Should ideas be open-source?

By Carole Buissere

5 October 2015

For a new generation of socially minded entrepreneurs, the image of business as dog-eat-dog is seriously out of date. They believe in collaboration – and it’s something we can all learn from.

If you want to grow your ideas, set them free

Elena Alcalde, Head of Communications at Impact Hub Madrid, puts the benefits of working together clearly: "To make an impact, you have to be with other people. You cannot just be by yourself."

Where ideas have sex

The communities springing up around the Impact Hubs and other shared workspaces are a testament to this belief. Richard Evans, Director of Impact Hub, says "One of the things people feel when they first come here is 'I'm not alone'. We're open. We don't judge. It's a safe environment where people can name new ideas, consider new ideas, shape them and turn them into prototypes."

The people who use these spaces no longer want to develop their businesses in isolation – they increasingly want an environment that lets them reach out, make connections and grow as part of a supportive network.

Teams sharing dinner at Impact Hub Berlin Informal events like the weekly Sexy Salad lunch bring the community together – giving people a chance to meet and share ideas.

And it's making a positive difference to their businesses. Here's how to make it work for you:

Using a Skype chair

Find out about Impact Hub's innovative creative culture

Stop competing

Other businesses aren't the opposition. They're simply trying to tackle the same problem as you from a different perspective. So as Max Bohm of Enffi says, "Don't be scared of the competition. Use them to see what they're doing and make your idea better." Get inspired by others, and learn from their successes – and failures.

Set ideas free

"It pays to open-source your ideas," says Iman Fadaei, founder of CrowdSkills. He believes your most valuable intellectual property isn't really your core idea – it's how you execute it. Make your business best in class and and it's irrelevant whether someone has tried to copy your concept. Share your ideas to help them grow, but make sure you protect the way you bring them to market.

Working at Impact Hub A playful approach to architecture and design creates a more open, collaborative office.

Solve problems faster

"As an entrepreneur, you always have questions," says Ekaterina Karabasheva of Jourvie. Working together lets you "either find someone who has the answer to your question, or has them same question so you can explore it and find the answer together." So team up to solve problems – it's more efficient to work together than to work in parallel.

"It pays to open-source your ideas" Iman Fadaei Founder, CrowdSkills
Iman Fadaei - Founder, CrowdSkills

Pay it back

Always remember collaboration is a reciprocal process. Ekaterina sees it as "about giving something and getting something… help, support or just 10 minutes of listening to someone's problem."  Look for equal partnerships that benefit both parties – and be generous with your time when your collaborators need you.

Build a collaborative environment

Designing collaboration into the office can help break down barriers between departments and team members. In the Madrid hub, "the tables are a circle - everyone is working, looking at each other so that will help people connect," says Elena. "Everything was thought of as a space to share and collaborate. We want people to be involved in whatever we do."

How do you encourage collaboration in your office? Let us know in the comments below.