What Business Can Learn from Open Source

Posted on August 9, 2005  Comments (5)

What Business Can Learn from Open Source by Paul Graham

As usual Paul Graham’s new article is a great read.

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.

When I’m writing or hacking I spend as much time just thinking as I do actually typing. Half the time I’m sitting drinking a cup of tea, or walking around the neighborhood. This is a critical phase– this is where ideas come from– and yet I’d feel guilty doing this in most offices, with everyone else looking busy.

How many of us have heard stories of employees going to management and saying, please let us build this thing to make money for you– and the company saying no? The most famous example is probably Steve Wozniak, who originally wanted to build microcomputers for his then-employer, HP. And they turned him down. On the blunderometer, this episode ranks with IBM accepting a non-exclusive license for DOS.

On the point of the first bit of text above, W. Edwards Deming stressed the importance of Joy in Work. How many buisnesses focus on this. Very few. So often, it is easier to keep doing what has been done in the past.

5 Responses to “What Business Can Learn from Open Source”

  1. CuriousCat: The Joy of Work
    July 15th, 2007 @ 9:24 pm

    We spend much of our life at work: we deserve to have pride in what we do and even enjoy it (shocking I know).

  2. Curious Cat Science and Engineering Blog » Open Source: The Scientific Model Applied to Programming
    December 1st, 2007 @ 10:41 am

    I don’t see any problem making money in efforts involving open source efforts but I do believe that as that happens an obligation (perhaps not legal but real none-the-less) grows to give back to the community (Google’s summer of code is a great example of giving back).

  3. Curious Cat Science and Engineering Blog » Providing Computer for Students in Nepal
    January 7th, 2009 @ 10:34 am

    I believe strongly in the ability of kids to learn if they are just provided some tools that help them do so. See a great post on Hole in the Wall computers…

  4. Ryan
    January 25th, 2009 @ 4:23 am

    Very brief, but very to the point. In my own work environment I’ve found this exact same situation time and time again. Employees want to do a good job, but far too many businesses would rather stifle their creativity and suck all the joy out of their work to the point where doing a good job seems more like an obligation than something you’d want to do.

  5. Curious Cat Management Improvement Blog » What Managers can Learn From Open Source Project Management
    February 23rd, 2009 @ 12:53 pm

    [...] miss this great essay by Paul Graham: What Business Can Learn from Open Source. And you know what else? I don’t think open source projects use the annual performance [...]

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