Wednesday, August 3, 2011
Friday, July 29, 2011
Today's columnist is Julian Egelstaff from Freeform Solutions. He writes:
I learned a lot of things during the early years of Freeform Solutions. But not just about business and entrepreneurship. I also learned:
Two-year-olds will eventually go to sleep by themselves for an afternoon nap, if you're on the phone with a client long enough.
Not all child-proof medicine bottles are created equal.
And never, ever, ever leave a permanent marker on the kitchen counter when you're in another room answering e-mail.
I had the good fortune to learn these and many other lessons courtesy of my twin daughters, who were born a few months before Freeform Solutions was officially incorporated. For me personally, and for my family, a big reason to start Freeform was to have a flexible job that I could do at home, so I could look after the girls. My wife continued with her 9-to-5 job out of the house.
So, at the same time as I became a social entrepreneur, I also became a man in the woman's world of child rearing. I think it gives me a unique perspective on some of the challenges facing women entrepreneurs.
Make no mistake, the world of child rearing is a woman's world.
If you don't believe me, just check out a random selection of books on how to take care of babies and young children. It won't be long before you find helpful chapters with titles like “What Dad can do to help.” Just imagine picking up a general business book and finding a chapter entitled “What your wife can do to support your career.” Equality of the sexes is closer to reality in the boardroom than the playroom.
As a society, we seem to pay a lot of attention to equality issues, at least in the workplace. They are routinely in the news, many organizations have anti-discrimination policies, and a lot of hiring practices are specifically designed to create an equal playing field. A lot of the articles in this month's OSBR issue on Women Entrepreneurs talk about the importance of various policies and programs in supporting women entrepreneurs in the workplace.
But when it comes to family life and personal decisions, our society seems to have a different set of expectations in place. These expectations are not just in the “parenting industry” – the book publishers, the toy makers, the companies marketing goods and services for looking after infants and young children – those companies can almost justify the focus on moms by the fact that women make up about 90% of the people providing child care at home. But in my experience, many individuals also implicitly hold this idea that looking after kids is “women's work.”
When I was out and about with my pre-school aged girls, people would often make conversation. Twins are a real show-stopper. If you enter a grocery store with a matched set of babies in a double stroller, total strangers will stop and talk to you, several times, whether you like it or not.
A common theme of conversation would be how nice it was that I was giving mom a break. These people were trying their best to be complimentary. It was just their instinctive assumptions kicking in, we're all prone to that. When you hear hoof beats, you think horses not zebras. And when you see a man pushing a stroller, many people think dad-home-from-work, not stay-at-home-dad.
My anecdotal experience is not the end of the story here. Many researchers have spent a lot of time examining these biases, as Tess Jewell explains in her article in this month's OSBR.
But it's not just the everyday world outside of work that needs to welcome and support men who provide child care. The workplace needs to stop viewing this as a women's issue, and start treating it as a family issue that affects men equally.
This is touchy stuff. You won't necessarily find people talking about it openly around the water cooler, but in how many workplaces would it raise eyebrows if a man took six or nine months of paternity leave? He's entitled under the law. But wouldn't it hurt his career?
Breathless profiles of women executives in magazines will not hesitate to comment on how she balances work and kids. But for how many men is that even a question in the interview?
Nonetheless, perceptions and behaviours are gradually changing. Since 2001, fathers in Canada have been able to take up to 35 weeks of parental leave, and a steadily growing percentage of eligible fathers have been taking at least part of that time – 10% in 2001, increasing to 20% in 2006. In Quebec, nearly half of eligible fathers take at least some parental leave time. That's probably because in Quebec there are more generous subsidies, replacing up to 75% of your income.
This is real progress, but men are still a distinct minority when it comes to providing child care. Support for fathers in the workplace needs to keep improving. Fathers need to be encouraged to provide primary care for their children, and as a society we need to welcome them into this role. Maternity leave is not some kind of special trump card women get to play. Being involved in raising your kids is a right that all parents have.
It's not just a right, it's a joy. Your kids are only young once. So come on guys, step up and take on this wonderful role. Until we find a way to make it happen, women will continue to be the only ones stuck with the challenge of balancing work and kids. As long as there's no equality in the playroom, it will be impossible to achieve equality in the boardroom.
Tuesday, July 5, 2011
Friday, June 17, 2011
- the creation of the ARPANET
- the start of the Homebrew Computer Club
- the formation of the Free Software Foundation
- the invention of the World Wide Web
- the start of Linux
- and so on through to our mobile, socially connected, always-on, future-that's-here-now.
Friday, June 10, 2011
Please feel free to ask me any questions about writing an article. You may also wish to check the author guidelines. Note that the article deadline for the August issue is July 10th.
Tuesday, June 7, 2011
Friday, May 20, 2011
Today we welcome a guest columnist, Martin Heitmann from the Berlin Institute of Technology, who invites you to participate in his survey on open source business. He writes:
Can open source development be truly sustainable? And if so, how? The answer depends on your point of view on sustainability. Very often, sustainability is only used as a buzz word for ecological footprints, while other definitions also include economical and social dimensions. All three perspectives might be the starting point for intriguing studies about how open source development changes and continuously will change the world in the future. But today, our question asks whether open source development can be sustainable from an economic viewpoint. How can open source generate value over time and how are such mechanisms supposed to prevail?
>Open source development has gained much economic momentum in recent years and, despite frequent misunderstandings of the terms “open source” and “free software”, no one can deny this. Studies by Black Duck Software and the European Commission have tried to estimate the cost of reproducing just the global code base, as it was available at the date of the respective study’s sample collection. The dollar ranges in these estimations range from tens of billions to hundreds of billions. This notwithstanding, studies on the economic value creation of open source business are still scarce. What we can see from the estimated numbers is that, not only single companies, but also regional and national administrations have to pay attention to open source development. Without the provision of an open-source-friendly ecosystem, a region may miss opportunities to foster sustainable open source development.
In conclusion, open source development has not even, but especially from an economic perspective much to offer for theorists, as well as practitioners from the private sector and people in charge in the public sector. Nonetheless, academic research on the business-related aspects of open source development has mainly focused on developer motivation and organizational setups. Albeit that many concept papers have asked how open source development might be profitable, rather few studies have focused on business models or even their antecedents. (Examples of the few studies that have include Bonaccorsi et al. and Perr et al.)
The lack of research into open source business models might be due to the challenge of separating and classifying these business models. Often, the concepts show signs of overlap, which hinders subsequent analysis. How can we analyze what drives decision-making toward one business model and not the other if we cannot even distinguish between them? Actually, this task appears to be achievable and yet many studies fail in their attempt for a clear cut typology. One outstanding concept for delineation is that by Chesbrough and Appleyard. It mainly sorts open source business models into four clusters: i) deployment (e.g., professional services, consulting jobs); ii) hybridization (e.g., proprietary extensions and multi-license business models); iii) complements (e.g., complementary products enabled by open source software); and iv) self-service (e.g., organizations like the Sakai project).
In our research project on open source management at the Berlin Institute of Technology, we use this cluster scheme and we investigate the antecedents of business model choice in the open source software industry. By doing this, we aim to identify which factors are or were influential for companies’ initial business decisions regarding open source. Future studies will then also focus on the link between the circumstances of business model design and open source sustainability.
Following the invitation of OSBR, we would like to point out that our survey is still open and we want to invite you to participate. If you were involved in decisions on the business strategy of your company, please complete our survey. It will not take more than 10 – 15 minutes to complete. If you were not involved in the decision-making process, please pass on this invitation to any colleagues who were.
The survey can be accessed online at:
The anonymity of your responses is guaranteed. All data will be analyzed and published only in an aggregated form. As compensation for your efforts, we would like to offer you a more detailed report on our findings. If you relinquish your anonymity, we can provide you with a benchmark report that compares your individual answers to the overall study results.
Further information about our research can be found at http://www.oss-research.info
With your participation you help us in our research and our efforts to gain better understanding of how the open source development model can be interlinked with the private and the public sector. Of course, business model antecedents are only the start. From this starting point, we can then dive deeper into matters like social sustainability, regional creation of wealth, and on a micro level, the profitability of open source business models.