Open-source creativity: what businesses should be learning from the technology sector

  If there’s one point we’ve been ruthlessly hammering down over this blog series (Pt.1 Pt.2) it is this: creativity and technology exist in a symbiotic relationship, each nurturing the other. And even when we play home wrecker and break the two apart, the zeitgeist of technological innovation lives on, feeling more at home in the business world than ever before. The sector has become synonymous with progress, and not just the literal huge profit sort of progress, but the social kind – the sort ruminated in candlelit rooms by 19th century philosophers.

  Whether it’s part of the inherent free thinking found within any pioneering movement, or the sector’s ability to dethrone corporate giants, the result is a drastically altered business landscape. Acknowledgement and acceptance of this is a necessary stepping stone for many businesses to grow, and to shrug away the dust and ash of the archaic, hierarchical (and heavily institutionalised) corporate worlds of yesteryear.

  Anyone that started their careers in small companies will have a solid idea of what we’re talking about. The sluggish mirroring of late 20th century business practices, whereby stringent office managers count the minutes and out-of-touch directors guide their workforce like blind guide dogs, is the bane of growth. That’s not to say such companies don’t survive – they certainly do – but only that their survival precludes the possibility of their success. Humans may live in three-foot high cubicles, but they’ll never be able to stand tall – businesses that refuse to change must also accept a low ceiling for growth.

  And it’s not just a clear cut difference between those that do and do not dabble in the tech industry. If you’ve seen the iconic 1999 film Office Space, which is a stark black and white testimony to the sort of restrictive business we’re talking about, you’ll have an idea of the times’ average tech-business environment. It certainly wasn’t about innovation; it was a slow, reluctant and heavy footed saunter towards change, a time where technology was as much feared (Millennium bug) as it was embraced by the decision makers. Back then, even Steve Jobs wasn’t particularly cool; society had yet to transition from seeing technological innovators as social curiosities, necessarily marginalised so as to not interfere with the day-to-day routine, to regarding them as modern-day supermen.

  Within the tech world, a desire to innovate has inspired (and even necessitated) wider change. The way employers and employees are understood has shifted to a more neutral relationship, one that will permit free thinking and remove any stifling ‘under-the-thumb’ impact. AGILE frameworks and SCRUM development methods are just some of the ways tech companies have sought to recognise the absolute need of a more productive working environment. And it’s not just a haphazard approach to daily work attire or the guy from Google who lived on the company grounds in a truck, but an acknowledgement that passion, commitment and creativity are in themselves sufficient impetus for an employee to turn up to work and do their job. Managers and the like have become more and more redundant, with younger companies tossing out the needless bureaucracy that made employees focus less on producing results, and more on appearing to produce results.

  Obviously, it’s not all as blissful as this. Some certainly abuse the erosion of personal and work lives to inspire employer self-flogging, tormented by the notion of letting down either themselves or their team. But they’re few and far between. From communal open-source environments to collaborative team-working philosophies, there’s plenty for businesses to learn from the tech sector, to spruce up their organisation’s cogs and shake off the dust of archaic business thinking.