about you is in your interests: there are many “bad actors” who would misuse it. Privacy is important to the formation and maintenance of human relationships, reputation trust and even “the self” and its presentation in everyday life. Society lacks the laws and norms to protect you from companies being invasive or manipulative. And don’t assume governments are benevolent: we may harmed in absentia by unknown public and private bureaucracies having access to our personal data -- perhaps the targets of injurious decisions and discrimination and we will never really know what or why.

      By all means, be as open as you want but realize that with openness can come vulnerabilities, especially for your children. And as the expression goes “Discretion is the better part of valor” meaning that it makes sense to be careful in the face of unintended consequences and risks.
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    Feb 8 2013: Let's move into our personal lives a bit with this concept. Clearly, radical openness can help with political revolutions and making companies more innovative and competitive, but is it really necessary to share on the level that we are these days? What is the good of living our lives in public?
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      Feb 8 2013: there are some benefits to each of us being more open personally and we all share more information than we used to. But that doesn't mean that we should live our lives out loud. The fundamental problem with the case of radical personal openness is that we are a long way from a world where being open will not hurt us. A world, say, where employers don’t discriminate because an applicant has had a mental illness, held a certain political point of view, or was photographed as a teenager having a beer on Facebook. There are also bad actors and the danger of fraud, identity theft or inappropriate disclosure of personal information is also a problem.
  • Feb 8 2013: Re: your question about pharmaceuticals. In the past few years a lot of people have been talking about the crisis of innovation in drug development and arguing that the basic model for inventing and commercializing potentially life-saving medications is broken and failing society badly. The problems there have largely to do with a highly risk-averse and legalistic industry culture that comes at the expense of opportunities to co-develop early-stage technology tools, establish data standards, share clinical trial data or pursue other forms of collaboration that could lift the productivity of the entire industry. Fortunately, companies like GSK are strategically releasing patents and leading the charge toward more open models of drug development that will increase research productivity and stimulate medical progress.
    • Feb 8 2013: How is 'responsibility' from a legal perspective shifted under that model? If the problem is a risk-averse and legalistic operating culture, is this collaboration trying to share that responsibility across more shoulders, or is it trying to remove the burden entirely?
  • Feb 8 2013: Technology is arguably the most important. But changes in regulation (Sarbanes-Oxley, for example) have been influential. people's expectations have changed too. Most people expect companies and governments to be much more open than they have in the past.
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    Feb 8 2013: Is technology innovation the main reason for more openness in society, or do you think there are other factors at work as well?
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      Feb 8 2013: In addition to Anthony's comment above I think market forces are causing companies to open up as well (become more transparent, sharing, collaborative and empowering) because companies that are open tend to perform better.
  • Feb 8 2013: And finally, there is growing openness in society too, with new global citizen's movements fighting for freedom and openness. The Arab Spring and the Occupy movement are examples of this fourth principle.
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    Feb 8 2013: Or from the jacket of the book: All over the world, the way people connect and collaborate is undergoing an astonishing transformation as a result from one idea: radical openness. Smart organizations are shunning their old, secretive practices and embracing transparency, widely sharing intellectual property and releasing patentscollaborating on an astronomical scale. And movements for freedom and justice are exploding everywhere as organizations like Wikileaks spread information faster than ever before.

    The book shows how this revolutionary new philosophy is affecting every facet of our society, from the way we do business to whom we chose to govern us.
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    Feb 8 2013: I think one of the most interesting parts of your book is when you discuss the pharmaceutical industry. Maybe you can talk a little bit about the problems with the industry and how these principals can help.
  • Feb 8 2013: The third principle of openness concerns intellectual property. Rather than go to extraordinary lengths to control and protect proprietary resources and innovations, a growing number of companies are sharing intellectual property and releasing patents in a bid to accelerate research, foster relationships and stimulate progress in their industries.
  • Feb 8 2013: The second principles of openness relates to innovation. For the past decade we've seen industries — from software to manufacturing to pharmaceuticals — begin to open up their innovation processes. Many now treat their customers and partners as valuable sources of intelligence and new ideas.
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    Feb 8 2013: Radical Openness explains four meanings of the word "Openness." For each there is a corresponding principle about how to build effective organizations. The four are 1. Transparency 2. Sharing of Intellectual Property 3. Opening of organizational boundaries and 4. opening up power -- distributing power outward and downward.
  • Feb 8 2013: The first meaning of openness is transparency. We have found that the smartest organizations, from education to health care to government, are shunning secretive practices and embracing transparency as a means to foster trust and speed up the metabolism of business.
  • Feb 8 2013: The term openness tends to have very positive connotations and is associated with concepts like freedom, flexibility, expansiveness, engagement, sharing, access and candor. But in practice we find that “openness” can mean many things, depending on the circumstance. So we’ve looked at four different strategies for openness that ultimately entail some pretty deep changes in business and society.
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    Feb 8 2013: Once you both have given us a general sense, there are a number of comments from people who are looking forward to your answers, so before I jump in with more questions, why don't you offer our participants some thoughts.
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    Feb 8 2013: Hello all, and welcome to this live Q&A with authors Don Tapscott and Anthony Williams.

    Don and Anthony, thank you for joining us!

    Your book, "Radical Openness: Four Unexpected Principles for Success," offers four principles that are radically transforming business, politics, and our personal lives. Maybe you could briefly outline the concept of radical openness and the four principles?
  • Feb 7 2013: I have not read the book that you stated above, but to answer your question I share a majority of my information with everyone and anyone. I have the mind set that the more people who know about my idea ultimately are giving me free advertising by word of mouth. You never know what networks the individual you are talking with has, and a life changing opportunity could always arise. I think the quote goes "being in the right place at the right time", well sharing your information always gives you that extra opportunity. I think corporations are currently sharing lots of their information because of the economy, and looking to invest and become profitable in nontraditional ways.
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      Feb 8 2013: Well in the book we make a distinction about openness for institutions (like corporations or governments) and individuals. Openness is an opportunity for institutions but not necessarily individuals. Each of as individuals need to defend our privacy.
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    Feb 1 2013: "Govern us"

    Ok, So if i go out tomorrow and register a society or association and i call this entity "The society of temperate thinking for tomorrows children" and populate it with high ranking business and banking people with the aim towards exploring tomorrows possible system of governance and come to an arrangement that this society could influence their local government system by bringing local politicians to the societies meetings with the aim of helping said politician to get along further in exchange for small changes?

    Isn't this system called hide in plain sight?
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      Feb 2 2013: I think Ayn Rand tried to do this with her parties at home. Also, this technique is used by many think tanks to digest and explore new social ideas and look for ways to incorporate new technical knowledge into the social structure with the least cost to investors.
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    Jan 31 2013: I haven't seen any of this taking place in the business world. Patent laws are really in the news these days and those who hold them are clutching tightly with fists of steel.

    I'be been giving my stuff away (programming) for years. The benifit of this is I don't have to do all the work and put up the money to bring my ideas to fruitation. Sooner or later, I get to use the product via opensource of via purchase.

    Books on casset tape? My boss told me it would never work, long before the first one hit the store. Expanded movie production using the VCR as a venue? These people could never compete with professional producers. That idea was shelved also. A progam to solve the millinium problem in most software back in 83? Too far away to be necessary.

    There is no garuntee of success in life. But having ideas and sharing them does seem to produce results when these ideas are shot down by (so called) technical specialists.
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      Feb 8 2013: I think increasingly companies share their intellectual property because they have to.

      Increasingly it’s becoming difficult or even impossible for companies to achieve breakthrough success without sharing intellectual property – placing important assets in the commons. Pharmaceutical companies are about to drop off what’s called “the patent cliff.” They will lose 25-40 percent of their revenue as the patents for many blockbuster drugs expire. There is little individual companies can do to recover from this crisis. They need an industry-wide solution that rethinks how they work together as an industry -- to restructure industry practices and share some pre-competitive basis research or sharing their clinical trial data, such as results from failed trials or from control groups. Banks need to share information about risk management. Manufacturers need to take a page from Nike and share information, software and other assets for sustainable business practices. The auto companies should place fuel cell development in the commons. We need a new intelligent power grid for the production and distribution of energy. Co-development and collaboration within the industry and sharing is necessary.
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    Jan 30 2013: I thought people have far better or constructive conversations online under a pseudonym? Obviously this has nothing to do with the book or Dons Talk but i thought people like pseudonyms better?
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      Feb 8 2013: For chats like this I prefer to talk to people with real names. People are smarter and more thoughtful when they have a personal reputation and brand to defend.