Right now I am doing a short consultancy helping IFRC with a Learning Conference in Haiti. So we are having some interesting discussions on what a learning organisation is; how important is it to have a plan, or is it it enough to just have a vision and work out how to get there as you go along.
Well it seems Linus Torwalds has neither a plan nor a vision …
Linus is the inventor of Linux, the operating system (well, kernel actually) at the heart of over 90% of the world’s supercomputers, most of the the computers that serve up the internet, and Android, the world’s number one smartphone OS. Found these two great quotes at http://www.theregister.co.uk/2012/04/20/linux_founder_linus_torvalds_tech_prize/.
One of the main reasons I think Linux came to be successful in the first place was that I never had very lofty goals. The goalposts for me were always a few weeks out - never some kind of “one day, this will change the world”. It was much more pedestrian than that, and I actually think that’s the only way to make real progress: one small step at a time, not looking too far ahead to see the details. People like to idolize the “ideas” and “inspiration”, but in the end, almost anybody can have an idea. Getting things actually done is where people stumble.
I’ve never been a visionary - the thing I tend to worry about is actual technical issues, and my goal has always been to just make sure the technical side of Linux (and other projects I’ve been involved in) have been as solid as possible.
So, is an OS just a special case? Or can you succeed at anything just by loving the nitty-gritty?