I sat in with Scott McNealy yesterday to listen to what he has been up to since he stepped down as top dog at Sun Microsystems. Oracle purchased Sun a few months back which left Scott somewhat homeless, so what does one do when you’ve received the most golden of handshakes? You follow your passion, which besides the San Jose Sharks, appears to be Curriki, the open source movement and Teletrips. He became interested in Curriki after realizing that schools across the country charged billions annually for updated curriculum in textbooks the cost of which is ultimately born by the public. As Scott says “in math curriculum, 10 + 10 still equals 20 and will for the foreseeable future; however institutions are sold updated textbooks almost annually to render old versions obsolete.” To counter this he created Curriki, online education community that is building the first website to offer free, open-source instructional materials for K-12. Scott spoke of the compelling argument for thin clients and a work from anywhere (home) culture that he implemented at Sun. The result was a large increase in productivity and savings in infrastructure alone of $80 million annually. The argument for work from home is one that is hard to argue but requires a departure from the mentality that if you can’t watch them work, they are not working mentality. At our company we are constantly searching for ways in which we can all work remotely and this has become one of the single highest priories in evaluating our business infrastructure and software. Teletrips, a firm that enables companies to implement work from home strategies and quantifies this by way of carbon credits has partnered with Calgary Economic Development to foster this in the Calgary workplace. Scott spoke in support of Teletrips rallied behind this partnership. But the most poignant point that I took from his talk was the plea to move towards open source software. “People speak in open source language – imagine if a company owned the language that a country communicated in – that is the world we have created with closed software. It is no longer the cost of entry to do business that we are concerned with but the exit cost that stymies most business today – the burgeoning cost of renewing software contracts or changing platforms that is killing many businesses.” It’s a compelling argument to use OpenOffice, Linux and other open source applications. In fact he states “why wouldn’t governments mandate the internal use of open source?” It’s a compelling argument for all organizations, associations and governments who wish to exercise visionary leadership.
Oh yes, and then there’s those San Jose Sharks.