“Exaggerate the essential; leave the obvious vague.”
– Vincent van Gogh
Years ago Marshall Goldsmith taught me the lesson: stop adding too much value. I’m sure you’ve been in meetings and conversations in which those around the table keep upping the ante in an effort to display their brilliance and impress. This can be fun but sometimes not terribly constructive because there comes a point in which the idea or solution becomes over-engineered in way that is distracting for the customer and burdensome for the provider. The solution becomes inelegant.
Matthew May is working to convince companies that sometimes the very best ideas have something missing, are often elegantly simple and even imperfect. Social media examples include Twitter in which the user community is building upon the architecture and constructing their own rules and functionality. In-n-out Burger has their own secret menu constructed by their customers. And Red Hat has created their own version of open source leadership they simply call the Red Hat Way. A core tenet of the Red Hat Way includes the concept of transparency. I asked one of their senior leaders what they meant by transparency – did they mean transparency in communication, or in their value chain management, or transparency in their customer business practices? He said yes, and went on to explain their value system is intentionally non-specific, intentionally open by design. Red Hat expects every one of their associates to come prepared to not just do their own work, but participate collaboratively in the mission of the company which is, to be the catalyst in the communities of customers, partners, and contributors. That’s not only an audacious goal, but also a moving target in a constantly changing technology landscape. And so Red Hat understands that they need to get everyone involved to keep their knees bent, stay open to change and adapt collaboratively to build signature processes, and be the market-changing surprise instead of be surprised by their competition.