collaboration

This tag is associated with 61 posts

How do you collaborate without leaving introverts behind?


Last week, I watched The Power of Introverts, an excellent TED Talk by Susan Cain (she also has a book out on the same subject called Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking).

In her talk, which has been viewed almost two million times since it was posted last month, Susan makes a compelling case that the open, collaborative world we embrace today is not always set up to harness the best work from introverts.

As we’ve moved toward more open office plans, collaborative processes like design thinking, and into a digital world now dominated by the word “social,” Susan wonders who is looking out for the introverts? Should introverts feel guilty about wanting to do their thinking and working alone? And can introverts do great work in group settings?

I spent more than a decade working in the inherently collaborative world of open source software. I regularly lead brand positioning and strategy projects as open, collaborative, social exercises involving entire communities of people in the process. So Susan’s talk made me ask myself a tough question:

By emphasizing a collaborative, social process am I risking leaving introverts—and their best ideas—behind?

It’s no secret that I am a life-long introvert myself. I am much more comfortable writing or reading a blog post in my living room and discussing it via comments or Twitter than I am sitting and talking about it with someone over coffee or, worse, at a social gathering like a party or a conference.

So I get where Susan is coming from. Deeply.

In her TED Talk, she at one point pleads, “Stop the madness for constant group work.” When she said this, it hit me pretty hard. The first thing that came to my mind was the one gazillion design thinking ideation sessions I’ve either run or participated in over the last 7 or 8 years.

I’ve personally never had much trouble speaking up during ideation/brainstorming sessions. But I also suspect I am a relatively mild introvert compared to others I know. I started to wonder what the hard-core introverts were thinking during these sessions (and if you were one of them, feel free to tell me below in the comments).

Did they feel like they were being talked over by extroverts? Did they feel like they were out of their element, or needed more time to process their thoughts before blurting them out and having them recorded on the wall? Would they have preferred to contemplate on their own instead of thinking socially as part of a group?

Then another thought stuck me: I’ve met a lot of software engineers over the years, and while not all of them are introverts, many of them are. Frankly, I don’t think too many extreme extroverts could stand to sit in their office and stare at a computer screen all day. But for some introverted software developers, this is bliss.

Yet open source software is developed in a collaborative, social process… run in many cases by introverts.

Why does that work?

For me at least, the answer comes down to the difference between virtual and in-person collaboration. Open source software developers do much of their collaborating online. Often this is because they are geographically dispersed around the world. But I’ve also seen developers sitting two feet away from each other communicating via instant messages or email.

Online collaboration has two key advantages over in-person collaboration for introverts:

1) It allows them to avoid stressful in-person social interactions.

2) It allows them to take their time, contemplate, and think deeply before responding.

Over the past two years at New Kind, I’ve personally been doing less and less in-person design thinking ideation sessions, instead hosting more open, collaborative sessions online. Sometimes they are efforts like the hackathons I’ve run for the Management Innovation Exchange that involve hundreds of people collaborating from all around the world. Other times they are client projects where the collaborating happens via Basecamp or another online tool.

I’ve found I enjoy facilitating sessions online much more than in-person sessions, and I think it suits my personality better. Because the collaboration happens asynchronously, I can take my time crafting thoughtful responses and generating ideas. I can wait until I’m in the right frame of mind to participate, and most importantly, I can work with others, yet be alone at the same time.

I suspect some of these same advantages also translate to participants in online group sessions as well. And for this reason, perhaps many introverts are more comfortable in collaborative projects online than in person. Some of the best ideas I’ve seen emerge from online collaborative exercises come from people who usually remain completely silent in meetings.

In many cases, online collaborative projects provide the best of both worlds—you can collaborate and build off the ideas of others, but still take the time to process your thoughts before you add them (and as a special bonus, you don’t have the stress of in-person social interaction).

If you consider yourself an introvert, I’d love to hear about your experiences participating in collaborative projects online vs. in person. Do you agree with Susan Cain’s assessment that collaborative group projects are not designed to get the best out of introverts? Do you find yourself making better contributions and contributing more in online projects? Or are online collaborative groups just as bad for you as in-person sessions, and you’d rather just work completely on your own?

I’d love to hear what you think.

Update from the MIX Management 2.0 Hackathon


Over the past year, I’ve had the fun job of being the Community Guide on the Management Innovation Exchange  (we call it the MIX). It’s a great gig because I have the opportunity to meet and collaborate with smart folks from around the world who are interested in improving the way our organizations work.

Over the past few months, we’ve been running an effort we call a “management hackathon.” We ran our first hackathon experiment last year, with a small group of about 60 management innovators attempting to uncover how to enable communities of passion in or around organizations (if you’d like to read the report highlighting our findings, go here).

Our newest effort is called the Management 2.0 Hackathon, and for this one we’ve gone much bigger. This hackathon is a collaborative effort to come up with innovative management hacks based on the principles that have made the Web one of the most adaptable, innovative, and inspiring things humans have ever created. Our goal is to take the best lessons from the Web’s success and apply them to reinvent management practices in organizations.

There are now over 750 contributors taking part from six continents. For fun, here’s a map showing where our participants live and work:

Over on the MIX website, I’ve written a few blog posts highlighting some of our recent accomplishments.

Here’s a link to a post about the navigator tool we created, highlighting examples of organizations that are already using the principles of the Web to innovate today.

Here’s a link to a post I just wrote late last week with some of the most innovative hack ideas that have been suggested by contributors.

Sound interesting? If you’d like to participate in the Management 2.0 Hackathon and share and help develop management hacks with us, it’s not too late. In fact, we’ve had almost 50 new participants join in the past week alone.

If you want to start hacking with us, go here to create your account and read the instructions for our current sprint. It’d be great to have you on the team!

HP: How to (accidentally?) launch a new brand identity the right way


UPDATE 12/15/2011: HP has asked Moving Brands to take down the case study and rework it. From their website: “We have removed the HP case study per the request of HP, in order to clarify the distinction between the aspects of the work that were setting a creative vision for the brand but were not implemented in the market, and the aspects which reflect the actual in-market applications of the Identity and Design System. The ‘Progress mark’ logo is not the go-forward direction for HP.” (Guess this answers a few of the questions I raised below:)

UPDATE 12/16/2011: Moving Brands has apparently been asked to take the videos down by HP as well, so the embedded videos below no longer work. Sorry, folks. What a shame to see such good work get wiped off the map.

There’s some craziness going on in the branding world today. As reported on UnderConsideration, TechCrunch, and Design Week, a new brand identity for HP, one of the largest and most powerful brands there is, has just been unveiled to the world.

But from what I can tell, HP didn’t do the unveiling.

Instead, the new brand identity was showcased as a case study on the website of Moving Brands, the lead agency hired by HP to work on the creative vision for the HP brand, a project that began in 2008. Not only is the final work product fantastic, but the process the team went through to design the identity was also incredibly smart and current.

Here’s a short video from the Moving Brands website that showcases the new identity:

To me, this is a really wonderful example of thoughtful identity work done right. The UnderConsideration article in particular does a nice job of breaking down the process they used. Or watch this video from the case study that shows how the process worked from the inside:

If you’ve been following tech news, you may have seen that HP, which has been a wee bit shaky in the leadership department over the past few years, in September hired former eBay CEO Meg Whitman to take over the top leadership spot after the very short tenure of Leo Apotheker.

One can only speculate if, with the changing of the guard, this project was cancelled or moved to the back burner (TechCrunch calls it “The Radical HP Rebranding That Never Was”), but an agency revealing a company’s new identity to the world on its behalf is something I’ve never witnessed before.

An agency gone rogue or a carefully scripted unofficial test of the new identity? Hmm…

One way or another, I must say that after suffering through the last couple of years of major brand identity launch flubs like The Gap and Tropicana, whether on purpose or not, this identity rollout (as weird as it may sound) feels perfect to me.

Why?

Because it is so different than the old skool agency “Big Reveal” of a new identity (“Look what’s behind this curtain! It’s a shiny new logo!”).

I hate the Big Reveal.

First off, the Big Reveal smacks of agency arrogance. Our agency geniuses have gone behind closed doors, deeply breathed in the raw sewage of your current brand… and what has emerged? Why these beautiful, fresh, sweet-smelling brand flowers (and we threw in a spiffy new font for you too… just because we could!).

Second, the Big Reveal always implies a product that is already finished when people first get to see it. Even the patron saint of brand identity Paul Rand was famous for presenting his designs as “take it or leave it.” IBM took it, as did UPS. Steve Jobs did too, after getting put in his place by Rand.

This way of revealing brand identity may have worked in the past, but it faces some very real challenges today in a world driven by social media. The new Gap logo was revealed to the Gap brand community the old way and then quickly rejected through the power of the combined community voice on blogs and social media networks. It never stood a chance.

We will see this kind of community-driven brand influence more and more over the coming years as the communities that surround brands gain more and more power over their direction, and the companies that own them can control less and less.

Which is why I like how this new HP logo came out, whether the company meant for it to happen this way or not. Rather than inflicting a new logo on us that we’ve never seen before as a done deal, we were presented—informally—not just a logo, but the entire story of how the identity got to this point, transparently, openly, and, most importantly, before the decision had been made.

I love when brands are built collaboratively with the people who care most about the brand, both inside and outside the company. By being revealed informally while still a work in progress, this new HP identity feels to me like the beginning of an open conversation with the HP brand community.

Who knows whether HP will stifle that conversation, ignore it, or become an active participant. Only time will tell.

But I have to hand it to the folks at Moving Brands who led the process. This is either a clever way to get some feedback for their client and start a dialog before a bigger commitment is made or it is a ballsy attempt to win over the HP brand community with high-quality work and then enlist the community’s help to force HP not to abandon the project.

Either way, I love it. It’s great design work and a pitch-perfect roll out strategy for the times.

Let’s see what happens next.

HP? Your move.

Thanks to Eugene Eric Kim and Terri Griffith


In the last month, two new friends of mine took the time to write reviews of The Ad-Free Brand on their blogs.

I thought I’d take a few minutes today to say thanks. As someone who reads a lot of books, I know that it is a big investment of time to read someone’s book. But then, on top of that, to make the time to collect and write down your thoughts to share with others is really meaningful.

So, in saying thanks to Eugene and Terri, I thought I’d share a bit about each of them here. They both do great work, and if you enjoy reading what you see here on my blog, you might enjoy hearing more about their ideas and projects as well.

First, a few words about Eugene.

I met Eugene after writing about his work leading the Wikimedia Strategic Planning project (articles here on the MIX, Fortune, and opensource.com). I was truly blown away by the open, collaborative approach that he and Philippe Beaudette of the Wikimedia Foundation took to the project, involving over 1000 volunteer contributors in the effort.

Over the past few months, Eugene has been hard at work building his new company, Groupaya, which often works on massively collaborative projects like the one he helped the Wikimedia Foundation run. Here is the positioning statement from the Groupaya website:

“Groupaya specializes in helping groups, be they teams, organizations, networks or nations, more skillfully work together to create their desired future.”

If you are interested in learning more about the the sort of projects Groupaya is working on, you can follow their blog here. And if you happen to live in the San Francisco area, consider joining them to share ideas at one of their informal Thursday brown bag lunches.

I met Terri Griffith through her contributions to the MIX Hackathon Pilot project (which we just finished, I’ll be sharing the final report on it in the next week). Terri is a professor at the Leavey School of Business at Santa Clara University, and takes a particular interest in what her bio refers to as the “technology of work” (a phrase I loved).

As it turns out, she and I were both working on writing books at the same time, and her new book The Plugged-In Manager was just released a few weeks ago. I read the book a few days after it came out and the concepts in it really resonated with me. Here’s what I said in my review on Amazon:

The Plugged-In Manager is one of the most thought-provoking and *current* management books I’ve read in years. Terri Griffith’s position as professor of management at Santa Clara University in Silicon Valley puts her in an ideal location to learn from and connect with some of the top management innovators in the world today.

There is nothing traditional about her worldview. Terri marries some of the core principles that define success in a world shaped by the Internet–transparency, sharing, collaboration, rapid prototyping–with a deliberate and repeatable approach that current and aspiring managers can use to ensure they make effective decisions in a rapidly-changing landscape.

A few particular strengths of this book: 1) it provides a set of well-designed, repeatable practices that will allow managers to quickly and easily begin to put theory into practice 2) it shares detailed, personal stories from managers at some of the most innovative organizations in the world, including Zappos, Nucor, IBM, Cisco, and Intuit 3) It includes a series of scenario-based assessment tools that will allow you to test how well your current approach matches that of the “plugged-in managers” she has researched. Quickly learn how far you’ve come (or how far you have to go).

If you are looking for ways to be a more effective manager in an Internet-enabled world, spending a few hours reading this book will be an excellent investment of your time.

So thanks again to both Eugene and Terri for taking the time to read and review The Ad-Free Brand. If you’d like, you can read Eugene’s thoughts about the book here and Terri’s thoughts here.

Why is Google putting so many ads on TV?


Almost every time I’ve turned on the television in the past week, I’ve seen an ad for Google Chrome. What started earlier this year as a sprinkling of ads here in the United States has become a torrential downpour.

For me, Google has long been one of the poster children for a new breed of company born in the age of the Internet that doesn’t need to rely on traditional advertising to build its brand.

So, as I’m sure many of you have, I started asking myself, why exactly is Google doing so much television advertising?

It’s no secret that Google has historically not been a fan of traditional advertising. In fact, it wasn’t so long ago (2006) that Google Chairman Eric Schmidt called advertising “the last bastion of unaccountable spending in corporate America.”

And Google is certainly an interesting paradox: a company that historically does little paid advertising itself, yet makes billions of dollars selling advertising to others.

I did a little research and pieced together some history about Google and television ads.

In May, 2009, the first ad for Google Chrome appeared on television in the United States. In the blog post announcing the new spot, Google sounded almost apologetic, saying the ad was originally just developed in Japan as a web video, but it sparked a conversation and received good feedback. So Google decided to run it as a TV ad, in part as a test of the new Google TV Ads program.

The next year you may recall that Google actually bought an ad on the Super Bowl, which they called Parisian Love.

Eric Schmidt announced the spot on the Google blog, justifying it by saying “we liked this video so much, and it’s had such a positive reaction on YouTube, that we decided to share it with a wider audience.” But his Twitter announcement of the ad acknowledged that this was quite a unlikely strategy for Google:

Eric Schmidt hell frozen over

Earlier this year, Google began developing the current set of ads for Google Chrome in partnership with advertising agency BBH.

The work is compelling, as advertising goes (here’s a link to all of the spots on YouTube, if you want to check them out). Perhaps the most thoughtful one highlights the It Gets Better Project, which has resulted in thousands of videos being created for YouTube that are intended to give hope to LGBT youths.

The Dear Sophie spot has been viewed on YouTube over 3 million times, and there are ads featuring Lady Gaga (4 million page views) and Justin Bieber (almost 2 million pages views) as well. The newest pieces highlight The Johnny Cash Project (where artists are collaboratively developing a tribute music video for Cash’s song “Ain’t No Grave”), Frank Restaurant in Austin, TX (mmm…. so delicious… don’t pass up the waffle fries), and Angry Birds.

From a branding perspective, the ads make sense–as stories. By telling these stories, Google and BBH are invoking the transitive property of branding to associate Google Chrome with some incredibly innovative collaborative efforts. The math looks something like this:

Lady Gaga = open, collaborative, innovative.

Google Chrome = open, collaborative, innovative.

Therefore, if you like Lady Gaga, you’ll like Google Chrome.

Certainly getting ten million combined pageviews on YouTube for the campaign is pretty awesome—and free—so why spend the big money to put these ads on television too? Isn’t the beauty of the Google / YouTube model that it can be effective at eliminating the need for traditional advertising?

Perhaps Google is trying to expand its brand awareness with people it can’t reach via YouTube? But why spend the money on Google Chrome, a web browser (and a term Google itself has shown that almost no one understands), rather than the Google brand itself?

My first thought was that perhaps Chrome was losing the browser wars and the television ads were a desperate attempt to keep the Chrome ship afloat.

It turns out that is about as far from true as you can get. Chrome is killing it. According to StatCounter, Chrome is rapidly gaining new users at the expense of Internet Explorer and Firefox both.

StatCounter Brwoser graphic

In fact, some predict Chrome usage will actually exceed Firefox usage by the end of this year.

A victory for traditional advertising?

Not so fast. Here’s a good post from late this summer highlighting Chrome’s rapid ascent and documenting the reasons for it. From the post:

“Online, Google of course has a huge marketing advantage over basically everyone else since it can recommend its Chrome browser on its web properties such as Google Search, YouTube, etc. Not even Facebook can compare with Google when it comes to sheer web presence, reaching over a billion users.

That said, Google has clearly built a very good and highly popular product. If people didn’t like Chrome, the browser wouldn’t be able to retain users to the extent it seems to be doing.”

So the two reasons for Chrome’s success come down to:

1) the browser is good

2) it can leverage the power of Google’s online advertising engine (yes, the same engine that millions of companies have raided their traditional media advertising budgets to spend more on, causing the rise of Google in the first place).

But I didn’t see Google’s television advertising strategy mentioned here, or in any other article I read, as an explanation for Chrome’s rapid ascent.

Let me sum things up:

I get why Google is making the effort to create stories like these and share them with the world. Storytelling is an extremely powerful tool for building brands the open source way.

And overall, I like the approach Google is taking—many of the stories are really well told, and the focus on open, collaborative projects and artists (not to mention tasty hot dogs) sits well with me.

But I can’t for the life of me figure out why Google spending so much of its shareholders’ money putting these ads on TV.

If you have the answer, I’d love to hear it.

[This post originally appeared on opensource.com]

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]

Three approaches to designing brand positioning for ad-free brands


In my last few posts (here and here), I shared some tips for collecting and synthesizing the brand research you will use to design positioning for your brand. In this post, I’ll share three approaches to designing brand positioning I believe will work for the majority of brands:

• The lone designer approach
• The internal community approach
• The open community approach

Each of these approaches has strengths and weaknesses, and they can also be mashed up into a hybrid that better suits the culture of your organization.

The Lone Designer Approach

Are you a small organization or an organization of one? Perhaps you are attempting to position a website or simply get a small company off the ground on a foundation of solid positioning. If you found during the research phase that you were doing most of the work yourself and don’t want or can’t afford to bring others into the positioning process, you may be a good candidate for the lone designer approach.

The lone designer approach is exactly what it sounds like: a positioning process run by one person alone or by a very small group. The advantage of this approach is that you have complete control over the process. You won’t have to spend much time arguing with others over the exact words in your brand mantra; you won’t need to conduct time-consuming collaboration sessions; and you will only go down rat holes of your own choosing. The lone designer approach can be very efficient and is the least resource-intensive of the three approaches.

The downside of the lone designer approach is that it gives you no head start on rolling out your positioning to your brand community. By making your positioning process a black box and revealing only the finished product, you are taking some risks. First, the positioning you design might not resonate or, worse, might be ignored because you didn’t include input from others beyond the initial research. Second, you may have trouble getting others to help you roll it out or take ownership over its success because they had no role in creating it.

Usually I recommend the lone designer approach only to small or new organizations with no access to a preexisting community of employee or community contributors who care about the brand. If you already have a community of supporters around your brand—even if it is small—strongly consider one of the other two approaches (internal community or open community).

The Internal Community Approach

You understand the powerful impact that engaging members of your brand community in the positioning process might have on your brand. You believe your organization is progressive enough to allow employees to help with the brand positioning process. But you just don’t think your organization is ready to open up the brand positioning process to the outside world. If this sounds like your situation, the internal community approach might be the best option for your brand.

The internal community approach opens up the positioning process to some level of participation from people inside the organization. It may broadly solicit contributions from every employee, or it can simply open up the process to a hand-selected group of people representing the employee base.

The internal community approach to brand positioning is a smart, safe approach for many organizations. It makes brand positioning a cultural activity within the organization, allowing you to collect a broad range of interesting ideas and begin to sow the seeds for future participation in the brand rollout down the road. In addition, it can become a compelling leadership opportunity, helping develop future leaders of your brand as well.

While this internal approach is still community-based, it is usually perceived as less risky than an approach involving external contributors. You might find it easier to sell the internal approach to executives who fear opening up the organization to the outside world or think doing so will give the external community the perception the organization is confused or doesn’t know what it is doing because it is asking for help.

The Open Community Approach

Even though I’ll be the first to admit that it is not right for every brand, the open community approach is by far my favorite approach (as you can probably tell by now) and is a very effective one for ad-free brands. The open community approach opens the positioning process to contributions from members of both the internal and external brand communities. Running an open community brand positioning project is similar to running an internal community one. Both approaches have the advantage of bringing in a variety of viewpoints.

Both can create valuable brand advocates who will be helpful down the road. The open community approach just takes things as step further and allows people outside the organization to contribute as well. The benefit of this approach is that it can usually form the beginning of a constructive dialogue with all the people who care about your brand—not just those who work for your organization. It can help you build relationships based on trust, sharing, and respect with people in the outside world. And it can save you money and time by revealing flaws in your positioning much earlier in the process.

The downsides of an open approach? If the project is poorly organized or badly communicated, it really will realize the fears of some executives and show the outside world you don’t know what you’re doing. An open positioning approach requires a deft, highly skilled, effective communicator and facilitator. It requires coordination between different parts of the organization that are in touch with the outside world to ensure communication is clear and consistent.

But although the risks of opening up your positioning process to the outside world are higher, the rewards can be much bigger as well. By transparently opening a relationship between your brand and the outside world, you are embracing the future of brand management, accepting the role of your brand community in the definition of your brand, and proactively getting your community involved in a positive way.

You are beginning a conversation.

This is the sixth in a series of posts drawn from The Ad-Free Brand, which is available now.

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]

Why does brand positioning matter and what must change?


I believe almost all great brands are built on a foundation of great positioning.

I feel so strongly about positioning that one of the core elements of this blog is a series of brand positioning tips I learned over the years as an eager student of classic brand positioning.

Sometimes great positioning is led by a branding genius such as Scott Bedbury (who helped grow the Nike and Starbucks brands); sometimes a great leader and communicator with a very clear vision (like Steve Jobs at Apple) drives it into the organization; sometimes people stumble on great positioning by pure luck; and more and more often, organizations are developing positioning by collaborating with the communities of people in and around the organization who care most passionately about the brand.

This last way is the ad-free brand way of developing brand positioning.

Why does great positioning matter? In my view, there are four key reasons brands should care about positioning.

1. Great positioning helps people understand the brand

The best brand positioning is always simple and clear. The greatest product or organization in the world won’t be successful if people can’t or don’t bother to comprehend why they should care about it. Your story must be able to break through the clutter.

2. Great positioning helps people value the brand

Getting people to understand the brand is the first step, but no less important is ensuring they value the brand. The best brands stand for things people care about or desire.

3. Great positioning helps people identify with the brand

Once people understand and value the brand, they must also understand how they fit in and how they can engage with the brand. They need to see some of themselves in it.

4. Great brand positioning helps people take ownership over the brand

It may sound like a brand’s worst nightmare to lose control and have the brand community take over. But the most self-actualized brands of the twenty-first century allow the communities of people surrounding them to take some ownership of and responsibility for the brand. Essentially, the brand owners become in command and out of control of the brand.

In 1981, when Jack Trout and Al Ries wrote Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind (the book that really defined the discipline of brand positioning) traditional advertising was still a dominant force. In fact, as you glance through their book, you’ll notice that most of the examples they use to illustrate positioning concepts are classic advertisements or advertising campaigns like the Avis “We’re #2, so we try harder” or the 7-Up “Uncola” campaign.

In the book, Trout and Ries define positioning as follows:

“…positioning is not what you do to a product. Positioning is what you do to the mind of the prospect. That is, you position the product in the mind of the prospect.”

The Trout and Ries definition is a perfect way to achieve the first three of the four benefits above; it helps people understand, value, and identify with the brand.

Where the Trout and Ries model of positioning is all about what you do to the mind of the prospect, ad-free brands are less interested in creating meaning for a brand in people’s minds and more interested in creating meaning for a brand with the help of people’s minds.

By giving the communities of people who care about a brand some ownership over its future direction, we begin to build relationships based on trust, respect, and a mutual exchange of value.

Where 21st century brands will really shine is by mimicking the open, collaborative, meritocratic model of the open source software movement (and the Internet itself) in their positioning work. In my view, without beginning to engage the communities of people who care about a brand as co-owners, classic brand positioning by itself will continue to be less and less effective as traditional advertising and PR continue to be less and less effective.

The secret? Marrying those classic brand positioning principles to a 21st century way of collaborating with the communities of people who care about a brand. By doing both together, we’ll be able to build stronger, more resilient brands than ever before.

This is the second in a series of posts drawn from The Ad-Free Brand, which is available now.

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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