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Enabling Communities of Passion: An Introduction

by Chris Grams on October 15, 2010


chris-grams's picture

Enabling Communities of Passion: An Introduction

About two years ago, I read a book called The Future of Management by Gary Hamel at the recommendation of some friends.

I couldn’t put it down, devouring Gary’s three case studies of companies (Google, Whole Foods, and W.L. Gore) pushing aside 100+ years of management wisdom and charting their own path.

When I was finished, I realized the book had ended too soon. In my mind, there should have been a fourth case study—Red Hat.

Some background: I spent the past 10 years at Red Hat helping build a unique corporate brand and culture from scratch under the leadership of a brilliant visionary CEO named Matthew Szulik.

Those familiar with Red Hat know it as a key success story of the open source software movement. Red Hat built a nearly $1B business by selling—of all things—free software. That’s a story by itself.

But a story fewer people know is that Red Hat didn’t just view open source as a way to build software better.

We built the entire company the open source way.

Meaning, we employed many of the same principles that help the open source software movement make better software faster and used them to create a better company faster.

We created a foundation of collaboration not just inside Red Hat, but also as a member of a global community of open source contributors. Much like this community, the company was designed to be a meritocracy, where the best ideas could win no matter where they came from (and they often came from the most unusual places). We believed and followed a noble, important mission and vision. We strived for the highest degree of transparency possible in a public company, helping those both inside and outside understand our motivations and plans (and providing them an opportunity to help us improve).

We competed with technology companies many times our size. We did very well.

Which brings me back to Gary Hamel. Last year, at the World Business Forum, Gary called open source one of the greatest management innovations of the 21st century.

I couldn’t agree more, and this paragraph Gary wrote in The Future of Management articulates a sentiment I share:

The success of the open source software movement is the single most dramatic example of how an opt-in engagement model can mobilize human effort on a grand scale... It's little wonder that the success of open source has left a lot of senior executives slack-jawed. After all, it's tough for managers to understand a production process that doesn't rely on managers.

My view? Open source is not a management model at all in the traditional sense, but instead a community engagement model. Where management values control, open source embraces freedom and openness. Open source values passion and purpose over planning and reporting, ideas and contributions over title and experience.

Open source is a traditional manager’s worst nightmare come true.

But for those looking to create happier, more engaged communities of people (inside and around organizations), to restart innovation where it has languished, or simply to become better citizens in the communities where they contribute, the open source way provides some enticing answers.

In January of this year, I left Red Hat, a company I love and still collaborate with very closely, to pursue a dream with two friends, David Burney and Matt Muñoz. We wanted to see what would happen if you applied the principles of the open source way to building communities in and around any organization of any size in any field.

We call our company New Kind. And we refer to ourselves as community catalysts, even though we aren’t sure people understand exactly what that means… yet.

A few months ago, I began contributing hacks here on the MIX, and the team that runs this great site recently asked me if I would be interested in contributing as a Moonshot Guide.

So hello! Here I am.

Over the coming months, I hope to shed some light on the “Enable Communities of Passion” management moonshot.

I’ll write posts about my experiences as a community catalyst, enabling communities of passion in and around Red Hat and other organizations. I’ll point out some of the most interesting conversations about, issues with, and examples of communities of passion I can find. I’ll explore the linkages between this and other management moonshots. And, of course, I’ll highlight some of my favorite hacks and stories contributed to the MIX by members like you.

I’m honored to be a member of and participant in this particular community of passion—one about which I am personally very passionate—the reinvention of management.

I look forward to getting to know you.

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nuno-gomes's picture
Thanks Chris, i was curious about your article, thanks for the insight,  also leading me to this great project, MIX.
delisa-alexander's picture
Looking forward to hearing more from you on the mix!