TEDxSF – Shereef Bishay – Open Enterprise: Applying Open Source Principles to the way we Work

TEDxSF – Shereef Bishay – Open Enterprise: Applying Open Source Principles to the way we Work


Translator: Ariana Bleau Lugo
Reviewer: Alessandra Tadiotto Hi! In his last years, Albert Einstein said: “Everything great and truly inspiring is done by the individual
who labors in freedom.” Everything great
and inspiring is done by the individual
who labors in freedom. I want to talk to you today about how we can work in freedom. First thing I want to share with you
is that I was born and raised in Egypt. It’s not that relevant to this talk, but these days is really nice
to say it out loud. (Applause) So I came to the United States
10 years ago to work for Microsoft. And as I was getting there
I was super-excited, I expected I’d be working with
the brightest people in the world, solving amazing problems
that will solve everything, and when I got there
I was really disillusioned. I often found myself sitting in rooms with really smart intelligent people
who were bored, and disengaged, and making
PowerPoint presentations. And I found myself sitting in those
meetings sometimes thinking, nobody wants to be here, including the guy
who called the meeting. You know what I mean? So I left Microsoft and went to
the non-profit world and thought: there I’m going to find meaning
and engagement, and really, I found amazing people
still there. Still in second gear. Something about our work spaces
puts people in second gear. We feel disengaged and
dis-empowered in most of our work. It turns out actually
that 3 out of 4 people, 3 out of 4 people in the world feel
disempowered and disengaged in their work. Think about that. 75% of us go to work
and don’t feel fully alive. Why? I don’t think it’s because
we don’t want to be alive in our work or because we are not smart enough, I think it’s because the systems
that we work in are completely outdated. You know, these top-down command
and control pyramid structures where somebody tells somebody else what
to do who tells somebody else what to do. Those were invented
hundreds of years ago. Since then,
we’ve discovered electricity, we’ve gone to the moon,
we’ve built the Internet. We’ve done some cool things,
right? But we haven’t upgraded the agreement
with which we’re working together. We live in democracies
but we work in dictatorships. We live in democracies
and we work in dictatorships. Yeah. (Applause) So, why? That’s silly, right? And that’s what I thought to myself. So, I stepped outside of the work world and joined with about forty other people and we started to look at what would
a new ageement of work look like. What would it look like
to just think out loud? What would a new company look like
that’s not based on these pyramids? I have nothing against pyramids,
by the way. (Laughter) The first time I thought,
because I’m a software engineer, I’d looked at the open-source
software community. Now the thing about open-source
software, you probably know it is the people who make Firefox
and Wikipedia, and things like that. It’s an amazing community,
not just because they are geeks but because these engineers
have figured out how to work together freely,
without managers. They figured out how to have
several thousand people write billions of lines of code to create
billions of dollars worth of amazing software that runs 60% of the Internet
without a single person telling somebody else what to do. They figured out how to be fully alive
in what they’re passionate in and scale, and actually produce value. I thought to myself, why don’t we take the same
principles of the open-source software world and apply it to the conventional workplace? And so, with these forty people,
some of them millennials, we got together and we created
the open enterprise model. We built the software to support companies
and organizations to work in these ways. And I want to share with you how
this works, some of the principles of it. So the first principle
of an open enterprise is there is no fixed structure. There’re no leaders, prescribed
leaders, there are no job titles. Everybody has the same job title,
human being. It’s true. And I’m not talking about
a flat structure, by the way, because that doesn’t scale very well, I’m talking about hierarchy,
but a much more intelligent, dynamic, functional hierarchy, where people move up and down
depending on the situation. If you think about a team that you
worked in that was highly functional nobody was leading all the time. People stepped in when they felt
inspired or felt they could lead and stepped back and let
somebody else lead at the right time. This is how we normally want to work. But this is not how our structures work. In the real world our best example
of that is a company W. L. Gore. This company — they make GORE-TEX.
They’ve 9,000 employees. And only one job title: associate. If you work at Gore you’re an associate
and you own part of the company. No vice-presidents, no managers,
nothing like that. There are leaders, but if you’re going
to be a leader that means that a group of associates
has voted you in willingly. They can take that vote away immediately,
which keeps you accountable, and actually puts real leaders in place. They’re doing pretty well. They are the number one voted place
in Fortune Magazine to work in America, and they make 2,5 billion dollars a year. It’s an amazing company. The second principle of
an open enterprise is transparency. In an open enterprise
everything is transparent. I mean salaries, financials, communications,
every meeting has an open door. If you show up to a meeting
than you belong in that meeting. And a lot of companies today
are adopting this. Cutting edge companies like
Zappos and Hulu and Groupon — these companies have
open book management. They’ve decided to make employee
culture the most important thing. And they are kicking butts doing it. And they have this
open book management where anybody has access
to all numbers any time they want. And because human beings want
to have information we feel trusted, and we start to take ownership of our
community, and ownership of our work, and transparency is a really
good step towards doing that. The last principle I want to share with you
about how an open enterprise works is that it has a true meritocracy of ideas. What that means is every idea is judged based on the merit of the idea itself not on who the idea came from. A really good example of this in action is this company WD-40,
you know, they make those oils, I never use it,
but it’s a really great company, and a few years ago they were in
a hard place, a very hard financial spot, and the CEO Garry Ridge, instead of
just firing a bunch of people, sends out a memo to everybody,
saying: “Look, we’re in a really tough spot,
we’re a 100 million dollars short this year, I’m not going to fire anybody,
but I want you to send me all the ideas you have
about how we can cut costs.” And what happened next
was amazing. Everybody in the company started sending
all these ideas, big and small ideas, a ton of them got implemented
and WD-40 saved 280 million dollars that year
and nobody got fired. An open enterprise goes a step further and doesn’t just say anybody
can suggest ideas, the ideas actually are voted on
by anybody, and the good ideas bubble up
to the top and get implemented. That’s how open-source software works. We should take this to our real world. I don’t have all the answers about how these
new structures of work are going to work. I don’t think anybody does,
but what I do want to convey to you is that this is already happening. These old structures are
already crumbling around us, and we need to invent
these new structures. The problems Simon talked about
are real and they are here. If we’re going to solve these problems
we have to invent intelligent ways, intelligent ways of aggregating human effort,
so we can build and work together for future, where we’ll all truly labor in freedom.
Thank you. (Applause)

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