I recently learned about a well-known figure in technology and design, an impressive man named John Maeda.
He’s been trending in the news because of his decision to leave Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and take a new position as the Global Head, Computational Design and Inclusion at Automattic, the company that owns WordPress (my preferred platform for website creation).
John has an incredible resume including 12 years as a professor at MIT’s Media Lab and then the President of the Rhode Island School of Design from 2008-2013.
According to his sort of outdated blog, CreativeLeadership.com , when he joined RISD, he didn’t know much about how to run a school and their …NINE DIGIT BUDGET. That’s like hundreds of million dollars at your disposal! I’m sure the job was full of challenges and he used his personal blog as an outlet to write about things he was thinking about during the journey as the school’s president.
A lot of people were probably wondering why John left KPC&B for Automattic. He addressed that question on his new blog: Design.blog a week ago. It was an honest piece (honesty is pretty common from the pen of Maeda) that he wrote about why he wanted to join Automattic. A lot of it had to do with a recent encounter between him and Automattic’s founder, Matt Mullenweg.
Mullenweg’s enthusiasm for Open Source software was made abundantly clear to Maeda. Enthusiasm is contagious. According to Maeda, Open Source technology was just as important to him back in the day too, but somewhere along the corporate line – he buried that side of him. Mullenweg must’ve triggered something in Maeda. Talk about sale of the century! When emotions are involved, great things can happen.
In the article Maeda wrote about Open Source, “Because in a world where there is less Open Source, there’s less opportunity to participate in the construction of the Web in an open, inclusive manner.”
What I think he means is that he now has bigger fish to fry than just making money. I think Maeda is onto something bigger now, a grander vision that will move the internet into the future, in harmony.
Mullenweg and Maeda’s passion for open source can go beyond the borders of software and technology. I think Open Source thinking can spill into other career paths too.
Open Source Sales?
One industry that could use this type of open, collaborative thinking is sales. The sales industry is notoriously close sourced. Sharing processes with other salespeople and sales teams almost doesn’t exist. If something works for one sales rep, the chances of them sharing that method with another rep are slim. The winning sales rep’s methods for success become secrets , completely unaccessible to others.
But closing off and hoarding knowledge are not the signs of overall progress. Those secrets won’t live on after that sales rep hangs up their headset. Those secrets to success will die at the same moment that rep stops selling.
An Open Source Running Back?
The first time I ever heard anything related to Open Source thinking, it wasn’t in reference to technology. It was professional sports. Specifically, the NFL. HBO’s Hard Knocks show was all-access covering the 2010 New York Jets football team during their preseason camp.
One main theme of the show was the competition for the starting fullback position. They had two capable players vying for the job, two men at two completely opposite places in their careers. Tony Richardson was a veteran, in the league for 12 years and John Conner was the young rookie.
Throughout practice and preseason games, Tony Richardson made a special effort to share his experience as an NFL fullback with the younger Conner. Every chance he got Richardson would show the rookie a better way to block, run or catch.
There was one memorable scene in which the coaches and NY Jets team owner Woody Johnson were standing and observing from the sidelines of practice. They were watching Richardson show Conner a better way to block linebackers.
One of the assistant coaches said, “I don’t get it. Richardson knows that Conner can take his job but he is showing the kid everything he knows…”
After a brief silence, owner Woody Johnson said, “He’s a superior individual.”
I agree. Open Source anything is a superior way of thinking. It’s leaving this place better than we found it.
Open Source Father?
In one of John’s posts on his old blog, he talks about how his Father inspired him to be a leader. What stuck with him about his dad was his desire to make other people happy. His dad was a Japanese chef. When he invited family to their house for dinner, John’s dad always gave the prime pieces of fish to his guests, and himself ate the lesser parts of the fish.
Maeda wrote, “I think of how my father shared the fish with others as one of my ideals in leader-behavior that I’ve always admired seeing when it happens. Sharing is caring, and I’m glad to share this thought with you.”
I encourage sales leaders to think in the same way. Share what works with the younger generation of sales reps, in doing so, your sales career will live forever.