Tue, 09 Jan 2007
Pioneers: independent, yet cooperative
I'm slowly working my way through The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism, a book that looks at democratic capitalism form a historical and theological perspective. Much of what I've read reminds me of the talks and writings of Nathaniel Talbott on homesteading. I read a quote last night that reminded me of a quality that makes many ThoughtWorkers special, and something I'm trying to cultivate at Obtiva. I'm talking about this contradictory quality of being fiercely independent, and yet cooperating almost continually with their colleagues. The quote that struck this chord was about a family that journeyed from upstate New York to the Iowa territory in 1842:
They took pride in being free persons, independent, and self-reliant; but the texture of their lives was cooperative and fraternal. p. 135
I immediately thought of Obie and Aslak when I read this. When the three of us were on our first project together at ThoughtWorks, I was star-struck by their development prowess. They are certainly intelligent, ambitious, and motivated guys, but the thing that struck me was the breadth and vitality of their personal networks. Colleagues were frequently IM'ing them with questions ... and whenever we were stuck, we didn't just have Google at our disposal, we had a responsive network of world-class developers to ask questions of. And we often did. This is a habit (and network) I have taken with me as I left ThoughtWorks. While individual qualities are critical for success, a cooperative network is a distinguishing asset that is hard to detect on a resume or portfolio.