Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Fixing mistakes and growing stronger

In Creativity, Inc., Catmull explores an example of where their structure had created some problems, and how they identified and fixed that, improving their over-all culture. I know this is a wall of text, but Catmull asks excellent questions. I felt it was worthwhile to copy for you. He says,
Improvements didn't happen overnight. But by the time we finished A Bug's Life, the production managers were no longer seen as impediments to creative process, but as peers--as first-class citizens. We had become better. 
This was success in itself, but it came with an added and unexpected benefit: The act of thinking about the problem and responding to it was invigorating and rewarding. We realized that our purpose was not merely to build a studio that made hit films but to foster a creative culture that would continually ask questions. Questions like: If we had done some things right to achieve success how could we ensure that we understood what those things were? Could we replicate them on our next projects? Perhaps as important, was replication of success even the right thing to do? How many serious, potentially disastrous problems were lurking just out of sight and threatening to undo us? What, if anything, could we do to bring the to light? How much of our success was luck? What would happen to our egos if we continued to succeed? Would they grow so large they could hurt us, and if so, what could we do to address that overconfidence? What dynamics would arise now that we were bringing new people into a successful enterprise as opposed to a struggling startup?

What had drawn me to science, all those years ago, was the search for understanding. Human interaction is far more complex than relativity or string theory, of course, but that only made it more interesting and important; it constantly challenged my presumptions.... Figuring out how to build a sustainable creative culture--one that didn't just pay lip service to the importance of things like honesty, excellence, communication, originality, and self-assessment but really *committed* to them, no matter how uncomfortable that became--wasn't a singular assignment....

As I saw it, our mandate was to foster a culture that would seek to keep our sightlines clear, even as we accepted that we were often trying to engage with and fix what we could not see. My hope was to make this culture so vigorous that it would survive when Pixar's founding members were long gone. [p. 64-5]
Again, I see an almost perfect match between their task and ours, where ours=KDE e.V.. In the Community Working Group (CWG) in particular, I see my task as essentially gardening. This includes improving the soil, weeding, but never removing valuable little shoots which can grow into exciting new directions for the community. Of course I can't carry the metaphor too far, since others do the planting. But we can keep the conditions for growth optimal with our work.

In the documentation workshop yesterday, we explored the current state of the KDE documentation, how we can improve access, and grow the documentation team again. We also found some large choke points, which includes KDE.org. We really need a web team! KDE.org is valuable real estate on the web, which has been neglected for too long. More about that later.....

For now, looking forward to another day of hard work and fun in Brno!