In the discussions around some of my previous articles, I've noticed a trend: we seem to be focusing on cultural changes that need to be made for the open source way to be effective in contexts beyond technology. One cultural context I think could really use some help is politics.
I read an interesting post last week by Morton Hansen (author of Collaboration: How Leaders Avoid the Traps, Create Unity, and Reap Big Results) entitled Obama's Five Collaboration Mistakes. In the comments below the post, some folks interpreted his words as an attack on the Obama administration. Me? I'd probably interpret Hansen's words more broadly. Perhaps something like:
Politicians are pretty darned bad at collaborating a lot of the time.
I think many folks would agree with this statement no matter where they sit politically. No matter where they live around the world.
In fact, the word "political" has become almost synonymous with anti-collaborative behavior in many contexts. Certainly in the business world.
But there is a lot a stake here. The economic downturn has hurt our businesses badly. And this has affected many of us in even more personal ways. Jobs. Homes. Security.
We need innovation in the political world to help solve the problems of the business world. Which means we are going to need better collaboration across political boundaries, both inside and between our countries.
Could we open source folks help?
A few thoughts from me:
1) It seems like most successful open source projects are guided by a shared vision that contributors passionately believe in—sometimes expressed, sometimes implied. How exactly do open source projects reach shared vision? Do our politicians have a shared vision? Do they have shared values that could serve as a starting point?
2) Collaboration isn't always great in the open source world either. When an open source project goes sideways because of poor collaboration, how do we get it back on the right track?
3) How can a meritocracy where (in theory) the best ideas win thrive within a democracy where (in theory) the will of the people wins? What would the world look like if politicians innovated the open source way?
My political context is the United States, but I'd love to hear your thoughts whether you live in the U.S. or anywhere else around the world.