I’m a dreamer.
I am inspired by ideas.
In Myers-Briggs language, I am an INFP. It’s a pretty rare Myers-Briggs type, but some other famous INFPs are Shakespeare, Yeats, Helen Keller, Princess Diana, Tom Brokaw, JFK Jr., Julia Roberts, and Homer (the Greek, not the Simpson). We share a lot in common with ENFPs, the only difference being that they are extroverts (the E) vs. introverts (the I). The most famous ENFP of the moment is none other than President Barack Obama.
As it turns out even though INFPs (1%) and ENFPs (5%) together make up only a very small percentage of the general population, I’ve found in my time at Red Hat that I’ve run into more than my share of dreamers (INFP) and visionaries (ENFP).
I think these personality types are actually fairly common in the open source world, maybe more common than in the population at large. For many, making open source software is more than a job, it is a belief system. People who make open source software because they believe in it truly think that they are making the world a better place through freedom, openness, sharing, and transparency. Plus they think their way makes better software faster.
A few years back, Red Hat found itself in a lucky spot. It had a relationship with this growing community of people that that believed they were going to transform the world. At the same time, Matthew Szulik and others at Red Hat came up with a brilliant model for selling enterprise software, selling it by subscription rather than by the license model. The combination of a business model that could generate recurring revenues, a development model that could build better software faster, and a group of deeply passionate people working on it every day set the stage for the $1/2 billion+ in revenues company that you see today.
A parallel example that I always come back to is the race to the moon. In May, 1961, John F. Kennedy set up a crazy dream, that by the end of the decade the U.S. could put a man on the moon. This kind of craziness attracted the smartest dreamers in the world.
And by the end of the decade, it had happened.
Why? Well the conditions were right. The U.S. was in a race with the Russians to see who could get there first, so national pride was on the line. The U.S. had the financial resources and the brainpower that it took to get it done. But Kennedy had tapped into people’s imagination, into the dreams, and that is a powerful thing.
Any company can make money. Truly great companies are in it to do something more than simply make money. Big dreams lead to big opportunities. At Red Hat, Matthew Szulik set up the Raison d’etre for Red Hat:
To be the defining technology company of the 21st century, and through our actions, strengthen the social fabric by continually democratizing content and technology.
Being the defining technology company of the 21st century is a lofty prospect. And I’ve gotten weird looks more than once when I’ve told people that this was Red Hat’s vision. But we look at it this way: we have over 90 years left to do it! Even if you think Google, or Apple, or Facebook is the defining technology company of the 21st century so far, there are a lot of innings left in the game.
The important thing is that many people inside of Red Hat truly believe that they have in their power the opportunity to change the world for the better… not just make money. That they might, through their actions, actually change the social fabric of the world.