Can you open-source your strategic thinking?

Many companies have seen the advantages of open sourcing in R&D and product development. Could it work for strategic thinking too?

It is now generally recognised that strategic thinking is not the exclusive preserve of the CEO, or even top management. Most businesses are so complex that no-one has a complete picture of the business in their head, only getting close to reality by putting together multiple perspectives. This is why many companies have created “strategic leadership groups”, combining thinkers across many functions and seniorities.

With the latest developments in networking technology, is it possible to go even further than this? The open source software movement has shown how to harness the talents of hundreds of people to create better solutions to complex problems. And you could invite customers, suppliers, distributors, even shareholders as well as employees. Of course, everyone will have their own axe to grind – but this will add to the diversity of the discussion, while decision-making remains in a smaller circle.

In addition to the advantages of getting all perspectives on the table, how much easier will it be to align the company behind the strategy when everyone has been engaged in creating it?

The downside? It is much easier to dream than to execute, with many good community-building ideas dying a death because they never achieve quality discussion and participation. Worrying people? You will reduce the damage by bringing rumour mill gossip into the open. Confidentiality concerns? If you truly manage to draw on the best thinking of everyone inside and outside your company to develop your strategy, aligning and empowering them all in the process, the only response competitors will have to your strategy will be to get out of the way.

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