What’s an Open Business?

31 07 2008

The hot question of the day at the i’Summit iSummit in Sapporo Japan is what is an “open” business?

Thus far the participants in this current think tank session have constructed a list of elements:

Social
Access
Profitable
Open license
Transparent
Fair
Community
Two-way feedback (reciprocal)

Is this list helpful in defining the concept? Do the elements cohere? What, for instance, is the difference between an “open” business and a socially responsible business? Does Adobe’s Open Screen Project count? To me, an open business is one that is interoperable in its design and doesn’t make money only through restricting access to goods.

There’s significant debate about whether defining this concept is a useful endeavor. Some say that the iCommons community should write a “how to” document for entrepreneurs that would help them set up open business. Others think CC should go far as to create a certification system and let business apply to be open business “certified.” (Much like the GPL certification) Half the group has dissented completely and thinks we’re too late. They are arguing that the concept of “open business” is already being exploited and used for marketing purposes. It has no meaning. (Think of the phrase “green business” or even the word “organic.”)

I haven’t developed my own view on this yet, but I thought I’d write this up as a work in progress to see if others have any thoughts. To me, this discussion is about more than just defining buzz words. It’s key because it suggests that people within the creative commons and free culture community are no longer scorning all things commercial and insisting on non-profit distribution models. Instead they are trying to bring the innovations in open licensing to the realm of business to create new standards there as well.

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