Notes on Access

What is it?

Access does not usually make it into the standard list of vocabulary for what makes great work environments. Words like integrity and honesty are long-time staples and ones like candor and curiosity are becoming more popular, but access, in my opinion, is a missed opportunity and also just misunderstood. I’ve been throwing it around for a while now and when I do I usually have to explain myself. 

Simply put access is the opportunity to know as much as possible about everything in an organization-the ends and outs of the business, opportunities, failures, financials, etc. I think of it as a state of being that organizations should perpetuate. It’s a value that should be lived out as we all work. Interestingly, access is something we all know (and probably take for granted) in our society. With the growth of the digital age access to information is ubiquitous. From knowing what is happening on the other side of the globe in real time to tracking heart-rate and sleep patterns, information has never been more accessible than now. Yet, strangely, organizations still find it difficult to practice this state internally.

 Information

Access to information is essential for enabling the collective creative power of the people in an organization. When information is known each person is able to make connections that may otherwise remain illusive if information is kept secret—inadvertently or purposefully. The more people that know as much information as possible the greater the opportunities for good ideas to rise to the surface. This kind of access recognizes that diversity of thought is valuable and makes creativity possible.

When information is known each person is able to make connections that may otherwise remain illusive if information is kept secret—inadvertently or purposefully. The more people that know as much information as possible the greater the opportunities for good ideas to rise to the surface. This kind of access recognizes that diversity of thought is valuable and makes creativity possible.

In some ways access sounds like communication, but that’s not what I mean exactly. Communication is really the dissemination of information but it has a whiff of “empowerment syndrome”. I’ll choose what to communicate because I hold all the information just as I’ll empower you to a degree because I hold all the power. Also, radical communication is a lot of work. Access is more like removing all the barriers to knowing what’s going on so that communication isn’t so laborious. It’s like Stan Richards removing all the walls and doors at the Richard’s Group.

Hospitality and Generosity 

Maybe I’ve spent too much time in environments where knowing information represented status, but it seemed to me that in those environments productivity stalled and innovation was almost non-existent. 

As long as a minority holds all the cards the ability of the whole will be limited. People have to feel like they are welcome to get involved in all areas, ask questions, and expect full access. 

Chris Shivers, Director of Research at Cook Systems

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