The Magic of Open Source Innovation through Collaboration


 The best type of innovation is driven by Collaboration, says Gartner VP, Marcus Blosch. As I was walking the Collaboration Area at the Red Hat Summit, I came upon an intriguing setup called the Marble Track Hack Attack with several individuals taking turns to engage in a challenging exercise. It was all about a ball traveling from start to finish with some constraints within a limited time. This is an exercise where there is no clear answer and the optimal solution is one that emerges through multiple essays – and if they fail, so be it! We continue to learn. Red Hat associate, SJ Cox was diligently trying out her own ideas while encouraging and inviting the attendees to join as well. So, what was such a contraption doing at the Red Hat Summit? It may not be obvious at first sight, but when I go back to Blosch’s assertion in his article, I can see why. Open Source is all about collaboration and when you have the passionate individuals continuously contributing to it like what I witnessed at the Summit, it is easy to experience the wonderful magic of open source innovation through collaboration!

The Marble Track Hack attack is all about a simple marble that must successfully travel the track from start to finish in no more than 1m 30 sec. The marble must cross:

  • At least four towers, 2.5 feet high
  • At least six drops from one track to another
  • Start at cup on the top of a tower
  • End in the cup on the table
  • At least 1 elevator per tower
  • And yes, it’s OK to re-build anything !!

The challenge, the environment, the prevailing mindsets, the culture of knowledge sharing and continuous innovation called out the open mindset that is the hallmark of Open Source. And this is certainly true when it comes to the Summit organized by the world’s best open source company to work for.

Blosch explains, “We call this collaborative approach, which involves the whole business ecosystem, open innovation. It’s the idea that a team should leverage the entire business for ideas, complementary capabilities and resources in order to come up with the best solution,” In today’s business world, complicated problems often require resources and personnel from various departments and companies. I would extend Blosch’s assertion to the enterprise of the Open Source community.

When the community comes upon the need for innovative solutions to challenging problems, passionate individuals put forth concepts and ideas that are continuously evaluated by the other members with valuable insight and feedback. Or, as some call it, healthy debate. What is fascinating is it is a continuous engine of innovation that is driven by the people with the right mindsets who are not shy about sharing their opinions or their innovative ideas. And they build upon one another. Just like the attendees at the summit did on the Marble Track Hack Attack.

Innovation happens at intersections

While I have immense respect for highly accomplished inventors, scientists, mathematicians and authorities in their own field of expertise, the introduction of complementary perspectives always results in innovative solutions due to intersecting thoughts. Thus, it is no surprise that collaboration is also called out as one of the 10 skills to land your open source dream job. Collaborate with people all over the world and start using the tools that open source projects use, says Jason Baker from Red Hat. Learn how to do code review and paired programming. Why? Because two of you will be smarter than one of you. This will make better code and removes ego from it.

Thus, it was no surprise that I could see the solution to the Marble Track Hack Attack slowly evolve in continuous increments one idea building up on another person’s idea. And for the brief moment, I was there observing the solution evolve, I felt like I was living in a microcosm of the world’s largest research and development arm for Software Development – the Open Source community.

Collaboration – as Blosch asserts – drives the best type of innovation. And when such collaboration happens in an ecosystem like Open Source, magic happens! Just what I saw happen at the Marble Track Hack Attack.

Are you wondering about the outcome or the solution that was determined to be the most effective? Well, nothing like attending a Red Hat Summit to find out. Remember, as we prepare for the next one in 2017, there is always the Red Hat Road Tour events that you can attend at a city near you!

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