the open source way

This tag is associated with 35 posts

Your open source management approach: Red Team or Blue Team?


When I hear people in the technology industry talk about the benefits of open source software, one of things they mention often is their belief that open source software “gets better faster” than traditional software (David Wheeler has done a nice job collecting many of the proof points around the benefits of open source software here). While the speed of innovation in open source is in part due to the power of Linus’s Law (“Given enough eyes, all bugs are shallow”), I believe it also has a lot to do with the way open source projects are managed.

Many of the characteristics of this open source management style apply well beyond making software, and I’m always looking for examples showcasing this in action. A few weeks ago, I wrote briefly about the story in Malcolm Gladwell’s book Blink about (now retired) US General Paul Van Riper.

Gladwell tells the story of how, in an enormous military war game called the Millennium Challenge in 2002, Van Riper took command of the Red Team, playing the role of a rogue commander who broke away from the government of his Persian Gulf country and threatened US forces (the Blue Team). Rather than following standard military management protocol, Van Riper managed his team according to a philosophy he called “in command and out of control.” From the book:

By that, I mean that the overall guidance and the intent were provided by me and the senior leadership, but the forces in the field wouldn’t depend on intricate orders coming from the top. They were to use their own initiative and be innovative as they went forward.

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What does Google’s management change say about the open source way?


Last week, Google CEO Eric Schmidt announced in a post on his blog he was stepping aside and Google co-founder Larry Page would take on management of Google’s day-to-day operations as the new CEO. Although Schmidt is staying on as Executive Chairman for now and will continue to have an ongoing role in the company, many including myself, were surprised by the news.

I see Google and Red Hat both as fantastic poster children for openness as a successful business strategy. I’ve written many times about how the open source way deeply impacted our work at Red Hat even beyond building software. I’ve also written about Google and the open source way, and pointed to this famous post from Google’s Senior VP of Product Management Jonathan Rosenberg explaining Google’s commitment to openness.

But what does Google’s management change say about the open source way?

Before you answer, here are a few things I’ve read this week and found interesting:

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

Is your brand out of control?


I’m lucky enough to have the opportunity to spend much of my time these days doing something I love—helping clients position and manage their brands. My experience helping build the Red Hat brand over ten years had a profound impact on the approach I take to brand positioning.

In the past year, as I’ve applied open source principles I learned at Red Hat to brand positioning projects in many different types of organizations, I’ve started thinking a mashup of classic brand positioning concepts and tenets of the open source way might help provide some clues for how brands might be better managed in the future.

I’ve put my time where my mouth is, and am currently in the process of writing a book entitled The Ad-free Brand: Secrets to Successful Brand Positioning in a Digital World, which will be published this fall.

Rather than writing the book behind closed doors and only revealing the finished product, I thought I’d share some of my ideas with you along the way, taking a cue from the open source way and releasing early and often.

Today, I’d like to explore the traditional role of brand positioning, and share some ideas for how I believe it might change to remain relevant in a digital world.

Audience or Community?

Typical marketing experts would define positioning as the art of creating meaning for a brand that occupies a distinct, valued place in the minds of members of a target audience.

But is the idea of an audience for brand messages outdated? Certainly in the heyday of traditional advertising, brands had an audience. The brands spoke, consumers listened… or didn’t.

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Open innovation and open source innovation: what do they share and where do they differ?


Recently, Stefan Lindegaard, open innovation expert and author of the new book The Open Innovation Revolution, joined opensource.com for a webcast about open innovation.

Based on the positive feedback from this webcast, we decided to host a conversation between Stefan and regular opensource.com contributor Chris Grams regarding the ways open source and open innovation are different and the things they share.

To learn more about open innovation, visit Stefan’s 15inno blog.

Collaboration & Sharing

CHRIS: In the open source world, we always come back to collaboration and sharing as key principles. These days, many organizations would say they have collaborative cultures (or aspire to, at least), but where the open source way really shines is in its ability to inspire people to collaborate beyond the boundaries of their own organization.

It strikes me that the open innovation world also encourages people to reach beyond the walls of their organization as well, but if I were to point out one key difference, it would be that in the open innovation world, collaboration is clearly transactional or even contractual. You give on the promise of receiving in return.

STEFAN: You are right about this. Big companies engage with open innovation because the combination of their internal resources and the external resources provides more innovation opportunities that they can feed their corporate engines with. They want to increase revenues and profits, and they definitely put this focus first rather than “just” trying to do good things.

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

The open source organization: good in theory or good in reality?


On occasion I get the opportunity to speak publicly about some of the things I’ve learned over the years applying the open source way in organizations.

In almost every case, when the Q&A session arrives, I’m greeted with at least one question from a poor soul who loves the idea of applying the open source way to management and culture, but doesn’t think it would ever work in his/her specific organization. Usually the comment is accompanied by some horror story about an evil co-worker, hierarchical boss, crappy HR policy, or some other impediment that would cause the open source way to fail.

And the sad truth? These folks are probably right. Many of these concepts wouldn’t work in their organizations.

So why do I waste my time talking about things that may not work in many organizations? Two reasons:

1) hope

2) the wind

Hope

Let me be honest. I’ve never run into a perfect model of the open source way in practice (if you have, please point it out to me!).

There are clearly some organizations that have figured out how to build open source principles into their DNA better than others. Wikipedia is a good example. The Fedora Project is another. Still, my guess is the people who are deeply involved in those projects on a daily basis would probably be able to show you some warts, places where old-skool practices are still evident.

We’ve set our company New Kind up as a corporate lab for the open source way. But we can’t make a case for perfection here either. We are still learning and prototyping.

So why not be more realistic? Why not give up and accept that some of these principles work better in theory than they do in practice?

Simple: I have hope.

What gives me hope? Two things. First, I have seen first-hand many examples of great things that happen when open source principles are applied within organizations. From the collaboratively-designed mission of Red Hat to the work of Fedora marketing team, I’ve personally witnessed the power of open source principles in action.

Second, I believe in the pursuit of perfection. Why not aspire to create better companies than we have today? What do we have to lose? I don’t know that we will ever see a perfect open source company. But by pursuing perfection, we are likely to get a heck of a lot closer than where we are today.

[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]

Does your organization need a “no policy” policy?


Daniel Pink published an interesting piece over the weekend in The Telegraph about Netflix‘s innovative corporate policy of not having a vacation policy.

Meaning, employees don’t have a set number of days they get off each year, but instead can take vacation whenever they want. From the article:

At Netflix, the vacation policy is audaciously simple and simply audacious. Salaried employees can take as much time off as they’d like, whenever they want to take it. Nobody – not employees themselves, not managers – tracks vacation days. In other words, Netflix’s holiday policy is to have no policy at all.

This may sound like a recipe for disaster to you, but it hasn’t turned out that way for Netflix. In fact, as the rest of article highlights, not having a lot of corporate policies may be a fantastic strategy for engaging 21st century workers.

[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]

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]

Hey, I Wrote a Book!

The Ad-Free Brand: Secrets to Building Successful Brands in a Digital World

Available now in print and electronic versions.

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