Does Your Company Provide an Open Environment? Does Your Company Have Open Leaders?

|   Feb 21, 2012

Many companies like to say that they have an “open” culture. Or, that they believe in horizontal hierarchy. That everyone can approach each other without boundaries. That communication lines between all roles and levels are open, and that all ideas are to be heard. They may provide open seating where cubicles have no walls and doors, build an intranet where you can upload and share documents or have group meetings where you are encouraged to bring forth ideas, and perhaps an HR team dedicated to maintain and build this company culture.

But the reality is, the Execs are in offices with doors, they are on the phone or on the go. Many team members are not available for collaboration as they work remotely, in other countries, are salespeople on the road, or are in different time zones. So what does it really mean to be an open culture? What does “open leadership” mean? How can we transfer the concept of open collaboration to the workplace in an efficient and realistic way?

Charlene Li, wrote a book called “Open Leadership” where she dives in deep to what openness truly means and what kind of impact an open environment can have on a company. In her blog, she journals her own experiences as the founder of Altimeter Group. She writes, “…one of the most interesting things about our culture is that it is based on openness and humility – two values that aren’t usually found in corporate mission statements. We are trying to build on each others’ strengths while also recognizing that we are all still on a journey to learn and grow.” This process of humanizing work, redirecting values, and shifting the focus on people will be at the forefront of business conversations in 2012. The popularity of enterprise social networks will continue grow and become a staple to the functionality of communication.

Charlene says that technology must play a role as companies today are both mobile and global. “…when a third of the company is working remotely outside of the office, we have to work extra hard at staying connected and transparent with each other. To do that, we use an enterprise social network hosted by Socialcast where we post everything from reminders to change email passwords once a year to celebrating new clients and sharing briefing notes. Other things we share include the view from the desk of wherever we happen to be working (most recently the Outer Banks of North Carolina) and funny pictures of ourselves for people to caption. The result: we feel more connected on both a business and personal level, so that when we need to work together, we have a common connection on which to build.” And Charlene notes, the results are real, after one collaborative event in the office she writes, “One of the most satisfying moments of the past week, as we closed out and got feedback, was that each person felt that they had a voice and that their viewpoints were valued.”

How does your company aim to build an open culture? What forms of technology does your company use to create collaborative work environments?

Join the discussion! This Thursday, Charlene Li and Tim Young host Making the Case for Enterprise Social Networks. Register by clicking below.


  • Consistent communication of the decisions getting made by upper management has facilitated an open culture in the organizations I have worked. Technology will pay a pivotal role to ensure that communication keeps employees informed and connected. Social Cast seems like a great tool to enable this communication.

    Commented on February 21, 2012 at 3:06 pm
  • Great blog post here Terra. Personally i’m a firm believer of “practice what you preach” as well as transparency being a crucial element to a brand’s success in today’s competitive marketing. Particularly in the social space. If you haven’t picked up ‘Enchantment’ by Guy Kawasaki already, I would highly recommend doing it (on my list as well). Some great thoughts and takeaways. Thanks for sharing!

    Commented on March 5, 2012 at 8:38 am
  • One way my firm works to create an open culture is to orient office building activies towards the OUTSIDE of the building, as opposed to an internal room or courtyard. Events held outside help give employees the sense of being in touch with the outside evironment.

    Commented on May 13, 2012 at 11:32 pm

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What is Socialcast?

Socialcast by VMware (NYSE: VMW) is a social network for business uniting people, information, and applications with its real-time enterprise activity stream engine. Behind the firewall or in the cloud, Socialcast enables instant collaboration in a secure environment. Socialcast is headquartered in San Francisco, California.