Friday, April 20, 2012

Changing the world through execution

In teaching strategy, I always note the tendency of us academics — as well as executives — to over-emphasize strategy development over strategy implementation. Now the world’s most famous open source developer — a 42-year-old Finnish-American father of two — is making the same point as he rejects accolades and perhaps even a €1 million Millennium Technology Prize.

The Register quotes the originator of Linux as saying:

One of the main reasons I think Linux came to be successful in the first place was that I never had very lofty goals. The goalposts for me were always a few weeks out - never some kind of "one day, this will change the world". It was much more pedestrian than that, and I actually think that's the only way to make real progress: one small step at a time, not looking too far ahead to see the details.

People like to idolize the "ideas" and "inspiration", but in the end, almost anybody can have an idea. Getting things actually done is where people stumble.
I couldn’t agree more. The article doesn’t mention it, but Linux was actually a latecomer to the Unix knock-off market: Linus Torvalds started Linux because he couldn’t get Minix to do what he wanted, and the various *BSD variants were clearly technically superior to Linux through most of the 1990s.

I found the Reg’s article by reading a Tweet® by my friend Matt Asay:
Matt Asay @mjasay

Torvalds: 'I'm no visionary'. Anyone can have an idea. Execution is what matters <Changed the world by not trying to
Anyone who’s read the history of Linux and Linus Torvalds knows (as Matt does) that Linus didn’t set out to change the world. But he followed up his idea with good and consistent execution, and imposed a discipline on his bazaar community so that the contributed code met his implementation standards.

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