meritocracy

This tag is associated with 26 posts

In a tough job market, your open source experience may be an asset in more ways than one


Does this describe you?

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&#8221; 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]

Want people to embrace the open source way? Don’t talk, do.


The June issue of Harvard Business Review features an interesting article by Roger Martin (one of the leading management minds of our time and author of the just published book Fixing The Game). The article tells the story of how Scott Cook, founder and current Chairman of Intuit, kicked off an effort to reinvent Intuit as a design-driven company.

I’ll leave it to Roger and HBR to share the story of how this initiative played out (hint: a very good case study of how to embed design thinking in the corporate world), but one particular lesson stood out for me that I’d like to highlight here.

When Cook kicked off the initiative, he did so by hosting two-day offsite event for the company’s top 300 managers. As part of this event, Cook gave a five-hour (wow!) PowerPoint presentation, during which he “laid out the wonders of design and how it could entice Intuit’s customers.”

As you might expect, the PowerPoint marathon didn’t go so well. From the article:

“But although the main event fell flat, the one that followed did not. Cook had met a young consulting associate professor at Stanford named Alex Kazaks, whom he’d invited to present for an hour at the offsite. Like Cook, Kazaks began with a PowerPoint presentation, but he ended his after 10 minutes and used the rest of the time for a participatory exercise: The managers worked through a design challenge, creating prototypes, getting feedback, iterating, and refining.

The group was mesmerized…”

This story illustrates something I saw over and over during my time at Red Hat and in many of the projects I’ve worked on since:

No matter how eager you are to get people to embrace the open source way fully—running projects in an open, collaborative, meritocratic way—you’ll have more success convincing people to try doing things the open source way when you stop showing slides and instead get them to experience the benefits in action.

The best way to learn about collaboration is to collaborate.

The best way to learn how to operate openly is to participate in a project run openly.

And the best way to see the power of meritocracy is to participate in a project where the ideas actually do come from everywhere.

So before you spend two weeks preparing a detailed PowerPoint (or OpenOffice) presentation to convince your management team to embrace the open source way, stop and think.

Is there a way you could show the benefits of the open source way in action? Could you run a hands on-project the open source way and invite those you are attempting to sway to participate?

In my experience, people will nod their heads at a presentation espousing philosophy. But you won’t really have their minds until they’ve experienced the open source way in action, and you won’t have their hearts until they’ve thoroughly enjoyed the journey as well.

[This post originally appeared on opensource.com]

Five questions about open source and branding with Alina Wheeler


A few years back, a good friend recommended I pick up a copy of Designing Brand Identity: an essential guide for the whole branding team by Alina Wheeler. Now in its 3rd edition, it’s a beautiful book, well designed and easy to read or to use as a reference. I recently caught up with Alina, who is finishing up work on a new book entitled Brand Atlas: Branding Intelligence Made Visible with designer Joel Katz. I asked her some questions about where branding and the open source way might be beginning to intersect.

CHRIS: I have heard that you often begin the continuum of branding with the 17,000 year old cave paintings in Lascaux, France. Now that’s historic branding! What are one or two key concepts in designing branding identity that have stayed constant and endured from a world of cave paintings to a world of Twitter, Facebook, and open source?

ALINA: Since the beginning of time, the need to communicate emerges from a universal set of questions: Who am I? Who needs to know? How will they find out? Why should they care? Whether you are on Facebook or in Shanghai or Charlotte, these questions are the same.

Mankind has always used symbols and stories to express individuality, pride, loyalty, and ownership. Individuals, communities and organizations express their uniqueness through their identity. Brand is identity. Competition for recognition is as ancient as the heraldic banners on a medieval battlefield. The battle for physical territory has evolved into competition for share of mind. The competition is fierce.

The power of symbols remains elusive and mysterious–a simple form can trigger recall and arouse emotion–whether it is emblazoned on a flag or embedded in an email. There is significant research about the purpose of the images in the caves of Lascaux. For me they are a reflection of what we are all thinking about now: communication, community, culture, meaning, survival, and navigation.

CHRIS: Now the opposite question: as we begin 2011, are there core branding principles you think have shifted significantly since you wrote the first edition of the book in 2003?

ALINA: The tools have changed. The fundamentals have not. Whether you are the CEO of a global consumer brand or a social entrepreneur, I believe that there is a universal set of principles that are fundamental to increasing awareness, attracting prospects/opportunities, transcending the clutter, and building customer loyalty.

The brand conversation has changed. We all know that now. The challenges have increased exponentially. The tools have become so provocative that they reduce our attention to the fundamentals: being customer centric, staying aligned with your vision and values, and staying differentiated in a world that is overwhelming in sameness and clutter.

The pressure to constantly update and innovate has polarized the world of brand builders. For some, it is an exhilarating time and for others a treadmill where you are running faster to stay in place. There are those who embrace marketplace dynamics and ignore brand fundamentals, and those who are stuck in their legacy infrastructures and business models refusing to embrace change and speed. Success requires embracing both.

CHRIS: Here on the opensource.com business channel, we often talk about how core open source principles like community, collaboration, meritocracy, and rapid prototyping can help businesses of any type–not just those building software. I love the detailed case studies you did in Designing Brand Identity. In your studies of leading brands, have you seen examples of these principles being applied in the branding world?

ALINA: I am eager to learn about new brands that are co-created with the customer or end-user. I believe that open source is the most meaningful and relevant methodology that will help us prepare for a new world: i.e. build communities that matter, collaborate more effectively toward outcomes that matter, and innovate because for survival, that matters.

Although open source is a fairly new idea to most brand managers that I know, it embodies the branding process ideal from an organizational development perspective. The biggest challenge on revitalizing an existing brand is frequently busting through the silos. How do we get IT to work with customer support and marketing to work together on behalf of the customer? How do we get different departments with radically different agendas to be part of the campfire around the brand? It is so powerful when there is a cross-departmental, cross-disciplinary collaboration to build the brand, and to deliver on the brand promise.

B Corporations are a new class of certification and classification for companies that want to collectively redefine success and to leverage the influence of their businesses to solve social and environmental problems. B Corps connect their executive teams with peers from mission-aligned companies.

The Charleston Parks Conservancy has a unique network of community volunteers called the Park Angels, who literally help care for Charleston’s 120 + parks. They have become the public face of the organization. The long-term benefits are for the entire city: building community and improving the quality of life, health and economic strength. Park Angel’s brand is visible on numerous platforms that connect people to people, people to the parks and to the bigger ideal of making a difference. This movement has instilled a sense of ownership and pride.

I believe that IDEO uses open source methodology in their product development work, although I don’t think they call it open source. They are renowned for letting customers/users be part of the product development process and routinely use rapid prototyping. Certainly their culture of creativity and innovation is a meritocracy. The Ripple Effect is a project done in partnership with the Acumen Fund and the Gates Foundation. IDEO collaborated with 22 organizations in India to develop new methods for safe transportation and storage of drinking water in India’s villages.

CHRIS: I can tell design means more to you than just a pretty logo. What is the strategic role of design in building brands today?

ALINA: Lou Danziger said it best, “Design is intelligence made visible.”  The best design is a result of strategic imagination, an ability to understand and align business goals with creative strategy and expression. While brands are about emotional connection, brand identity is any tangible expression of the brand. We can see it, hear it, watch it move. Designers play an essential role in building brands and creating unique and memorable experiences. Designers work to fuel recognition across platforms, amplify differentiation, and make big ideas accessible and understandable.

The best designers have an ability to imagine what others can’t see and to show what it looks like and what it feels like. Design is often overlooked in brand strategy meetings where rapid prototyping could benefit and accelerate the decision making process. Having designers shoulder to shoulder with researchers examining user experiences could jumpstart new solutions.

CHRIS: One trend we discuss regularly here on opensource.com is the trend toward organizations giving up some control over the direction of their brands to the communities around them. I’d love to hear your thoughts. Is this a positive thing? Dangerous? Maybe both?

ALINA: Brands exist because there are customers. Although that might sound like a blinding flash of the obvious, it’s important to remember that ultimately the customer always decides whether a brand will flourish or die.

Just like in any conversation worth having, there is a time to talk and a time to listen. Listening to the aspirations, desires, needs, and challenges of your core stakeholders is the most critical brand building competency.

I do believe that control is critical to brand success whether you are a start-up venture, a non-profit or a consumer brand.  Having values that don’t waiver. Being certain about why your organization exists. Being consistent about who you are and what you stand for. Taking the time to engage your entire organization in the vision and values. Creating places where conversations can happen. Building trust. Anticipating and fulfilling needs. Being transparent. Making certain that the brand experience is coherent and relevant.  These maxims are intentional. As more brands in the future are co-created with end-users, perhaps this notion of control will evolve to a more collaborative model.

The third edition of Designing Brand Identity is available on Amazon now. Alina Wheeler’s new book Brand Atlas: Branding Intelligence Made Visible will be available in April, 2011 and is available for pre-sale now on Amazon.
[This post originally appeared on opensource.com]

De-bucketizing the org chart


Over the years, I’ve picked up an unhealthy understanding of the language of business. Years of sitting in big corporate meetings will do that to you, unfortunately.

Here at New Kind, my business partners will still call me out for talking about “action items,” saying something is in our “wheelhouse,” or jumping straight to the “net-net.”

But perhaps the business term I love to hate the most is the word bucketize, which I’d translate as “to organize into broad categories.” Common usage might include statements like the following:

“I’m going to bucketize these requirements.”

or

“We’ve bucketized the skillsets we need for this project.”

It’s not just the word that I dislike either, but the entire concept of bucketizing things, which often means taking complex relationships and oversimplifying them in order to fit into broad buckets designed to hold everything except much meaning. Bucketizing often puts things into silos (another favorite business word), destroying valuable connections between ideas, tasks, or people ending up in, well, different buckets.

Perhaps the most egregious example of corporate bucketizing for me is the typical corporate org chart, which looks something like this.

In most organizations, each person sitting at the executive table has their own employee bucket. As an executive, you are often motivated to fill your bucket with as many people as possible, because the more people you have working for you, the more power you control in the organization.

The problem? The org chart is an oversimplified, semi-fictional construct.

It rarely represents an accurate view of the complex web of working relationships found within an organization where people in different buckets communicate and work with each other all of the time. Yet, even though it is mostly fiction, the org chart often creates real power for executives to wield.

[Read the rest of this post on opensource.com]

BetterMeans: a new app for running your organization the open source way


Last week I received a heads up about a new web application launching today from a company called BetterMeans with an impressive goal: to build the infrastructure (processes, technology, governance, etc.) to make an open organizational structure like we talk about here on opensouce.com a reality.

From their website:

BetterMeans.com is a web platform where people can start and run companies in a new decentralized way.

– Teams self-form, self-organize, and self-manage using an issue-tracking tool
– There is no management class, only natural hierarchies.
– Leadership emerges organically by users earning other users’ confidence
– Compensation is based on contribution
– Strategy and ideas are crowd-sourced
– There’s full accountability and transparency. Relationships are built on trust.
– Ownership is distributed
– Capital allocation and decision-making are decentralized

If a traditional company was a network architecture, it would be client-server.

We’re building a platform for peer-to-peer companies that are more agile, resilient, and innovative.

The video below explains what they are doing and why.

[Read the rest of this post on opensource.com]

My newest hobby: hacking management


My first blog post went up today on the Management Innovation Exchange (MIX).

The MIX is the brainchild of Gary Hamel, author of one of my favorite management books of the last 10 years, The Future of Management, and the guy who the Wall Street Journal ranked as the most influential business thinker in the world.

The thesis of the MIX is that management itself has been a fantastic innovation— the “technology of human accomplishment” to use Hamel’s words. Yet for all management has done to improve the world we live in, it is technology invented over 100 years ago, and old skool management practices are becoming increasingly outdated in the modern world (Gary Hamel explains this all better than I do, watch his short introduction to the MIX below).

The MIX is an open, collaborative effort to reinvent management built around 25 management “moonshots” (see the full list here). In addition to Hamel, there are some amazing folks contributing to the site, including famous visionaries like Terri Kelly of W.L. Gore & Associates and John Mackey of Whole Foods.

But perhaps the most exciting part of the site for me has been to see that it is built as a meritocracy of ideas, where anyone can add a story, a hack, or a barrier. And many do. I’ve seen some amazing ideas as I’ve begun to participate in the MIX over the last few months and can’t wait to point some of them out in my role as a Moonshot Guide.

In particular, I’ll be tackling the moonshot “Enable communities of passion” building on my experiences at Red Hat and here at New Kind as we continue to build a company around the concept of being community catalysts.

So if you have ideas for things you think I should cover, drop me a line, I’d love to hear them.

Want to reinvent management? Start with the managers.


Maybe some day we’ll look back on the role of the manager in our organizations and laugh.

Such a quaint trend. Kind of like having The Clapper in every room of your house, or wearing multiple Swatch watches, or working out to Richard Simmons videos. Each seemed really helpful at the time, but looking back, we kind of wonder what the heck we were thinking.

OK, I’m exaggerating. After all, the manager/employee trend has been going strong for 100 years or more. But are we seeing enormous changes in the role of managers on the horizon? Signs point to yes.

In some of the most forward-thinking businesses and in many projects being run the open source way, the traditional manager/employee relationship, which looks something like the image above, is being replaced with something much less formal and much more flexible.

I think the new model looks more like this:

[read the rest of this post on opensource.com]

Five questions about open innovation with Stefan Lindegaard


On Wednesday, September 1, opensource.com will be hosting a webcast with Stefan Lindegaard, one of the world’s leading experts on open innovation.

Sign up for the webcast now

Stefan is author of the recently published book The Open Innovation Revolution, and blogs regularly on 15inno.com and stefanlindegaard.com.

We see a lot of commonalities between the open source way and the key concepts of open innovation, and thought inviting Stefan to come share his knowledge about open innovation with the opensource.com audience might be a good way to spur dialog between people in open source and open innovation communities.

In preparation for the webcast, we’ve asked Stefan five questions about subjects he may cover in more detail on September 1.

CHRIS: Early in your book, The Open Innovation Revolution, you share an idea that came out of one of your discussions with innovation leaders: “Embracing the outside requires that you know the inside.” Why do you think companies struggle so much to understand their own internal innovation model? How does this hinder their ability to pursue open innovation strategies?

STEFAN: Companies have chronic issues making innovation happen internally. This has many reasons. Executives might not fully understand innovation, the organization is not trained for innovation or there is just not enough focus on how to make innovation happen. On the latter, I can add that only very few companies actually have an innovation strategy that is aligned with the overall corporate strategy.

If you want to bring in external partners to your innovation process, these partners expect that you have order in your own house. If you fail to work efficiently with these partners nothing happens in terms of outcome. Even worse, the word spreads that you are not a good innovation partner and thus you will have a harder time attracting future partners.

Some companies believe that if they just embrace open innovation, then all their internal innovation issues will be solved. This will not happen. Open innovation is not a holy grail.

[Read the rest of this post on opensource.com]

MIX: Gary Hamel’s experiment in reinventing management the open source way


Of all of the people talking or writing about the future of business right now, no one has more street cred than Gary Hamel. I’ve written about him many times before, and his book The Future of Management is one of the most inspiring and meaningful business books of the last 10 years.

Last year at the World Business Forum, when Gary called open source one of the greatest management innovations of the 21st century, there was some serious high-fiving going on amongst us open source business types.

So I’ve been watching closely as Gary and a team of management superstars have launched an open innovation experiment called the Management Innovation Exchange, or MIX. In the video below, Gary explains a little bit about the goals of the MIX.

Here’s how they describe the MIX on the website:

“The Management Innovation eXchange (MIX) is an open innovation project aimed at reinventing management for the 21st century. The premise: while “modern” management is one of humankind’s most important inventions, it is now a mature technology that must be reinvented for a new age.”

From spending some time on the site, it clearly shares a lot of the same foundations as the open source way, even if the MIX folks prefer the term open innovation.

One of the most wonderful bits? The MIX is a meritocracy, where anyone can join, submit management hacks, stories, or barriers, and then collaborate with others to explore the ideas further.

[Read the rest of this post on opensource.com]

The open source way: designed for managing complexity?


This week I finally got a chance to sit down and digest IBM’s latest Global CEO Study, newly published last month and entitled Capitalizing on Complexity. This marks the fourth study IBM has done (they complete them once every two years), and I’ve personally found them to be really useful for getting out of the weeds and looking at the big picture.

This report is based on the results of face-to-face meetings with over 1500 CEOs and other top leaders across 60 countries and 30+ industries. These leaders are asked all sorts of questions about their business challenges and goals, then IBM analyzes the answers and segments the respondents to isolate a group of high-performing organizations they call “standouts.” The standouts are then further analyzed to find out how they are addressing their challenges and goals differently than average organizations.

As a quick summary (but don’t just read my summary, go download the study for free), IBM found a big change this year. In the past three studies, leaders identified their biggest challenge as “coping with change.” This year, they identified a new top challenge: “complexity.”

If you’ve been reading marketing collateral or web copy from your vendors over the past year (someone must read that stuff…) this will come as no surprise to you. How many things have you read that start with something like: “In our increasingly complex world…” or “In the new deeply interconnected business landscape…” If the marketing folks are saying it, it must be true.

But I digress. Here’s IBM’s punch line:

[Read the rest of this post on opensource.com]

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