What Is Open Kimono?
Open Kimono is an outdated and offensive term, which can also be described with the term "open the books." It means to reveal what is being planned or to share important information freely. Open the books, or an "open door policy," means revealing the inner workings of a project or company to an outside party.
Companies often keep internal projects a secret, especially if they feel it will create a competitive advantage. When companies partner together for synergy, divulging some of the interior workings of your business can build trust and create a deeper, more loyal relationship between the corporate leadership.
- Opening the books means revealing the inner workings of a project or company to an outside party.
- The term joined the business lexicon in the late 1980s during a period of increased business interactions with Japanese-owned businesses.
Understanding the Phrase
The kimono is a traditional Japanese garment. There are conflicting etymologies for this phrase, but the one closest to its current business connotation is the idea of Japanese people loosening their kimonos to relax at home, much like loosening a tie. The term joined the business lexicon in the late 1980s during a period of increased global business interaction, most notably between Western and Japanese businesses.
The use of this phrase in a business context dates back to the 1970s. The phrase came into common usage around 1998. New York Times reporter Stephen Greenhouse became one of the first to draw broad attention to the term when he noted that marketers at Microsoft (MSFT) had embraced it. At the time, he did caution that the use of open kimono may have originally indicated a disrespectful attitude toward the Japanese businessmen who were buying American companies.
The phrase actually became popular within the entire world of IT, especially in North America. Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple, notably used the expression in 1979 during a visit to Xerox PARC. He reportedly offered to allow Xerox to purchase $1 million in Apple shares if they would "open the kimono" on Xerox PARC. This memorable expression and meeting apparently led to him discovering the mouse, and Apple subsequently launching the first commercial mouse.