A new book comes out tomorrow entitled Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty, by MIT professor of economics Daron Acemoglu and Harvard professor of government James A. Robinson.
In the New York Times Magazine yesterday, Adam Davidson wrote a great piece about it. I pre-ordered the book and look forward to reading, but in the meantime, the New York Times article hints at some key conclusions the authors reach. From the article:
“…the wealth of a country is most closely correlated with the degree to which the average person shares in the overall growth of its economy… when a nation’s institutions prevent the poor from profiting from their work, no amount of disease eradication, good economic advice or foreign aid seems to help… If national institutions give even their poorest and least educated citizens some shot at improving their own lives — through property rights, a reliable judicial system or access to markets — those citizens will do what it takes to make themselves and their country richer.”
A relatively simple concept: Nations that give citizens opportunities to improve their lives—to create value for themselves—give them the incentive to create value—both for themselves and for the nation collectively.
According to the summary on the authors’ website, the book highlights examples of the theory in action around the world and throughout history, “from the Roman Empire, the Mayan city-states, medieval Venice, the Soviet Union, Latin America, England, Europe, the United States, and Africa.”
So how might this theory apply to the study of how organizations can build passionate and sustainable brand communities? If we think of brands as nations, what might make them fail or see great success?
Michael Porter wrote a now-famous piece in HBR last year entitled Creating Shared Value that to me articulates the business equivalent of the principle. Here is how Wikipedia describes Porter’s concept of creating shared value:
“The central premise behind creating shared value is that the competitiveness of a company and the health of the communities around it are mutually dependent. Recognizing and capitalizing on these connections between societal and economic progress has the power to unleash the next wave of global growth and to redefine capitalism.”
I think there is a strong connection here, and I would frame it as simply as this:
Brands (and nations) that exist only to extract value from their communities are, in the long run, less competitive and less sustainable than brands (and nations) that exist to create and share value with their communities.
Think about the brands you interact with on a daily basis:
– Which of them are clear value extractors (i.e. they unabashedly exist in order to extract as much money as they can)?
– Which of them are extractors in “shared-value clothing” (i.e. they hide their true selves behind a veneer of shared value)?
– Which of them truly create and share value with the communities that care about them?
If you are like me, some specific organizations immediately come to mind when you see the three categories above. Humor me for a second as I remix the quotes I shared from the New York Times article earlier, but putting them in a brand context:
“…the strength of an organization’s brand community is most closely correlated with the degree to which the average community member shares in the overall success of the organization and community… when an organization prevents the average community member from profiting from its work, no amount of PR, advertising, or charitable giving seems to help… If organizations give even their average community members some shot at becoming more successful — through providing innovative products, experiences, and connections to new people or opportunities — those community members will do what it takes to make themselves, the organization, and the overall brand community richer.”
I suspect that organizations interested in building passionate brand communities have a lot to learn from Why Nations Fail.
And I’ll let you know what I personally learn once I’ve had a chance to read it.
You’ve been using open source software or contributing to open source projects for a long time. Perhaps you are in a job where you utilize open source tools regularly, or maybe you are just fooling around with them for fun or to learn new skills.
You’ve been known to tell (possibly true) stories that highlight how long you’ve been a part of the open source world (from “I remember downloading the first version of Fedora” to “I was in the room when the term open source was coined”). But, most importantly, you consider yourself an active member of one or more open source communities.<img title=”” src=”http://opensource.com/sites/all/modules/wysiwyg/plugins/break/images/spacer.gif” alt=”” />
Did you ever consider that your time spent participating in these open source communities might be more than just good technology experience? That it might prepare you for jobs completely unrelated to using or making software?
In college, I studied history and political science. Not because I wanted to be a political scientist or a historian but because, well… actually I’m not really sure.
But in retrospect, I’m really happy I studied these fields.
Why? They gave me plenty of experience doing research, writing, and learning to articulate my thoughts and ideas effectively. While I don’t remember how Alexander the Great defeated the Persians at the battle of Issus and I can no longer compare and contrast the views of Rousseau and Locke effectively, I use many skills I learned when studying these subjects on a daily basis.
At the risk of sounding like an advertisement for a liberal arts education, let me get to the point.
While you’ve been happily participating in open source communities because you have a need for a piece of software or want to help make it better, you may also be the beneficiary of an important side effect. You may be getting experience in how organizations of the future will be run.
Over the past few years, I’ve had an opportunity to work with organizations in many different industries, including finance, education, service, hospitality, even in the government and non-profit worlds. Many of these organizations are busy exploring how they can better compete using techniques that many of us in the open source world have already successfully put into practice.
For example, some are interested in testing large-scale collaborative projects involving people outside their organizations. Others want to know how to create internal meritocracies where people feel empowered and the best ideas can come from anywhere. Others want to begin to form more meaningful relationships with the community of people who care about their organizations. If you’ve been reading opensource.com, you’ve seen us highlight many examples in business, government, education, health, and elsewhere.
These organizations have a lot to learn from those of you who already have real experience using these practices in real communities.
In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell introduced the idea that those who became world-class practitioners at their craft (he uses examples like Mozart, Steve Jobs, and the Beatles), have done so in part because they were able to get an inordinate amount of practice before others in their field. According to the research Gladwell cites in the book, a person needs about 10,000 hours of practice to achieve mastery.
How close are you to putting in 10,000 hours participating in the open source world? If you’ve spent 40 hours a week working in open source communities for 5 years, you may have your 10,000 hours in already.
But even if you don’t yet have 10,000 hours, my guess is you’ve already learned quite a bit about how open source communities work.
So if you believe that the organizations of the future may be run using many of the same principles that are currently being used to great effect in open source communities, and you already have plenty of experience working within those communities, could you be an asset to an organization that is looking for better ways to compete? And could you be an asset not just because of your open source technology skills, but also because of your open source thinking skills?
An example: My friends Dave Mason and Jonathan Opp, who each have well more than 10,000 hours of experience in the open source world, recently entered the joint Harvard Business Review / McKinsey M-Prize contest on the Management Innovation Exchange with a hack deeply inspired by their open source experience.
Their idea? Take the principle of “forking” as practiced in open source development projects and apply it to the way organizations are managed (read the full details of their hack here). Their “Free to Fork” hack was recently selected from a pool of almost 150 entries submitted by people from around the world as one of 20 finalists for the M-Prize. Pretty impressive.
So think about it: Beyond your technology experience, what else have you learned from working in open source communities that might be valuable to a potential employer? Are there hidden skills or ways of thinking open source has taught you that might be worth highlighting in a job interview or in making the case for a promotion or new assignment?
Start thinking of your open source experience as a new set of thinking and working skills that may be very much in demand in organizations hoping to remain competitive in the future.
By doing so, you might open yourself up to interesting opportunities you wouldn’t have considered before.
[This post originally appeared on opensource.com]
In my day job at New Kind, I spend quite a bit of my time working on brand-related assignments, particularly for organizations interested in community-based approaches to building their brands.
When marrying the art of community building to the art of brand building, it’s hard not to talk about building “brand communities.” It’s a convenient term, and brand experts love to trot out examples like Harley Davidson and Apple as examples of thriving communities built around brands.
The term “brand community” even has its own Wikipedia page (definition: “a community formed on the basis of attachment to a product or marque”). Harvard Business Review writes about brand communities. Guy Kawasaki writes about brand communities.
Yet almost every article I’ve read about building “brand communities” shares a common trait:
They are all written by brand people for brand people.
The result? Articles focusing on what’s in it for the brands (and the companies behind them), not what’s in it for the communities. Learn how to build a brand community so your company will succeed, not so a community will succeed.
Typical corporate thinking.
What if we turned things on their heads for a second and changed the words around? What if, instead of “brand community,” the phrase du jour was “community brand?”
[Read the rest of this post on opensource.com]
Over the past month or so, I’ve been having a conversation with Iain Gray, Red Hat Vice President of Customer Engagement, about the ways companies engage with communities. I’ve also written a lot lately about common mistakes folks make in developing corporate community strategies (see my two posts about Tom Sawyer community-building here and here and Chris Brogan’s writeup here).
One idea we bounced around for a while was a mashup of community thinking and Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. For those of you who slept in with a bad hangover the day you were supposed to learn about Maslow in your intro psych class (damn you, Jagermeister!), here is the Wikipedia summary:
“[Maslow’s hierarchy of needs] is often depicted as a pyramid consisting of five levels: the lowest level is associated with physiological needs, while the uppermost level is associated with self-actualization needs, particularly those related to identity and purpose. The higher needs in this hierarchy only come into focus when the lower needs in the pyramid are met. Once an individual has moved upwards to the next level, needs in the lower level will no longer be prioritized. If a lower set of needs is no longer being met, the individual will temporarily re-prioritize those needs by focusing attention on the unfulfilled needs, but will not permanently regress to the lower level.”
Now granted, the needs of a company are very different than the needs of a human being. At its very basic level, a company has a “physiological” need to make money. If that need is not being met, little else will matter. But in an ironic twist, this basic need to make money can actually hinder the company’s ability to make money if it is not wrapped in a more self-actualized strategy.
To explain what I mean, think about the last annoying salesperson who called or emailed you. Why were you annoyed? Probably because it was very clear to you that the salesperson was badly hiding his basic motivation to make money. He wasn’t talking to you because he valued you– he was talking to your wallet.
Now think about the best recent sales experience you’ve had. Mostly likely, this salesperson was being motivated by a higher purpose, perhaps something as simple as a desire to make you happy. Sometimes the most effective salespeople aren’t even in sales at all– like a friend who tells you about a new album you should buy, for example. Or sites like Trip Advisor, where you can learn about where to go on vacation from other folks like you.
When it comes to community strategy, most companies have trouble finding motivation beyond the simple need to make money– and the communities they interact with can tell.
Yet if you look at the greatest companies out there, you’ll find that they usually have a strong sense of identity and purpose– just like Maslow’s self-actualized people. Read anything by Jim Collins and you’ll see what I mean.
For a recent presentation, Iain developed a chart that looks a lot like the one below. And to embarrass Iain, let’s call it the Gray hierarchy of community needs.
When I talk about the culture that we’ve built at Red Hat over the years around the principles of the open source way, one of the most popular questions I get is something along these lines.
That’s great and all, Chris. But Red Hat built its culture from scratch. My company culture has been the same for over 50 years. Can you change a deeply entrenched 20th century culture?
It’s a great question. Clearly there is a big advantage to being able to organically build a corporate culture from scratch. But, with support from the top levels of management, it is not impossible to change an entrenched culture, too.
Where do you start? Here are three tips: