NSL Blog

Discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them

December 5, 2011

When running the No Straight Lines Transformation Labs, I am often challenged, (on more than one occasion I have to add), though this particular challenge is now expected. And it relates to Apple.

Some people struggle to reconcile Apple as a company with the idea of Open, one of the principles of No Straight Lines.

‘Apple is not open, it is in fact the complete opposite’ is the pushback – and so we go into big discussion. Which is good as part of the process of No Straight Lines process is to really challenge our perceptions, so we can move beyond them, where we can imagine and then create our best possible future.

For me, Open as relates to Apple, is about the curiosity of the craftsman – tinkering, learning through the felt fingering space of play.

In this way as Arthur C. Clarke wrote,

The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible

So one has to be open to new ideas, tools, technologies, process and organisational capability. And we have wonderful products like the iPhone because Apple were prepared to play in the closed eco-system that was the old Telco world. (I know, as I was there).

Apple created for the first time a phone that was relevant to the world it lived in – whereas before then it was the carriers that played Nero to its empire. Consequently the products were dull. It was Jobs that ruthlessly forced that market to change.

Jobs also went to Nokia, and I am sure a few others, offering a mutual relationship with the iTunes eco-system and was shown the door. And I also know of plenty of innovative Japanese companies innovating over a decade ago in mobile/web who were also shown the same revolving mechanism. Whilst these behemoths went back to counting their ducets.

So my challenge is – who was open and who was closed? Who saw the best future potential for us, as users of products and services and who only saw “the money”, and were only motivated by how much money they could extract from our wallets whilst giving back as little as humanly possible.

Apple built an eco-system and a platform. It has created great products because it was OPEN – it may not operate under a cc licence, and it may come across as über controlling. But, there is much more to this story than rejecting Apple as a closed, tight lipped organisation.

Apple thrives on diversity, and to accommodate diversity one has to live in open knowledge eco-systems. The story of many organisations and even industries that die is because they lived in a closed knowledge system. Unable to change their perspectives of how they saw the world, and operated in it and so became disrupted – to the point of catastrophic failure. Open is about learning philosophically, instinctively, new literacies to create new and novel products and services that create value.

Now how many companies do that?

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