The horror! A few days ago, in a study released in one of my favorite light reading mags, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, two mathematicians proposed that dark energy might simply be an illusion we observe from our spot in a massive space-time expansion wave. There’s a nice writeup of the research in National Geographic here.
Does this mean the entire concept of this website, that brand, culture, and community form the dark matter and dark energy of organizations, breaks down too? That all this hippie brand-building, culture-growing, community-creating stuff is also an illusion, and the traditional visible mechanics of business alone are the stuff of which great companies are made?
I know. I know. It rocked my foundation too. Well, as my favorite fortune cookie fortune once told me, “all is not yet lost.” It is just a theory.
And it turns out that for the theory to be true, for the math to work, we must be at the center of the universe, a caveat that one physicist describes as “unusual.” I’d say so. Didn’t Copernicus have something to say about that in, like, 1543?
If you are still concerned and want to learn more, go read the abstract of the report. I’ll give you a taste to whet your appetite:
We derive a system of three coupled equations that implicitly defines a continuous one-parameter family of expanding wave solutions of the Einstein equations, such that the Friedmann universe associated with the pure radiation phase of the Standard Model of Cosmology is embedded as a single point in this family. By approximating solutions near the center to leading order in the Hubble length, the family reduces to an explicit one-parameter family of expanding spacetimes, given in closed form, that represents a perturbation of the Standard Model.
These guys seem pretty smart, and it sounds like we stand to learn a lot from their findings. And what’s good enough for the National Academy of Sciences is good enough for me.
As for our little Dark Matter Matters website, I’m no mathematician, but I see a lot of prominent mathematicians and physicists calling these results controversial. For now, I’m still thinking dark matter and dark energy might matter, people. Carry on.
Finished some cleanup work on the site tonight, adding new pages compiling all of the brand positioning tips in one place. Also added a page called books where I combined all of my lists of books and book reviews/commentary in one place. Hope this makes things a bit easier to find from the homepage!
In the physics/astronomy nerd category: The 2009 TED Global conference just wrapped up last week, and, on a fishing trip to see if they had posted any of the new talks yet (yes, I am a junkie), I found one from earlier this year with a short explanation by Brian Cox for why the Large Hadron Collider (the huge particle accelerator in Europe that we discussed here and here) failed. Thought I’d post it, even though his estimates for when it would be back online are kinda wrong.
And here’s a classic TED talk about dark matter and dark energy from last year’s conference by Patricia Burchat. I love this one.
After 10 years at Red Hat, I’ll admit I am a little bit out of touch with what the corporate world looks like everywhere else. But after a recent conversation with someone out there in the non-Red Hat universe, I thought I’d pass on a quick tip they found helpful on how to create a more collaborative culture in your organization.
The tip is simple. Default to open. Everywhere.
What does this mean? It means rather than starting from a point where you choose what to share, you start from a point where you chose what not to share.
You begin sharing by default.
A quick example. Our group was lucky enough to (thanks to our talented global facilities director, Craig Youst) have the opportunity to help design our own office space. As part of the space design, we determined that we wanted no offices– everyone would be in a large, open collaborative space.
Everyone had the same sized cubes, and it didn’t matter how much of a muckety-muck you were or weren’t. If you wanted to have a private conversation, the space design included a series of private alcoves, where you could go talk with your doctor, or yell at your wife, or whatever you didn’t want to do in public. But the key is that you had to actively decide when placing a call, do I want to take this in private? Which is counter than the old-skool office design where you had an office with a door, and all conversations were private by default.
Those of you who have been following this blog for a while know it is based on the simple premise that there are some things out there in the world that are pretty difficult to see or measure, yet these same things can often be the stuff with the biggest impact. The intro to the blog tells the full story.
In the world of astronomy, two of these things are dark matter and dark energy. Both hard to see and measure.
In the world of business, three of these things are brand, culture, and community. Also tough to see and measure their impact in the business world.
So while we constantly explore ways to better understand the impact of brand, culture, and community here at Dark Matter Matters, the world of astronomy is trying to better understand exactly what the heck dark matter and dark energy are.
Thought it might be worth taking a short break from our regularly scheduled program to give an update on how the astronomers are doing.
Books are important to me. Growing up, almost every free wall in my parents’ house was lined with bookshelves, some of them stacked two deep. I spent most of my pre- Red Hat career in book publishing, first working during college at The University of North Carolina Press. After college, I went to work for a literary agent named Rafe Sagalyn in Washington DC. Working for Rafe was a great experience because he built his reputation on big think/idea books and business books.
His first big book was the huge bestseller Megatrends by John Naisbitt back in the early 80s. When I was there, I personally got to work with, among others, Bill Strauss and Neil Howe on their great books about generational patterns in society (check out The Fourth Turning… very prophetic these days) and Don Peppers, author of some books back in the 90s like The 1:1 Future about relationship marketing that were the grandparents of today’s books on social media marketing.
I also got to play agent and author myself too. As an agent, I represented some of Tom Bodett’s work (yes, he is the Motel 6 guy, but was also a commentator on NPR) and sold a wonderful novel called The Frequency of Souls to FSG. As author, I helped Rafe write two “cutting edge” books about getting free and open access to government information (they have not aged well, I’m afraid).
After I left book publishing, reading became fun again. I read novels and travel literature for a while, nothing that made me think too much. But when I got to Red Hat, I relapsed and started reading the big think books like the ones I used to work on with Rafe. I thought it might be worth taking a few minutes to try to remember the books that have been the biggest influences on my thinking, and get them all down in one place, so here goes:
Without these ten books, Dark Matter might not even matter to me.
Have you ever been zooming in on a Google map, and eventually you zoom so far in that Google apologizes and tells you that it doesn’t have an image showing stuff that close? What do you do? You zoom back out so that you can see again.
When it comes to running campaigns, I tend to take metrics with a few grains of salt. How many times have you seen someone report metrics on how their campaign did, and they show that it drove zillions of leads and that converted to zillions of $$ in sales and was a huge success… but then you look around and can’t find anyone who saw the campaign, or heard of it. And the sales guys couldn’t ever even tell it happened.
In my last post, I talked about the idea that General Paul Van Riper called being “in command and out of control” as a corporate leadership strategy. But can you also apply the same principle as a marketing strategy?
A traditional marketing campaign usually looks something like this:
1. Build a campaign plan
2. Create campaign messages
3. Execute campaign
4. Track ROI, leads, sales directly driven by campaign
But what might an out of control marketing campaign look like? Continue reading
When we are at our best at Red Hat, we have a leadership culture instead of a management culture.
What’s the difference? My favorite example of understanding the difference is from Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Blink.
The story is about US General Paul Van Riper, who is trying out some military strategies to see how they will work in the field. In the book he says:
“The first thing I told my staff is that we would be in command and out of control.”
Most companies have a culture of management. The people in charge are in command and in control of everything. Managers give the orders, decide the strategy, and the workers follow the orders, implement the strategies. This is the way 90+% of businesses work and have worked for a very long time. It’s a good model for lots of businesses. Keeps things running efficiently, keeps chaos in check.
This model does not work very well in an open source world. Why? A couple of key reasons: Continue reading
When I first arrived at Red Hat in 1999, I have to say I didn’t get the warmest welcome in the world. After all, I’d just joined Red Hat from IBM, which many earlier Red Hat folks viewed as exactly the kind of corporate culture they were trying to escape. I think IBM is a great company, but it certainly didn’t define me either, so I was a little surprised the first time someone came up to me and said, “Don’t worry, you’ll drink the Kool-Aid soon enough.”
Now I knew where this idea came from. But I kind of thought I had already drunk the Kool-Aid– that’s why I left the security of IBM to join this crazy company after all. What I learned over the next few years is that everyone tastes the Kool-Aid a little differently. Red Hat meant very different things to different people, even if they all thought they were drinking the same Kool-Aid. I learned what I didn’t know very quickly… but I learned it on my own.
So how do you make it easier for everyone you employ to have a shared vision of what the company hopes to accomplish? How to do you ensure that everyone in the organization is aligned (and excited!) about a common cause? Continue reading