Ben Holliday

Work in the open and finding your edge

Striding Edge

Striding Edge in the English Lake District

This is Striding Edge in the English Lake District. It’s a famous ridge near Helvellyn known for it’s sheer drop at either side. A notorious accident spot for hikers especially in winter conditions.

This doesn’t stop people walking the ridge. Every year, thousands of people choose to do so. Despite how dangerous it is, it’s one of the most famous and popular walking routes in the Lake District.

Work in the open

Last year I shared some design principles for a culture of digital delivery from Digital DWP. The first principle was work in the open.

Working in the open is about sharing and transparency.

In digital government we encourage our teams to talk about what they’re working on and why. It’s important to share the story of the services we’re delivering. By telling this story we become accountable for what we deliver, we take ownership of it. We put our name to the story and the work.

There’s a risk attached to this. We won’t always get things right first time and people won’t always like our work or agree with our opinions.

Risking failure and rejection is the exchange we make for our willingness to work in the open. It’s an exchange for our willingness to grow and to produce great work.

Finding your edge

Working in the open is about finding your edge. It’s where we find our true focus.

When you walk Striding Edge you have to stay focused. If you lose focus then you risk falling.

Working in the open gives you focus. It’s making ourselves vulnerable in a way that can lead us to our best, most honest, and most human work.

The alternative is not working in the open. We miss out on the opportunities to work with others, share ideas, or we don’t give ourselves the permission to have an opinion that other people might disagree with (which is okay).

The fact is, the view is great when you find your feet right on the edge. It’s risky, but it’ worth it. If you’re in any doubt, just look at how many other people have been prepared to take that risk before you and are doing just fine.

Putting yourself in a situation where you have something to lose

We admire courage in other people. We applaud them when they’re vulnerable and honest with us, but nearly everyone I know finds this uncomfortable.

This is what it means to really work in the open. We need to support each other to do more of this.

It’s about being prepared to be seen or being prepared to show our true selves.

This is also about encouraging true diversity. People need to find a place where they can be themselves at work.

I know I do my best work when I work in the open. When I’m invested in the things that I’m working on.

Start by putting yourself in a situation where you have something to lose, even if it’s just your reputation.

This is my blog where I’ve been writing for 18 years. You can follow all of my posts by subscribing to this RSS feed. You can also find me on Bluesky, less frequently now on X (formally Twitter), and on LinkedIn.