A diagram of open models

Review: Open Models

“Open Models – Business Models of the Open Economy” (published by Without Model, 2016, and coordinated by Louis-David Benyayer).

Introduction

While you can buy physical copy of this book – and I would encourage you to do so – you can also freely access the entire contents which have been published under a creative commons share alike 3.0 licence. You can do either by visiting www.openmodels.fr.

I should disclose an involvement in its production, albeit a very minor one: along with Lucy Knight from ODI Devon and others I assisted with the validation of the translation of a couple of chapters from French to English.

Overview

The book features interviews with industry experts, essays and other writing from a variety of authors. It covers a lot of ground; from traditional areas of open development (software and data) through arts and culture, to manufacturing, education and science. In doing so, it provides insight from leading industry figures and even yields some interesting philosophical considerations of what open means in today’s world. It also contrasts open models (such as open seed production) with closed models and practices such as those of Monsanto.

While many readers will be familiar with Wikipedia, Open Office, Open Street Map and the Firefox browser, fewer will be aware of Tesla’s decision in 2014 to allow open access to any company or individual to freely use its intellectual property. Nuggets such as these can be found throughout this comprehensive and very readable book.

Similarly, I was not aware of French sports retailer Décathalon’s decision to allow access to its open innovation platform.

These examples, and others, vividly illustrate that there is no binary choice – open versus closed – in the business decisions to create and use open models, but a long continuum with complex choices and a range of opportunities for companies or organisations to create sustainable business models based on open principles.

These models are examined in some depth – with considerations of each and examples of how these are used in practice, with some examples of how openness can be a strategy in itself.

A diagram of open models

Mapping the Open Models – source: www.openmodels.fr

I often hear in Local Government that we should charge for our data as an income opportunity. This ignores the fact that the public have already paid for our services, from which the data has been generated (and our legal obligations to make open data available). This book provides a welcome reminder of the strategy of “organisations that use openness to position themselves as players in a bigger chain and to enable other economic players to create value based on the asset that is made available.”

Open Data

The section on open data will, of course, be of considerable interest to readers of this blog. The contributors identify the opportunities for intermediation by service platforms between data producers and re-users of open data, explaining the multiplier effects in the flows and exchanges of data.

Several examples are given of this type of service: MapBox, OpenCorporates and Enigma.io among them. Another chapter picks up the same theme – considering Navitia.io produced by a leading French company in the reuse of public transport data.

Elsewhere we find considerations of the continuing challenge of measuring and demonstrating, in a business-like fashion the economic impact of publishing open data. In fact, should we put social value above economic value, ponders Michel Bauwens in a further essay.

Conclusion

The remainder of the book is equally interesting, covering a lot of ground. For example Lionel Maurel maps out seven open business models, in some depth, for those in the creative industries, each with examples of where they are used. Similarly, both Manufacturing, Science and Education are well covered with several chapters and plenty of examples. It ends with a chapter in the form of a manifesto: “14 Proposals For An Open Economy” which were put together at a workshop in June 2014 attended by experts including many contributors to this book.  A great call to action for everyone.

Verdict: Heartily Recommended!

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