Thomas Edison once said, “Genius is one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration.” At the Defrag conference this week, Professor William Duggan of the Columbia Business School focused on that very important one percent.
Where do creative ideas come? Duggan suggests that the great creative sparks in human achievement were the product of one individual who mashed together ideas and concepts from different disciplines. He cites some compelling historical examples, like how Henry Ford’s moving assembly line was a mashup of the Oldsmobile assembly plant and the moving lines of Chicago’s meat-packing plants.
This got me thinking about how teams can propagate and re-mash their own great ideas. One way we do this at Atlassian is through personal blogging. Atlassian is a blogging culture. We’re a company of only ~200 employees but every day we have dozens of employee blog posts inside of Confluence along with hundreds of comments. When I have a great idea on how to improve our products or processes, I blog about it in Confluence. When I have something to contribute to someone’s post, I add a comment sometimes even embedding a photo, video or slideshow. Then I watch the post to get email notifications whenever someone replies to my comment or makes another comment.
But why is blogging your idea better than simply sharing it with the person next to you or sending it out in an email blast? Here are some reason that I blog:
1) Blogs know no boundaries. We’re a geographically dispersed company…many employees in San Francisco and many more in Sydney. My team doesn’t sit within 10 feet of me or on the same floor for that matter.
2) Blogs are an opt-in mechanism. I’m not forcing my idea on anyone like I would be doing with email. People comment on my blog because they want to, not because they feel compelled to respond to an email.
3) Blog posts are discoverable by all. If my idea is trapped in an email, it’s limited to reaching only the people I send it to. By blogging I can reach anyone in the company.
4) Blog posts are infinite. With a blog, my idea is forever searchable on our internal wiki. So even if my idea is ahead of it’s time, someone still might pick it up and find it useful months or years from now.
I’m sure there are more reasons but these are the ones that readily occur to me. While not every idea can be a great spark in human achievement, every blog post in Confluence can be a tiny spark that contributes to your own team’s achievement.
November 6, 2008