Just do it!

By Stijn Viaene, professor of Management Information Systems
(Source: Smart Business Strategies, 06/2012)

  • Professor at KULeuven and Vlerick Business School
  • Partner at Vlerick Business School
  • Deloitte Research Chair Bringing IT to Board Level

Last year, in this column, I highlighted 3 important future-focused leadership competences for the CIO: (1) the ability to comprehend a turbulent outside world, because anything can happen out there these days; (2) the ability to develop a strategic vision regarding new technology platforms – because, today, you fall sadly short with ERP alone; (3) the ability to lead conversations, because you don’t sell very much anymore with the age-old blunt ‘no’ in a consumerized world.

Openness to something different and a positive attitude towards change are constant themes running through talks on leadership. But of course a manager is defined by his or her actions. And that’s the reason for this indispensable fourth competence: (4) the readiness to get your hands dirty reinventing the organisation and going resolutely for new ways of working.

A prime example

Do you know TopCoder.com? An excellent model for managers looking for some inspiration. With currently more than 400,000 developers worldwide, TopCoder is the world’s largest software development ... community. How does it work? TopCoder divides each customer project into smaller, self-contained modules, and then holds a competition among the members of the community to generate the code. The company’s crowd-sourcing approach is producing a revolution in the development of software. According to TopCoder’s customers, this approach results in lower development costs, faster application development, and better quality.

Even though software development is its core business, TopCoder has not a single developer on the payroll. Freelance developers from the community are constantly vying with each other in competitions to provide the best code – and at the same time, acquiring knowledge and building a reputation. Whether and when a developer competes is entirely up to him or her. In the end, only the one with the best solution is paid.

Active for over 10 years now, TopCoder works in an utterly different way: (1) using gaming principles to plan and budget projects, (2) replacing traditional personnel management with governing a crowd, and (3) intervening, as a referee, only when the community has reached the limits of self-organisation. Register and try it yourself. Then, as a customer or as a developer, you can experience personally how different this way of working is

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