Letting things go, making things happen

The way to make things happen is to let them go.

I learned this from hard experience. For the last three or four years I spent my time trying to build a business. It didn’t go very well. It turns out I’m best working alone, within organisations, helping them to get things done.

My business was to have products. This meant – to me, at the time – spending hours, days, weeks and months secretly making things. Plans, websites, content. The aim was to have something nobody else did, so I could sell it over and over.

But nothing terribly worthwhile got planned, or made, or sold. I got depressed, and that’s about it.

Then, at the turn of this year, I woke up. I remembered what I was good at, and what I liked doing. And I remembered that making things is a lot easier when you do it in the open.

It’s so easy to default to wanting to make things perfect before you tell anyone about them. This generally means they will never be finished, and never be as good as they could be.

It’s also easy to revert to wanting ownership of something. Don’t do it. Let everyone have a piece if they want it. Get them involved.

This is what I’ve been doing with Think Digital. I do have ambitions for it – to create some kind of framework or model to help people with digital transformation. But I haven’t waited until it’s all in place before I get it out there. Instead, as soon as I had something worth publishing – a simple list of ten ideas – I did so.

As I develop these ideas, I’m publishing them, through talks in webinars. Giving it away to help me get feedback and refine my thinking.

It feels good – but it’s a challenge. Every day, pretty much, I have to remind myself not to keep things to my chest, not to try and build a product, just to come up with helpful ideas that others might find useful enough to want to put some time into themselves.

Working openly on the web

dougbelshawThere was a nice guest post from Doug Belshaw from Mozilla on Brian Kelly’s blog last week.

Entitled What Does Working Openly on the Web Mean in Practice?, it told us a bit about Mozilla’s culture of openness and how it ties into web based working.

Here’s a quick quote:

Working open is not only in Mozilla’s DNA but leads to huge benefits for the project more broadly. While Mozilla has hundreds of paid contributors, they have tens of thousands of volunteer contributors — all working together to keep the web open and as a platform for innovation. Working open means Mozilla can draw on talent no matter where in the world someone happens to live. It means people with what Clay Shirky would call cognitive surplus can contribute as much or as little free time and labour to projects as they wish. Importantly, it also leads to a level of trust that users can have in Mozilla’s products. Not only can they inspect the source code used to build the product, but actually participate in discussions about its development.

But you really ought to go and read the whole thing.