Is openwashing good?


“Washing” strategies are used to create public impressions that companies are doing much more than they are actually doing. For example, greenwashing creates an illusion that a company is more sustainable than it is. In spite of “washing” being seen as a misleading strategy, it is still a necessary step change.

One way to see “washing” is that public wants change faster than companies can do it, so companies must somehow satisfy the public need while they prepare at their own pace.

Openwashing is another “washing” strategy – companies pretend to be open much more than they actually are open. They want feedback only for very limited cases, they set short deadlines, they engage only a small selected groups, etc.

In our experience, openwashing is an unavoidable part of adopting open projects. Open innovation, just like digitalization and sustainability, is a business model level change, and it takes time to adopt, and something has to be done in the meantime.

The main error is when companies and consultants actually believe in the openwashing themselves and stop pushing for bigger adoption of open projects. Openwashing can be accepted as a marketing approach as a step towards bigger adoption, but companies should stop there and linger. Same as with greenwashing – companies that do openwashing for long eventually are exposed and their brand is damaged.

If you consult or manage open projects it is actually necessary to start with small projects and overpromote them, but only as an unavoidable step towards bigger projects.

Written by: Nikola Tosic
Publishing date: 11 Jul 2024