Saturday, August 06, 2005

What Business Can Learn from Open Source

Paul Graham is one smart cookie. From What Business Can Learn from Open Source
I think the most important of the new principles business has to learn is that people work a lot harder on stuff they like. Well, that's news to no one. So how can I claim business has to learn it? When I say business doesn't know this, I mean the structure of business doesn't reflect it.

Business still reflects an older model, exemplified by the French word for working: travailler. It has an English cousin, travail, and what it means is torture. [2]

This turns out not to be the last word on work, however. As societies get richer, they learn something about work that's a lot like what they learn about diet. We know now that the healthiest diet is the one our peasant ancestors were forced to eat because they were poor. Like rich food, idleness only seems desirable when you don't get enough of it. I think we were designed to work, just as we were designed to eat a certain amount of fiber, and we feel bad if we don't.

You should read the whole thing. He makes three points;
People work a lot harder on stuff they like.
The average office is a miserable place to get work done.
Ideas can bubble up from the bottom, instead of flowing down from the top.

None of which is news. But it is true that many companies produce mediocre crap while open source efforts make stuff that just works. Over time the points outlined above will produce better companies - not because the existing orgs will change but because new orgs will come along, embody these principles and stomp them into the ground.
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