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With the recent release of the film “Steve Jobs” we are once again presented with the familiar narrative of what success in the tech world looks like: the singular vision of an often eccentric individual who will stop at nothing to achieve what people all around him are saying is impossible and ultimately, of course, is proven right. It’s this template that is often presented as the ideal tech journey – a take-no-prisoners approach being the quickest way to reach the pot of gold that surely lies ahead. It’s also fair to say, I believe, that it’s a template that has helped contribute to the negative press that occasionally comes the tech industry’s way.
But as most people who work at startups know, the reality is quite different. At ARTÉMIA, we work with startups at all stages – from those who are just beginning to kick around an idea and need a fresh pair of eyes on it, to beta-testing and product launch, all way to IPO stage. What is clear time and again is that yes, things are often quite scrappy and an office location might still be on the to-do list, but that collaboration and bringing together the most knowledgeable minds in each area of the business is key.
This is a point highlighted this week in the US Guardian, as part of a report showcasing two organizations who are trying to present a more human and personable side of the tech industry, the first of which is Makerbase. Makerbase is the brainchild of Anil Dash and Gina Trapani and, as their website explains, is “a reference for anyone who’s interested in apps and web sites and the people behind them. It’s particularly valuable for makers and aspiring makers, helping everyone discover who creates technology and the ways they teamed up.” In this sense, it’s much more aligned with the open-source, collaborative ideology of the maker movement than the fiercely competitive skirmishes of Silicon Valley. It serves to recognize and nurture the creative spirit that is so crucial to tech, and with tens of thousands of members is clearly hitting the spot.
The second movement to a warmer tech industry the report highlighted is the XOXO Festival, an annual event based in Portland, Oregon that essentially seeks to bring together in a physical sense the same people Makerbase are attracting online. They have a clear code of conduct that everyone must adhere to (take note, Twitter) which announces that they have a zero tolerance policy for harassment of participants “in any form.”
From a business-leader point of view, both these cases are excellent examples of the need to recognize the importance of what drives individuals, and what de-motivates them, in order to get the best out of them to create a productive and positive workforce. For my money, it also demonstrates once again what an innovative industry tech is, that such a positive change can come from within.
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