Why are open source models and movements so powerful? Clay Shirky, author of Here Comes Everybody, discussed the advantages of open models. In this case, open source movements. Open source movements have several powerful advantages that learning organizations and churches could leverage.
One advantage of the open learning system is that it highly tolerant of failure. Open source reduces the cost of failure because so many ideas are brought to the table.
“…open source relies on the ‘publish-then-filter’ pattern. In traditional organizations, trying anything is expensive, even if just in staff time to discuss the idea, so someone must make some attempt to filter the successes from the failures in advance. In open systems, the cost of trying something is so low that handicapping the likelihood of success is often an unnecessary distraction.”
The typical organization is limited because the number of ideas that an organization or church can consider can come from only a limited number of sources, usually the bosses, managers, and consultants.
A great deal of thought must be put into the consideration of ideas because the time and cost of failure are so high. Time spent with meetings, staff training, and materials, has a cost. This means the filter for ideas is very high. Only those ideas that seem to have the most benefit will be implemented, though there is no way to know in advance that one of the ideas picked will bring the desired benefit, and one of the ideas left on the table could be the most effective and beneficial.
The Open Learning Organization draws ideas from a greater number of sources, including the people it serves. A wider net is cast for ideas, more ideas are implemented, and the ones that work will receive more resources, while the ones that fail can be quickly dropped. Because resources are only directed at proven ideas, this model essentially allows failure to cost nothing. Failure for free. But the chance of coming upon a better idea is increased due to the shear number of sources and ideas to be learned from.
“Open system, by reducing the cost of failure, enable their participants to fail like crazy, building on the successes as they go.”
The open system has the advantage of exploring multiple possibilities.
“…the idea is that for any problem or goal, there is a vast area of possibilities to explore but few valuable spots within that environment to discover. When a company or indeed any organization finds a strategy that works, the drive to adopt it and stick with it is strong. Even if there is a better strategy out there, finding is can be prohibitively expensive.”
The Open Learning System, or Clay Shirky’s open system, allow for many more participants, lowers the filtering of ideas, and is much more tolerant of failure because of the flexibility of the system. Ideas that fail are dropped instantly, and new ones adopted. It would be hard to say that failed ideas are dropped as quickly in education. Usually failed ideas have personnel attached to them, resources that have been purchased, and possibly even capital costs. This makes ideas difficult to drop on a dime.
Further because the Open Learning Model allows participants from many areas to participate, the chances of great ideas and solutions are increased.
Websites like Innocentive.com open problems up to others learn from each other to help solve and give cash rewards. Saddleback Church says to its member, if you have an idea, let’s do it. They offer help where they can, but they allow the member to come up with and implement the idea. Learning from it’s own members. One member had an idea for a ministry from people struggling with addictions. That ministry has become a worldwide ministry called Celebrate Recovery. Other ideas went nowhere and failed. But in learning from many sources of ideas and having a low filter, they hit upon one of the most successful and powerful ministry ideas ever.
The Closed System does not tolerate failure, therefore restricting the quality and quantity of ideas and the chance for a superior idea. The Open Learning System is much more tolerant of failure because the organization or church learns from a greater number of ideas which enables a greater chance of finding the superior idea. It's at the heart of a learning organization and a learning church.
If you have never heard of a MOOC is stands for Massive Open Online Course. Watch the video below and ask yourself, "Could this be the next wave of church and organizational collaborative learning? Could a MOOC generate Lateral Wisdom among churches, organizations, and teams distributed, but connected across the globe?