Open Source Leadership

I’ve just finished reading and can recommend Wikinomics, by Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams.

The strapline for the book reads: “How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything”

How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything

The dustcover describes the book as follows :

In the last few years, traditional collaboration—in a meeting room, a conference call, even a convention center—has been superceded by collaborations on an astronomical scale.

Today, encyclopedias, jetliners, operating systems, mutual funds, and many other items are being created by teams numbering in the thousands or even millions. While some leaders fear the heaving growth of these massive online communities, Wikinomics proves this fear is folly. Smart firms can harness collective capability and genius to spur innovation, growth, and success.

A brilliant primer on one of the most profound changes of our time, Wikinomics challenges our most deeply-rooted assumptions about business and will prove indispensable to anyone who wants to understand the key forces driving competitiveness in the twenty-first century.

During my time in the U.S the I was struck by the idea of Open Source Leadership – as a metaphor for a leadership approach where collaboration was the key factor in moving an organisation forwards.

Of course on returning home I googled “Open Source Leadership” – it came as no surprise that others have been here long before me. However, if I were to try to capture the type of approach which I think education needs to develop in the next few years then “Open Source Leadership”  – with a focus upon peer production and mass collaboration – would appear to have massive potential.

Post Script:

It’s nearly two years since Robert Jones first introduced me to the concept of Open Source – now here I am using it a metaphor for leadership in education.

5 thoughts on “Open Source Leadership

  1. Don,

    Not sure how and where to categorise this commment, but thought you might like the kind of quirky block diagram on specialists and generalists which I found in the “CommunicationNation” blog and which I have reproduced in my blog. I also like the metaphor for thinking and thinkers, borrowed from the classics, of “the hedgehog and the fox”, hence the title of the post.

  2. A key book about the development of open source is The Cathedral and the Bazaar, by Eric Raymond, subtitled “Musings on Linux and Open Source by an Accidental Revolutionary”. The text of the book is online, under the Open Publication Licence, here.

    Although written mainly in the context of software development, he concludes with a more general section on management, where he makes this observation:

    Two and a half years after the first version of this essay, the most radical thought I can offer to close with is no longer a vision of an open-source dominated software world; that, after all, looks plausible to a lot of sober people in suits these days.

    Rather, I want to suggest what may be a wider lesson about software, (and probably about every kind of creative or professional work). Human beings generally take pleasure in a task when it falls in a sort of optimal-challenge zone; not so easy as to be boring, not too hard to achieve. A happy programmer is one who is neither underutilized nor weighed down with ill-formulated goals and stressful process friction. Enjoyment predicts efficiency.

    Relating to your own work process with fear and loathing (even in the displaced, ironic way suggested by hanging up Dilbert cartoons) should therefore be regarded in itself as a sign that the process has failed. Joy, humor, and playfulness are indeed assets; it was not mainly for the alliteration that I wrote of “happy hordes” above, and it is no mere joke that the Linux mascot is a cuddly, neotenous penguin.

    It may well turn out that one of the most important effects of open source’s success will be to teach us that play is the most economically efficient mode of creative work.

  3. Yep – I remember that meeting well Don. I remember your enthusiasm for the idea, which was in stark contrast to the amused cynicism my discussions of Open Source usually elicited back then 🙂

  4. I’ve been looking at leadership in open-source software development projects as a research topic, but the topic seems fairly clear at a first glance. There’s the informal aspect of leadership considering that most open-source projects are run by volunteers rather than paid full-time staff. The time spent by the founder of the project is often a key factor in its success. Also, according to a research paper (remind me to look it up again) the more stable the project, the more contributors it gets.

    What remains to be uncovered is why some projects are successful while others are not. This quest may be an over-simplification considering, for instance, that some projects require different sets of skills than others so if you were developing a project with a language that very few are familiar with, you would get fewer contributors. Then there’s the issue of interest – if it involves visual elements, lots of data going back and forth, or a funky new trend involving social networks, it would get more contributors than a project involving a GW-BASIC code generator. Forming the study sample is obviously the issue that must be addressed for a study to paint an accurate picture and observe the right traits of successful and failed projects… then, there’s the definition of ‘successful’ and don’t get me started on that.

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