The World is Open
Happy new year! After a December blogging hiatus, I thought I would begin 2009 with a bit of a reflection on 2008 (novel I know). Really it is more of personal observation that has come after the busiest year of travel in my life to date.
In 2008, I spent significant time in 9 countries including Australia, Bahrain, Egypt, England, Germany, Ireland, Oman, United Arab Emirates (my new home) and, of course, America. This certainly doesn’t set any records, but it was a wide enough sampling for me to observe some interesting patterns.
- Inexpensive, instantaneous communication is becoming ubiquitous. While many people have been able to text, email and make and receive calls from mobiles while traveling internationally for much of this decade, it has not been cheap (though it is getting more so). What I find particularly exciting was that I was routinely able to have Skype calls, often with video and on the spur of the moment, with friends, family and business colleagues. While Skype has been around for a while, it was just this year that every one I wanted or needed to talk to seemed to use it. I am convinced in the last year Skype saved me and my employers thousands of dollars. Access to ubiquitous and inexpensive (or free) communication is a hallmark of an open world.
- Grassroots, collaborative models are becoming a preferred method of operating. In politics and governance, business and society at large, I saw this trend in most every country. The most obvious, Barack Obama’s election victory and grassroots supporter base, would have been unthinkable 20 years ago (for a myriad of reasons). But, beyond the macro, I saw time and again collaborative grassroots operations from Dublin to Sydney (and places in between like Cairo and Dubai) springing up to do everything from change local laws to help businesses share costs and launch new products. This goes beyond simply campaign activism or ‘strategic partnerships’. It is a distinctive way of operating jointly and openly that multiplies efforts, shares costs and builds foundations together. Your specific needs or concerns can then be addressed from that common foundation. Transparency and collaboration have an inherent efficacy that people are using to bring change and speed innovation.
- The myth of proprietary ideas and proprietary technology. I will admit to a bit of hyperbole there. Both obviously exist. But I found regularly that ideas I thought unique to one place had striking resonance with what I heard elsewhere–perhaps in different cultural clothing–whether I was talking to a Saudi business man or a Tasmanian taxi driver. That does not mean the ideas were identical (and certainly not their interpretation for practice), but it reminded me of the Biblical quote, “There is nothing new under the sun.” And I found this to be true of technology as well. I saw many exciting and innovative pieces of software and technology. But, the most exciting element was that many of these groups had built upon other’s work from the same open source code base, simply adding the features and functionality unique to their needs and region. Time and again I was told how they developed in months what use to take them years. The age of ‘owning’ all your code, or all your ideas, is quickly evaporating as people innovate on common platforms.
Nothing I have said here is in itself new. What struck me is the ubiquity of it. This is not just a few trail blazers or early adopters I observed. These are small town entrepreneurs and local individuals from diverse cultures doing this organically. This ubiquity drove home that the paradigm has shifted. The world is open and it is incredibly exciting and eOrange Leaping, especially as the economic crisis forces us all to find a better way to operate.