all ideas are good

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Love, hate, and memo-list


Top management experts are now acknowledging the importance of creating forums and contexts inside corporations that allow peer review, transparency, and powerful natural hierarchies to flourish. Here’s one great post by Gary Hamel from earlier this year that Iain Gray pointed out today. We’ve had an open forum exactly like this at Red Hat for a very long time. We call it memo-list.

450px-TyreAlMinaAgora

The Greek agora at Tyre. It used to be a popular gathering place back in the day.

When any new employee comes into Red Hat, memo-list is one of the first great shocks to the system. Memo-list itself is not some technological marvel of a collaboration tool– it is just a simple, old skool mailing list where any Red Hat employee can post an email message that goes out to virtually every employee in the company. That’s 3000+ folks.

Memo-list has been a hot issue inside the walls of Red Hat since before I joined ten years ago. Folks tend to either love it or hate it.

Some people are shocked by the fact that any employee can publicly challenge a post by an executive or even the CEO in an email to memo-list (and they do). Some people are annoyed by the discussions that appear over and over, year after year. Some people view it as idle chitchat and a waste of time.

But some people view it as the backbone of the Red Hat culture. A place where the power of meritocracy is nurtured. Where the employees force transparency, openness, and accountability. Where peer review makes for better ideas (after all, given enough eyes, all bugs are shallow).

I love memo-list, warts and all (I think Gary Hamel would like it too). In my view, it is the single most important thing that differentiates the Red Hat culture from most other corporate cultures.

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