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Why Can't Business Learn From Open Source And Blogging?

I was almost in tears after reading Paul Graham's essay on open source software communities and blogging and what business can learn from them. I've been active with oss projects for the last several years. Paul captures the essence of the movement better than anyone and offers several great ideas on applying them to business.

Wow, just as soon as I was ready to post, I came across Tom Foremski's, siliconvalleynews, article about, A community of thought leaders---more thoughts on new rules enterprises.

My initial take was, yyy, same old crap I've heard before about new biz models and the death of the enterprise. Bang. He';s almost saying the same thing that we've been talking about with open source communities and cooperative strategies. Call them what you want, but these new businesses are the ones traditional businesses need to pay attention to as Tom notes:

First rule The first rule of the newrules enterprise is that it is new, brand spanking new. That way you don't have to deal with layers of legacy information technology, culture, administration, departments, all the legacy thinking and legacy reputations. A whole lot of problems and obstacles go away.

Why pay attention to them? What used to take a whole lot of money and resources is now easily set up in weeks, months instead of years. With web 2.0 and instant distribution through ebay, amazon, Fedex, hell even Starbucks, these cool cats are going to be a formidable force. Businesses would be wise to learn from us.

Back to my orginal post.

Get this, the social networking software and collaboration tools, were created with open source software. We follow many of the OSS pricinpals:

  • we work together with individuals/businesses that share our interests to archive goals,
  • work independently, yes, at home,
  • we blog/write, we share, we get feedback,
  • all of our software is based on open source,
  • we our doing what we love,
  • we learn new stuff everyday,
  • we are humble.


Here are the three big lessons open source and blogging have to teach business:

  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.


Another thing blogs and open source software have in common is that they're often made by people working at home. That may not seem surprising. But it should be. It's the architectural equivalent of a home-made aircraft shooting down an F-18. Companies spend millions to build office buildings for a single purpose: to be a place to work. And yet people working in their own homes, which aren't even designed to be workplaces, end up being more productive.

This proves something a lot of us have suspected. The average office is a miserable place to get work done. And a lot of what makes offices bad are the very qualities we associate with professionalism. The sterility of offices is supposed to suggest efficiency. But suggesting efficiency is a different thing from actually being efficient.

The atmosphere of the average workplace is to productivity what flames painted on the side of a car are to speed. And it's not just the way offices look that's bleak. The way people act is just as bad.

Many employees would like to build great things for the companies they work for, but more often than not management won't let them. How many of us have heard stories of employees going to management and saying, please let us build this thing to make money for you-- and the company saying no? The most famous example is probably Steve Wozniak, who originally wanted to build microcomputers for his then-employer, HP. And they turned him down. On the blunderometer, this episode ranks with IBM accepting a non-exclusive license for DOS. But I think this happens all the time. We just don't hear about it usually, because to prove yourself right you have to quit and start your own company, like Wozniak did.

Bonus: Building Vibrant Human Networks While Business Blogging

Hat tip to Doc for the link.