mySQLI picked up on a great Fortune article on the site about MySQL, the open-source software designers, over the weekend. It unpacks the dynamics of this completely decentralised organisation, and just what makes it tick as well as it does.
This, according to the article, is a challenge facing many companies – new and old, established or fledgling – as we transition into a Connection Economy. As globalisation and commoditisation have an increased effect on our workplace and our employees, we need to find innovative new ways to nurture a productive bond among workers who rarely, if ever, meet.

Here are some of the highlights:

“Few businesses are as spread out as MySQL, which employs 320 workers in 25 countries, 70 percent of whom work from home.”
“As the face-to-face world diminishes, managing technology-tethered
teams effectively – as MySQL and the user-generated online encyclopedia
Wikipedia do – might determine which competitor prevails.”

One wonders if the common denominator behind so called ‘technology-tethered teams’ is really just technology, and maybe more a culture of openness, vulnerability, sharing and participation. In short – a culture of collaboration.
I was surprised by the following quote from MySQL CTO Monty Widenius:

“I have a very low opinion of human nature, which is that people are
both greedy and lazy,” declares Michael “Monty” Widenius, co-founder
and chief technical officer of MySQL, which is based in Cupertino,
Calif. “Of course you have noble people, but they are a small fraction.”

Is it that very small fraction that makes up these kinds of collaborative communities? More on the ‘fraction’ to come in another post.
The MySQL team have tasted the pain of how easily digital communications, for all their convenience, can get misconstrued, misunderstood and misread. How easily it is to misinterpret innuendo, sarcasm or tone. Therefore even MySQL has strict guidelines governing communication (hat tip to Barrie Bramley – this is a lesson I need to learn):

“The 51-year-old Basil, whose basement office is next to the family’s
overworked washing machine (he is a father of six), has developed
strict guidelines that govern his online conduct.”
Basil’s rule: “Voice is more personal than text and more helpful in building real understanding.”
On hiring: “We have people with lots of tattoos,” notes Widenius. “Some of them I would not like to be with in the office every day.” The article highlights some creative new questions to ask prospective employees.

The article also has an excellent insert on Wikipedia. From that insert:

The trick is making them work together for the common good. Since its
launch in 2001, founder Jimmy Wales has made it easy for contributors
to monitor one another’s movements. Wikipedians are alerted when any
changes appear on pages they’ve worked on. Every edit can be traced to
its maker, and most versions of each entry, along with online
conversations about it, can be retrieved.
“Being very transparent encourages good behavior,” says Wales, who’s based in St. Petersburg.
Vandals strike anyway. But Wales, 39, has never had to switch the
entire site to read-only status to save it. Virtual vigilantes are
always on patrol. Volunteers who misbehave risk eternal banishment.

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