What Business Can Learn from Open Source

Paul Graham has hit the nail on the head although I would suggest the title should be "What Employees Can Learn from Open Source."

He suggests there are three things to learn from Open Source:

(1) that people work harder on stuff they like,
(2) that the standard office environment is very unproductive, and
(3) that bottom-up often works better than top-down.

1. Duh.

The analogy of a child being told what to do and the postal workers in a mid-sized city is spot on. I've visited several post offices in Madison and been greeted by near zombies. Whereas I took my taxes to a small post office 10 mi. north of the village I live in and was greeted with a hearty "Hello There!" and a smile. Of course I had to wait until 8:45 AM instead of 7:30 AM in Madison but, it was obvious that the postal worker was much happier.

2. Duh.

There is a reason why the average developer loathes meetings and pays a premium for noise-cancelling headphones. Don't even get me started on the topic temperature and overall comfort. :@

3. Wha? Oh, Duh.

The top down model analogy Graham uses mentions an editor who assigns a story and then edits it. He is correct in that model is long gone and has been replaced by a model more akin to a trickle-up filter. A good idea is created and slowly passed up the ladder becoming more "mainstream" and less innovative at each step. The product is more of the same, safe, static ideas that have worked before.

The best real-world example of this is Hollywood. Can you imagine trying to pitch the Blair Witch Project? The insurance costs alone of risking heartattacks and whatnot would kill the idea. And is it any surprise that the big moviehouse backed BWP 2 failed miserably? Not to me...

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