A recently completed survey of the Open Source Software (OSS)
community provides insight into employee motivation and the
development of resource models, according to the Boston Consulting
Group (BCG). The survey conducted online interviews with 526 OSS
community members who are registered users of SourceForge.net, the
world's largest Open Source development Web site. The study was
released today in a presentation at the Linux World meeting in New
York City. It is available online at www.bcg.com and at
"Members of the Open Source Software communities have created
robust products such as the Linux operating system and Apache Web
server which have captured significant market share from their
commercial competitors," said Karim R. Lakhani, a consultant at
BCG, a doctoral student at MIT's Sloan School of Management, and
coauthor of the survey. "This survey highlights the motivation
factors that contribute to the success of Open Source Software-
factors that can be adapted to improve a company's intellectual
capital and its innovation and product development processes."
These OSS contributors self-identify as "hackers." A hacker, as
defined by Eric Raymond, a major voice in the Open Source
community, in his New Hacker Dictionary, is someone who enjoys
exploring the details of programmable systems and who is good at
programming quickly, rather than a malicious meddler who pokes
around for sensitive information-the correct term for this person
"This survey shows that intellectual stimulation, or pure
enjoyment, seems to be the primary motivating factor for this
fervor, followed closely by a desire to improve one's skills," said
Bob Wolf, a senior manager at BCG and coauthor of the survey.
"Imagine the competitive advantage that awaits a company that
achieves this level of motivation across all of its core
processes." Wolf went on to say that "this survey has created a
fact base for understanding self-organizing communities in general
and Open Source communities in particular."
"We are excited to be working with The Boston Consulting Group
on this research initiative," said Jeff "hemos" Bates, Director of
OSDN Online. "Although the Open Source movement has existed for
several years, the business implications of this movement have
never been adequately analyzed."
"I've estimated that large organizations typically operate at
something like 10-20 percent of their creative potential, measured
by their actual accomplishments in peak situations compared with
their accomplishments on an average Tuesday afternoon. It's worth
considering whether the Open Source model responds to that and
other possible corporate shortcomings," notes Bob Shapiro, the
former CEO of Monsanto and retired chairman of Pharmacia and now a
senior advisor to BCG.
"In fact, there already are some examples of companies that are
successfully following approaches evident in OSS," Mark Blaxill, a
senior vice president at BCG said. "IBM has embraced the Open
Source movement, simultaneously increasing the credibility of Linux
and promoting its own position. By allowing consumers of its
Mindstorm toy robot to rewrite its operating system and programming
language, Lego increased the functionality to the user and
outperformed its initial sales forecasts. Similarly, Harley
Davidson relinquished control of its brand to its biker community,
with overwhelmingly positive results. Even industrial products
companies have created value by more dynamically linking networks
of experts to increase the efficiency and utilization of their
Wolf and Lakhani note the following key findings from the
Participants note extremely high levels of creativity in their
projects, with 63 percent indicating that their current project
contributions were at least as creative as anything they have ever
Having fun (43 percent of respondents ranked as top 3
motivator), enhancing skills (43 percent), desire to support the OS
community (34 percent), and user needs (personal at 30 percent;
professional also at 30 percent) drive contributions to the Open
Source community. Defeating proprietary software companies is not a
The Open Source community is truly global in composition with
respondents coming from 35 countries.
Most participants dedicate at least 10 hours per week in their
shared programming efforts.
While some hackers are students or academics, most contributors
are skilled IT professionals (56 percent). The average programming
experience of the sample was more than 10 years.
About The Boston Consulting Group
The Boston Consulting Group is a general management consulting
firm that is a global leader in business strategy. BCG has helped
companies in every major industry and market achieve a competitive
advantage by developing and implementing unique strategies. Founded
in 1963, the firm now operates 52 offices in 34 countries. For
further information, please visit our Web site at www.bcg.com.
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