Open Source Management

  The lobby at Google headquarters – where “open source management” (whatever that is) no doubt takes place

Here’s an interesting article on Google – on how it tries to maintain it’s evolutionary edge as an organisation. The thinking in it is very much in the style of modern management speak – with much praise of horizontal structures etc. I take it all with a grain of salt as a matter of course. A lot of this kind of management ‘theory’ is simply the breathless conveying of the various rationalisations of the successful.

Nevertheless, there’s a theme there that, if it’s true is interesting. Google is trying hard to harness the wisdom of crowds. The thing I don’t like is Google’s worship of smartness – the Mensa like exams to get into the place.

America seems to be the premier laboratory of corporate experiments in social Darwinism. I recall Australia’s own Jac Nasser (I did some consulting to him when he was CEO of Ford Australia and was underwhelmed) being involved in an HR system in Ford US in which the bottom x% of employees got shown the door each year just to grease the wheels of evolution in the corporation. It was such a huge success Jac joined the x% soon after.

I’m not sure that one needs to keep out the not so super-smart to liberate the super-smart to do their bit. Economics is certainly a profession that prizes smartness very highly and has a disappointingly substantial number of people occupying some of the commanding heights of the profession with an excess of smarts and no bloody sense.

Postscript. As the liink above demonstrates, I’m a big fan of the book The Wisdom of Crowds. On searching for the link I saw that Wikipedia has an entry on it – of course. And (why am I not surprised?) it’s a good summary of the ideas in the book.

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Cameron Riley
17 years ago

My favourite software project management philosophy is Alistair Cockburn’s Crystal Method. Basically the bare minimum of process to ensure market level quality with humans as the first order determinant in the outcome.

He used to have an article up on his website about his days as a consultant where he would come in on a project, and lay down a process that had to be followed. As soon as it became inconvenient, or to heavy a procedure to follow people would ignore it.

But each time his processes were ignored, the development team continued to deliver market quality software. Which was when he had his “ding”.

david tiley
17 years ago

I’m a big fan of people who have a dogged attention to detail. Without them, nothing happens.

Francis Xavier Holden
17 years ago

Wiki itself being a great example of the wisdom and surprising efficiency of crowds when harnessed appropriately.
Of course The Cronulla Episode is about a different sort of crowd.

17 years ago

Once you are talking about the Cronulla episode you are really closer to one of the ‘parent’ theories of this one. It’s called popular democracy ;)

Robert Merkel
17 years ago

The trouble with the “hire only geniuses” model of Google is that it will become increasingly difficult to do so when they are no longer the darling of the IT industry. Somewhere along the line, Google will become a mature business, just like Microsoft has, and won’t be able to attract a disproportionate share of the best talent – or will have to pay through the nose to retain it.

James Dudek
James Dudek
17 years ago

Malcolm Gladwell has a good piece on why super-geniuses are over-rated:

He argues that this is what led to the demise of Enron….

Passage: “Enron was the ultimate “talent” company. When Skilling started the corporate division known as Enron Capital and Trade, in 1990, he “decided to bring in a steady stream of the very best college and M.B.A. graduates he could find to stock the company with talent,”