The past months I have intensely observed the ‘open’ movement in various forms. At Bridge we do a lot with open source. We organize open coffee. And we are an open company with open people. I wonder whether in the future ‘open’ will become a new economic/organizational principle.
Open source software is known to many people in the IT industry. It exists since Linus torvald initiated Linux in 1991. The past few years, open source technology starts becoming popular in domains where previously only closed source software vendors were active (Business Intelligence, CRM, ERP). Today’s wisdom says that open source software brings many advantages to companies, among which: better quality software, no licensing costs, no vendor lock-in and higher speed of developments. One might predict that in the software industry, open source will become the dominant way of developing and distributing software.
With open coffee we experience ‘self-organization’. To ‘launch’ our open coffee Alkmaar initiative, Maikel created a group in linkedin. Then Maikel and I invited our networks to join us at the open coffee meeting. Few weeks later, over 60 people joined that first open coffee meeting. Without any organization, Sybren Arnoldus brought a professional camera. Paul Mars liked that and took the microphone. The next day the video was published on youtube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CFT6kFzpEfk) and watched 690 times till today. The second meeting we motivated people to have brainstorms in small groups, separately from the regular meeting. We posted a call for the first brainstorm in our linkedin group and 8 smart people volunteered. The first session was held last Thursday (about the business model of Bridge with very inspiring results).
This week I visited the open source conference in the Amsterdam Arena (http://www.opensourceconference.nl/). A central theme was ‘co-creation’ and I even got a practical course in co-creation. We have implemented SugarCRM (one of the strongest commercial open source initiatives so far) a few months ago. 2 months ago I wondered whether there was some plugin available to see twitter messages inside a contact’s record. Wednesday Maarten Plomp (Brixcrm) made me aware of the fact that a plugin already existed. This plugin was developed for some company somewhere on the planet. I search in google and find an interesting presentation meanwhile (http://www.revver.com/video/1045051/sugarcrm-social-marketing-and-twitter/). Then I visit sugarforge and I can download the twitter plugin for free (http://www.sugarforge.org/projects/twitter4contact/). This is all made possible by the ‘open’ organization principle.
Another stunning open initiative I came across is Innocentive (http://www.innocentive.com/). On this platform, people can post a ‘problem’ or ‘scientific challenge’. Experts from all over the world can login to the site and start working on the solution to that problem. The best solution is then financially rewarded by the poster of the problem. This means a company doesn’t need to hire a large R&D staff anymore to find the solution. They can simply tap into the ‘brightest minds’ on the planet. The solution is achieved at a fraction of the costs it would take when the bright minds would be on the payroll.
With all these open initiatives, the question arises whether the traditional ‘corporation’ will still be needed in the future to create value. If groups of people come together in networks to organize, to co-create, will we still need companies and employees? This question intrigues me, so I hope that you can share some of your thoughts with me.
Bridge specializes in open source technology. Our focus is mainly on content management using packages as Magento, Joomla, Os Commerce, Typo3 and WordPress. Custom applications are built on the open source Zend Framework. A separate team in Ukraine uses Java technology to build applications.