A Framework of Open Practices

Tuesday, 17th Oct 2017

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This is the second in a series of posts describing findings from industry research into best practices around open, collaborative methods and how companies share knowledge, work, or influence in order to shape a market towards their business goals. This blog post introduces a framework of open practices Mozilla has co-developed with the Copenhagen Institute for Interaction Design (CIID) that may help other organisations as they evaluate and implement open and participatory strategies themselves.

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Mozilla has been developing open source software and managing open source communities since its inception. Some of the most significant innovations in Firefox came from outside the boundaries of the organization — such as tabbed browsing, pop-up blockers, and the awesome bar. Further, crucial factors to Firefox’ global success, such as product localization and technical support, were only possible through countless hours of work and dedication of external communities and contributors. With Add-ons, Mozilla also took a major architectural decision with Firefox: not to build every feature, but to focus on basic excellence and then create opportunity — and a platform — for others. This allowed more people to deliver more value to Firefox users, creating completely personalized web experience.

Revitalising Open and Innovation

Firefox is widely considered as a landmark in open source software production, and the use of several different open practices (as we call them) gave Mozilla a way to compete asymmetrically with much larger organizations.
In the subsequent decade since Firefox launched, Mozilla’s portfolio of technology projects has become much more diverse, and this in turn calls for a more systematic way to identify competitive advantage through open practices. We’ve experimented with different practices in order to solicit external ideas and foster research-based relationships. Recent examples include the Mozilla Awards grant program, and the Equal Rating Innovation Challenge, and sponsoring projects at the margin of Mozilla development, such as the C-to-Rust translation project Corrode. And with the revival of the Test Pilot program, the Firefox team has a way for users to try out experimental features and to help determine which of these ultimately end up in a Firefox release.

From Experiments to Strategy

We’ve been encouraged by the outcomes of these explorations. We therefore broadened efforts in working with users, developers, and industry allies in a more structured and comprehensive way.

We researched activation techniques to build communities and work across organizational boundaries — throughout the product lifecycle — in multiple industries. Many of the techniques and practices identified were not new, but their goal-oriented application and scale in different technology ecosystems clearly was.

However, just knowing what others do is only the first step. Adapting and applying your learnings to your own working processes and mind models around product and technology development is another. For that reason, we developed a framework that could help guiding decisions, supporting our conversations and thinking.

A Framework for Considering Benefits of Open Practices

As we said earlier: Being Open by Design demands clarity on why you’re doing something and what the intended outcomes are. Together with CIID we took a closer look — through the lense of a software and technology organisation — at key benefits of open practices. We organised a list of 12 key potential benefits into three overall categories, in which companies are competing:

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Read about the 12 benefits on the full post by Alex Klepel and Gitte Jonsdatter (CIID).