Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst is what some people might call a history buff. At the Red Hat Summit 2016 event in San Francisco today, Whitehurst delivered his latest history lesson, telling the keynote audience that open collaboration is the key to improving productivity.
The overall theme of the Red Hat Summit 2016 event is titled "The Power of Participation," and it's a theme that resonated strongly in Whitehurst's keynote.
Whitehurst noted that in the modern world many technologies have become complex, and solving major problems is no longer something that any one individual or company can solve on its own.
In the era of the second industrial revolution in the late 1800s, Whitehurst said that the era of mass manufacturing was first born. At that time period, new technologies like the electric motor were invented and came together to enable the mass manufacturing of goods and services.
In the 1850s the average manufacturing facility only had three employees, was typically family owned, and was rural. By 1900, mass manufacturing employed thousands of people in large plants, and people moved in large numbers from rural areas into the cities.
Whitehurst noted that the industrial revolution of the late 1800s completely changed how people got things done and how the companies were organized.
According to Whitehurst, many of the core organizational principles that helped to enable the industrial revolution of the late 1800s are still in place today, and that is restricting productivity in 2016.
"System designs from 1900 won't work moving forward when the goal is innovation," Whitehurst claimed.
Whitehurst said that with modern automation in manufacturing as well as many forms of IT, the activities that are left for people are items that require initiative, creativity and a level of judgement.
"Hierarchies that were good at solving problems for the industrial revolution are not working today," Whitehurst said. "Hierarchies stifle innovation; they don't foster it."
He added that, "it's much harder to break old habits than to make new ones."
Driving Innovation Means Giving Up Control
Fundamentally in Whitehurst's view, driving innovation actually means giving up control. Innovation is also about diversity, both in terms of people as well as thought and activity.
"Building the capability for communities to innovate beyond the sum of their individual members is the leadership challenge of our time," Whitehurst said. "Our ability to harness and distill the best ideas will determine human progress for the next century."