purpose

This tag is associated with 10 posts

Can an open, collaborative approach still work when not everyone has opted in?


Over the past two weeks, I’ve been reading the book Power and Love by Adam Kahane (thanks to Eugene Eric Kim for the recommendation).

After working with Eugene on the story of Wikimedia’s open strategic planning process, I’d remarked to him that the Wikimedia effort was one of the most successful, large-scale collaborative exercises I’d ever seen. Eugene replied that if I thought their project was big, I should read Power and Love to get a sense for the types of large-scale collaborative projects Adam tackles, often on the scale of nations.

It’s really a wonderful, introspective book, filled not just with successes but failures as well, and is probably one of the better-reviewed books I’ve seen on Amazon.

Adam is perhaps best known for his work facilitating the Mont Fleur Scenario Project in South Africa in the early 1990s. In an incredibly difficult, post-apartheid environment, Adam brought a diverse group of people together to collaborate on ways to smooth the country’s transition to democracy. He has since led collaborative projects in India, Guatemala, and Israel, among other places around the world, and describes many of these projects in the book.

As I read, I couldn’t help but notice one thematic appearing over and over. In many of Adam’s projects, there was little hope of getting everyone involved to rally around a shared purpose, something I view as a pre-requisite for building a successful community of passion. In fact, even when a fragile collaboration was pieced together in a workshop, it often would fall apart again quickly once the session was over.

In the open source world, we are usually lucky enough to be working with opt-in communities. Meaning, people are participating of their own free will, and have almost always joined the project because they share a common belief about what it might accomplish.

But reading Adam’s book has made me wonder, do the principles we regularly discuss here on opensource.com apply in communities where passion is strong, but not everyone shares a common purpose? Can open collaboration be successful in places where competing agendas are flourishing and not everyone has opted-in to the same project?

My experiences tell me that in communities without a shared purpose, productive open collaboration is usually incredibly difficult. Our current political environment here in the United States is certainly case study #1.

In the open source world, we don’t know how lucky we have it.

Do you think an open, collaborative approach can really succeed in environments where not everyone shares a common purpose and has joined of their own free will?

I’d love to hear what you think.

[This post originally appeared on opensource.com]

Are the “Best Companies to Work For” really the best companies to work for?


The other day I noticed that the application deadline to be considered for the Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For list is this week. My company is too small to be considered for this honor (you must have at least 1000 employees), but I always pay close attention when the rankings come out, and I’m sure many of you do as well. On the 2011 list, the #1 company was SAS, followed by Boston Consulting Group and Wegmans (see all 100 here).

The organization that does the ranking, The Great Place to Work Institute, has been running this competition for years and has a rigorous process for selecting the final list.

Yet when I read the articles written about the top companies or browse the list in Fortune, I always feel like something is missing. I finally put my finger on it:

I believe the evaluation process is benefit-heavy and mission-light.

What do I mean? When I read about the top companies, most of the emphasis seems to be on the salary and benefits offered to employees; which companies pay the most and have the best or most unusual employee perks (life coaches, wine bars, or Botox anyone?).

But the section of the report I want to see is nowhere to be found:

Which companies are doing things that matter?

  • Which companies have a noble mission or purpose and are helping make the world a better place?
  • Which companies have a bold vision and are leading innovation that is changing the world?
  • Which companies are doing such amazing or interesting stuff that they are attracting the world’s top talent?

You see, I’m not someone who would find a company a great place to work because it offers a big paycheck and fantastic benefits. I need my work to be personally fulfilling. I need to feel like I have a chance to make a difference, to do something great.

I don’t think I’m alone.

Previously, I’ve written about something I call cultural fool’s gold, my term for an organizational culture built exclusively on entitlements.

If you want to test whether you work in an entitlement-driven culture, just ask a few people what they like most about working at your company. If they immediately jump to things like free snacks and drinks, the work-from-home policy, or the employee game room, you may have a culture made of fool’s gold, an entitlement-driven culture.

If instead they say things like these:

  • I believe in what we are doing.
  • I love coming to work every day.
  • I leave work each day with a sense of accomplishment.
  • I am changing the world.

you probably work in the only type of organization I’d personally ever consider—a mission-driven organization.

So the big question I’d pose to the folks at the Great Place to Work Institute:

Should there be a “best places” list for those of us who not only want to work someplace great, but want to do something great?

Maybe the Institute should consider a new list for those of us who demand more from our workplaces than big salaries, comfortable benefits, and free Botox injections?

Perhaps it could be called Best Places To Do Great Work or Workplaces with Purpose for People With Purpose or something like that?

The world has changed. I think many of the people graduating for our universities today will demand more than just great benefits from their employers. They’ll want to do meaningful work and be a part of a community of others looking for the same.

Personally, I hope to see the way we rate “the best places to work” in the future change to accommodate people like me.

What do you think?

[This post originally appeared on opensource.com]

Are you building a community or a club?


I’ve never been much for clubs. When I was young, I made a lousy cub scout. I wasn’t a real “joiner” in high school or college either (just enough to get by) and I still don’t get actively involved in many professional associations today.

But I’m a sucker for a noble mission. I find myself getting drawn into all sorts of things these days. Good causes, interesting projects, even big ideas like the reinvention of management all share my extra attention, brainpower, and resources.

I love to contribute to things I believe in.

So why don’t I care much for clubs or associations? They are typically groups of people who have come together to support a common purpose. Right?

I believe many of these groups have fallen into the trap of losing touch with the core purpose that brought the initial group of people together in the first place.

They have lost their raison d’etre.

In the beginning, most clubs start off as communities. In fact, the definition of a club is “an association of two or more people united by a common interest or goal.” Which is pretty similar to this definition of a community: a “self-organized network of people with common agenda, cause, or interest, who collaborate by sharing ideas, information, and other resources.”

So what goes wrong? How and why do clubs and associations lose their sense of purpose?

First, let’s take a quick look at how a community might grow in an ideal setting. Watch the short animation below before you read on:

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

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]

Is your culture made of gold or fool’s gold?


When I hear people talk about how awesome their organizational culture is, I often find myself wondering what sort of “great” culture it is.

For me, great cultures fall into two categories: entitlement and mission-driven. Those “best places to work” lists don’t usually make a distinction, but I do. Here is the difference:

Entitlement cultures

The surest sign of an entitlement culture? When someone tells you why they like their work, they give you an example of a benefit not related to the work itself. Some examples:

I get on-site daycare.
I get free snacks and drinks.
We have great health benefits.
We have a flexible work-from-home policy.

From what I’ve observed, entitlement-driven cultures resonate most with people who have a deeply held desire for safety, security, and quality of life.

Mission-driven cultures

It’s no secret that I believe organizations with a strong shared purpose, mission, or vision beyond the bottom line have a huge advantage over those that don’t. I was able to witness the power of a mission-driven culture first hand at Red Hat, and I see these cultures all of the time in the both the open source and design worlds.

Ask someone why they like working in a mission-driven organization, and they are likely to say things like these:

I believe in what we are doing.
I love coming to work every day.
I leave work each day with a sense of accomplishment.
I am changing the world.

My personal experience has been that mission-driven cultures resonate most with people who have a deeply held desire to find meaning in their work above all else.

Can companies have both cultures at once, and be both entitlement-driven and mission-driven? Absolutely!

And a culture where people believe in what they do and enjoy safety, security, and quality of life is the best kind, right? Let me be controversial:

I don’t think that is true.

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

Trust: the catalyst of the open source way


Let’s face it. There are tons of projects out there in the world being run the open source way today. While the great ones can accomplish unbelievable things, the bad ones, even the average ones, often fail to achieve their goals.

In many cases, the failed projects still used many of the tenets of the open source way, transparency, collaboration, meritocracy, etc. So why did they fail?

Some projects fail because the contributors just aren’t skilled enough at what they are trying to do. Projects also fail because people don’t have the dedication to see them through—folks give up when the going gets tough.

But in many cases, the contributors have the skills and the dedication, yet the projects still don’t work out. My view? Many of these projects fail because they are missing one simple thing.

Trust.

Collaboration works better when you trust the people with whom you are collaborating. Transparency is more believable when you trust those who are opening up to you. And it is much easier for the best ideas to win when there is a base level of trust in the community that everyone is competent and has the best interests of the project at heart.

A successful open source project needs a culture of trust much more than a project not being run the open source way. Why?

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

Is the word “community” losing its meaning?


Poor words. As they get more popular, as we give them more love, we also keep trying to shove in new meaning to see if they can take it.

In the technology industry, this happens over and over. Take “cloud computing,” which used to mean something pretty specific and now means essentially “on the Internet” as far as I can tell. Outside the technology industry, take “news,” which also used to mean something, and now is a muddy mess of news/editorial/advertising.

We’ve even been accused of muddying the term “open source” here on opensource.com (a debate I love to have—there are smart opinions on both sides: protect the core vs. extend the audience).

So when I read a recent post by Gartner analyst Brian Prentice entitled Defining & Defending The Meaning Of “Community” – An Open Source Imperative, I was familiar with the lens he was looking through already.

Brian’s argument? According to his post, community used to mean “a collection of people whose defining characteristic is shared participation.” I might add “and a common purpose or vision.”

But now the word community is often being used to refer to any ol’ collection of people. From the article:

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

A modest proposal to save The New York Times


I love The New York Times, the best newspaper in the world. There is no greater pleasure than sitting out on the patio on a Sunday morning, reading The New York Times, and learning.

I stress the word learning because there are so few places left in our world where true discovery happens. Most of the time, marketers, computers, and even our friends are showing us more of what we already know we like, rather than introducing us to things we have never seen or heard of before.

In the pages of The New York Times, I can be introduced to people, places, events, ideas I would have never found on my own. Every day I read The Times I learn something new. The paper expands my understanding of the world rather than reflecting back to me the understanding I already have.

This is an incredibly valuable service. It is a service that very few media companies in the world still provide (my local paper, the Raleigh News and Observer, rarely does these days, sadly).

Yet, the ongoing conversation about how to solve the financial issues of The New York Times revolves around fixing the business model for newspapers. Most experts say the model is fundamentally broken, and a report released last week by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism doesn’t have a lot of good news for the future of journalism as a whole.

From my vantage point, the answer to fixing The New York Times will not come from exploring a revolutionary business model. It will come from a revolutionary brand, culture, and community model. Let me explain.

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Howard Schultz of Starbucks: The role of culture in a crisis


This week I was lucky enough to attend the Ernst & Young Strategic Growth Forum in Palm Desert, CA. As you may recall, last year Red Hat Chairman Matthew Szulik was the national Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year, and later this week, he’ll hand over his title to the next entrepreneur in waiting. One of the most exciting things about the Strategic Growth Forum is that it brings together some of the smartest entrepreneurial minds in the world in one place, and this morning, I had an opportunity to hear from one of the best.

Howard-Schultz-Starbucks

Howard Schultz: Chairmain, CEO, and President of Starbucks

Howard Schultz, Chairman, President, and CEO of Starbucks, who won an Entrepreneur of the Year award in 1993, spoke about his experience leading Starbucks through the economic crisis. As Starbucks began going through hard times, Schultz, who had given up the CEO role in 2001 (while remaining Chariman), decided it was time to take back the CEO responsibilities himself in early 2008.

Why? He was worried that the distinct culture, mission, and values that had brought the company great success were eroding.

According to Schultz, he came back into an operational role because he felt that the way out of crisis was not a simple change in business strategy, but instead– in his words– “love and nurturing.” His key to turning things around was revitalizing the investment in his people, recommitting to the core purpose of the organization and providing employees with hope and inspiration.

He says the transformation of Starbucks since this revitalization has been key to a tremendous amount of new innovation happening inside the company. People have even commented to him that it reminds them of what the early days at Starbucks must have been like.

Schultz took 10,000 of his best people and brought them together in New Orleans in late 2008 for a leadership conference where they spent 50,000 volunteer hours helping communities re-build after Hurricane Katrina. Below is a documentary that was filmed about this event.

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Maslow’s hierarchy of (community) needs


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.”

maslow

Maslow's hierarchy of needs

 

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.

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