CEO Jim Whitehurst opens Red Hat Summit 2016

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“Our ability to harness and distill the best ideas will determine human progress for the next century.”

Jim Whitehurst, Red Hat’s President and CEO, delivered the opening keynote to a crowd of more than 5,000 Tuesday morning. The 2016 Red Hat Summit theme: The Power of Participation. His message: Participation and innovation are tightly linked. Helping communities innovate beyond the sum of their individual members is the leadership challenge of our time.

Whitehurst’s message expanded on his 2015 Summit keynote in Boston. Last year, he said companies need to transform. “Disrupt or be disrupted.” This year, Whitehurst emphasized that transformation is not just about technology or business. It’s about leadership and working together—participating.

During the 2nd Industrial Revolution, Whitehurst noted, technologies fundamentally changed not only business and economies, but also the human condition. It profoundly changed how and where people lived and worked. It was in this era of mass manufacturing that many of today’s management systems were developed. How do we organize people when productivity is measured by output and scale? We use hierarchy.

Now, all of this is changing. Any task that can be prescribed can be programmed (and automated). What’s left are task that require initiative, creativity, and judgment. All of these require people. Systems designed to organize people to complete rote tasks no longer work. Companies are realizing they can’t innovate fast. The hierarchies of yesterday impede us today. Hierarchies squelch innovation.

We’re in the early days of building a system of leadership and management that can harness the best ideas—no matter where they come from. For Whitehurst, sustaining innovation means giving up control. Innovation rarely comes from the board room or the executive suite.

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“Building the capability for communities to innovate beyond the sum of their individual members is the leadership challenge of our time.”

Innovation and leadership are about more than individual companies, though. No individual or individual company can do it on their own. Take artificial intelligence or machine learning. Instead of locking down knowledge and working in isolation, many companies realize that working together is the only way to solve complex problems. This principle extends beyond business and technology. From hunger to environmental problems—the biggest challenges of our time require participation.

And Red Hat is all in. Red Hat believes in the value of being a catalyst in communities of customers, contributors, and partners. Exactly how we do this is the leadership and management challenge of our time.

“To solve the most challenging problems of our time, we must work together. Our future depends on participation.”

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