A couple of weeks ago, we attended the Drupal Downunder Conference in Melbourne (http://drupaldownunder.org/). 10collective was amongst the sponsors and even had a guest slot where I presented a talk: ‘The Truth about Job Hunting.’
The conference was essentially a huge gathering of Drupal fans, there to learn from each other, get to know each other, discuss their community contributions to the Drupal system and generally have a good time. Of course, there was debate, but nothing that wasn’t welcomed – all opinions were valid and important enough to consider for the growth and enhancement of the Drupal System, and the Drupal community.
On the Sunday of the conference, the founder of Drupal, Dries Buytaert (http://buytaert.net/) gave a keynote presentation that essentially addressed where Drupal was going and what its vision was and whom it was most suitable for.
It was a super keynote, he was understated, clear, not there just to entertain or blow his own trumpet, or showcase the bells and whistles of Drupal. He was just giving us a nice account of where Drupal was headed. While he was talking about Drupal for small, medium or enterprise business, he also managed to comment on the Drupal Community ‘Ecosystem’ and tipped his hat several times to the community’s efforts in bringing Drupal to fruition and to the commercial world with incentives that essentially consisted of:
- Peer recognition
- Opportunity to flex technical prowess
- Ability to field questions in an open environment and with good humour
- Ability to recognise flaws and adapt quickly
…and hell, I was listening to all this, and figured, businesses could learn something from this.
What is this eco-system Dries was talking about? Or as I am now calling it ‘Geekosystem’…
Simply, it’s a community of people striving for technical excellence having been brought together by some smarty-pants with a clear and compelling vision. This vision fires the imagination, the hard work and effort required to achieve something grand, keeping people loyal and motivated, and maybe an opportunity to make some money along the way by taking what they learned and applying it somewhere commercial.
And if that’s not what a little business wants, what is?
What is vision and why is it important?
Your vision for your business is not a tool to use in your sales pitch to clients. It’s not your business plan. It’s this beautiful thing where you get to articulate your dreams for your future, for your crew’s future, for your business’s future, for the industry’s future. It helps shape what your crew needs to get there (without infringing on your strategy too much). Once you’ve infected the people around you with this wonderful thing called vision, when they believe in it as much as you do, then what do you think you have? You have a bunch of people around you who are motivated and loyal, they feel your business is heading somewhere good and they want in. The power of this cannot be underestimated because guess what happens next? Like Dries’ Drupal army, they work. They work their butts off because their incentive goes deeper than the usual gold carrot.
Money motivates only so far.
A few years ago some people I know started this awesome little website that paid you for referrals for people that they found jobs for. If the referred person got a job, you would get a slice of the pie via a referral fee. You’d think this would work really damn well, because people love to get money for helping you right? Wrong. Apparently the referral for reward system sucked because after doing their research people felt oddly self-serving helping you if they knew they would be paid for it. It made them feel they were taking advantage of their network, and turned the nice feeling of having helped someone out with a tip by diminishing it into a transaction. The business closed not 12 months in.
The Geekosystem, smarty pants that they are, have seemed to have learned this lesson way WAY before the business world has caught up. Guess what they did? They created Open Source – which is simply put, software that is almost completely free, managed by a myriad of unreal technical contributors, that doesn’t lock you into any sort of transactional relationship, and is as transparent as it can be. A load of people cottoned on and before you knew it, techies were participating out of sheer pride, technical prowess, and carried away by the wave of momentum and inspiration that this new approach to software development created. That was the reward, bud.
Businesses – take note. If you diminish your crew’s experience into a transaction when they come into work – if you make out you are entitled to their work because you pay them, be prepared to do a bugger load of exit interviews.
In the Geekosystem almost everyone gets to see the innards of the technology: its greatnesses and its flaws. They continue to contribute. Sometimes poorly, sometimes brilliantly. The fact that they get to see the flaws in the system hasn’t seemed to shake their determination and resolve to roll with it.
What can we learn from this? Businesses who employ good people, who are infected with their vision, need to understand that even when they’re going through the shit, their team is unlikely to just up and leave. Damnit, most of the time they’ll rally and try and solve the issues and most of the time, your crew will appreciate you for letting them know what’s going on in the background.
Looks can be deceiving
Another thing that happens in the Open Source world is that you don’t get to see what every contributor in the Geekosystem looks like or where they come from. It doesn’t stop anyone having a go and it doesn’t stop someone from being excellent.
One of the other keynote presenters at the Drupal Downunder Conference was Dmitri Gaskin (http://dmitrizone.com/). He’s this 16 year old kid who, at the age of 8, decided he wanted to learn how to code. His mama bought him a book called ‘Java for Dummies’ and every night she’d learn a bit and teach him how to do it. Then, he discovered Drupal. So, this kid starts asking questions on Drupal community sites, gets involved with a few open source projects and before he hits puberty, the drupal community recognises him as some sort of whizbang programmer with Drupal.
At that point, nobody knew that he was a kid!
Guys (in particular – hiring managers), the Geekosystem has an organic system of peer review. They naturally weed out the goodies from the baddies based on quality of contribution. They don’t rely on external signals to indicate a person’s worth. They don’t care what you look like, or how old you are, or where you come from. Some of you should adopt this. Go for the substance over all this other crap we’ve been taught to rate when employing someone. Dig a bit deeper and past the tatts, black tees and ridiculous hairstyles, you might have struck gold. Just try not to let your natural prejudices get in the way.
OK – so this blog post is getting crazy big but you get the message. Let’s just take some of the principles from the Geekosystem and apply it into our businesses. I reckon it’s valuable. And I think we can learn something.