McKinsey Quarterly and the open source way

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Community, collaboration, and meritocracy are a few of the principles of the open source way highlighted in the most recent McKinsey Quarterly report, “Clouds, big data, and smart assets: Ten tech-enabled business trends to watch.”

The report provides a fascinating look at how new technologies are upending business models, and in this post, I’d like to share a few key points that are closely aligned with the open source way.

Distributed co-creation moves into the mainstream

There is ample evidence of companies realizing the value of collaborative communities, but until reading this report, I had no idea how widespread the movement already is. From the report:

“But in signs of the steady march forward, 70 percent of the executives we recently surveyed said that their companies regularly created value through web communities. “

Seventy percent!

Another strong community data point that I had not seen before:

“Facebook...the leading social network recently recruited 300,000 users to translate its site into 70 languages--the translation for its French language site took just one day. “

That is pretty amazing.

But it is rare to read about companies giving back to communities. In most cases, companies focus on what they can gain from a community. I am thrilled to see McKinsey highlight that community efforts go both ways:

“Since co-creation is a two-way process, companies must also provide feedback to stimulate continuing participation and commitment. Getting incentives right is important as well; co-creators often values reputation more than money.”

Making the network the organization

“Management orthodoxies still prevent most companies from leveraging talent beyond full-time employees who are tied to existing organizational structure. Pilot programs that connect individuals across organizational boundaries are a good way to experiment with new models, but incentive structures must be overhauled and role models established to make these programs succeed.”

“In the longer term, networked organizations will focus on orchestration of tasks rather than the 'ownership' of workers.”

It is encouraging that the leaders of industry are beginning to understand that the idea of “ownership” is contrary to community. Additionally, it is great to see McKinsey encouraging businesses to rethink their organizational structures and, equally as important, their incentive structures. As we have seen in the open source world, there is tremendous power when talented, passionate people are allowed to self-organize to solve difficult problems. I hope that in the near future, more and more companies will have structures that allow skilled employees to organize based on the task and not on the organizational chart.

Collaboration at scale

For collaboration to work, employees need to know how to collaborate. Putting up a wiki does not mean people will use it.

“...many companies err in the belief that technology will foster increased collaboration....In the longer term, collaboration will be a vital component of what has been termed 'organizational capital.'”

Collaboration is an incredibly valuable and rare skill. Technology tools are nice, but the most important part is the culture and experience in how to collaborate and build community.

The open source way is going mainstream. If you have been involved in open source over the years, you have a very valuable skill set to offer your employer. You might need to use the word “co-creation” instead of “community” and talk about networked organizations, but this report shows that you have learned things that are greatly valued in the marketplace. Individuals who know how to create communities based on collaboration and meritocracy are in high demand.

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Jeff Mackanic has been at Red Hat for more than nine years and is currently responsible for the creative services team at Red Hat. After several stints with varying levels of success at many e-commerce companies, Jeff became one of the original employees at Akopia, which delivered ecommerce solutions based on the Interchange platform.

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