i’ve mentioned in a previous post how it’s important to create systems based on standards. i even went so far as to say they really ought to be based on open standards (php, xml, etc.) and i really mean that.

now to go along with that, a current trend that i honestly feel you’ll see much more of is a move towards more and more open-source projects and systems in the workplace. i love the open source community—i really do! they’ve given me my instant messenger clients for the last 6 years, my WordPress that i use to create this blog, my web-based collaborative software that i use to track my work and milestones when on the job, and a lot more!

the point is no single developer is as great as a community of developers.

when the first microwave was built—it was intended to replace the oven. that’s why they were called “microwave ovens”. early ads, user manuals, and even cookbooks talked about the ability to cook anything and the speed with which you could cook it. however, when microwaves became a part of daily life, things were much different. people didn’t use them to replace their ovens, but rather to reheat cold, refrigerated, or frozen leftovers. they began to “nuke” things. and up until very recently, these microwave ovens were bulky ‘over the stove’ models. it was a major kitchen appliance. today’s modern microwaves are small kitchen “accessories” that have hardly enough room to put in a bag of popcorn, let alone an entire turkey or rump roast! this evolution only happened after it was given to the community.

creating basic systems or applications and opening that software up to the general public is one of the best things an organization can do for itself. it does a few different things.

the first thing it does is create a much greater idea pool. widgets, and plugins, and mods all add value to your system because it tailors your applications to the individual’s needs—and in a way that is easily adjustable, and entirely optional. and then perhaps someone thinks of an option or feature that no one in your organization would have ever dreamed about, but now it’s a featured portion of your application. only an open community can do that for you.

the second thing it does is help you develop or discover talent outside of the company for free. you can track updates made to the software, and who contributes the most and the best work towards your product. he or she willfully works on bettering your system for free. over time, you might consider these people to be valuable towards your success and offer them a full-time position within your organization to work on external projects or your core system development projects. you could sponsor a project with a local university and groom students in your organization’s goals and strategies. they benefit from learning, and you gain from both the development of the application and from development of talent that comes from what’s essentially an unpaid internship.

another benefit is that open-source applications keep your enterprise agile. apple releases this little device called the iphone and it takes the market by storm. it instantly becomes the leader in mobile web surfing. perhaps you have a web-based issues and risk log that you want your managers to be able to update wherever they’re at, but now all of a sudden your managers have iphones. problem is your system wasn’t designed with the iphone in mind. an open-source community, certainly enthralled with the new iphone as well, finds this to be an issue and creates an update or a plug-in that makes your system work in harmony with the newest trends. now that’s agility.

see, the truth is that you never really know what the general public is going to use your inventions for. and if you’re anything like me, that excites you. and that’s what the power of the community can do for you and your business. you can build a microwave and create a ‘nuclear’ device.