Dangercast #1 – Collaboration over Competition

In our inaugural episode of the Dangercast, Jade Meskill, Derek Neighbors and Roy van de Water talk about the first value of the Gangplank Manifesto: Collaboration over Competition.

Transcript

Jade Meskill: Welcome to “Dangercast,” the official Gangplank podcast where we talk about the design and culture of Gangplank. I am Jade Meskill.

Derek Neighbors: I am Derek Neighbors.

Roy van de Water: I am Roy van de Water.

Jade: This is our inaugural episode. Thanks for listening. We wanted to talk about the Gangplank Manifesto. We are not going to get into the history that’s documented in other places. What we want to do is dissect the manifesto and really talk about some of the things that we mean, some of the nuance, details behind the points of the manifesto. If you are not familiar with the Gangplank Manifesto, you can check it out at gangplankmanifesto.com.

The first point of the Gangplank Manifesto, the first value that we list, is Collaboration over Competition. Derek, what does that mean to you?

Derek: I think it’s important when we are looking at the manifesto that there’s things on the left and there’s things on the right. It doesn’t mean that the things on the right are bad things. It just means that we prefer the things on the left.

A little bit of the way we came to some of this is, is we talked about what is hurting our communities and those are things that were on the right or the things that hurt our communities. Then we would say what are the things that would neutralize that?

Competition was a big one, and I think what happens when there’s competition is it breeds scarcity. It says that the only way to be successful is to put somebody else down, put somebody else’s ideas down or put them out of business, where when you have a mental model of it says that we operate in abundance, which means if I am successful, you can be successful.

I think that that’s a much better model to operate in and a good way to think about this. I think when we were dealing in an industry that was say, the automobile industry or the industrial industry, and we were both trying to get steel.

Steel is a scarce resource. There’s only so much steel available, and so if I am taking steel, that means there’s less steel for you. But when we look at knowledge industries, and we look at creative industries, when we look at industries around creation, there is very rarely scarcity, because what happens with idea is if I have an idea and I share the idea with you, I don’t lose that idea. I still have the idea but you have it too.

I think the concept here was collaboration is all about saying how do we share ideas. How do we share the things that we are doing so that we have an abundance of those things and people can build on them?

If I do something really great and I share with you and allow you to do it, and then somebody takes what you are doing and builds on it, and we continue to build on that, we have something much more magnificent than if I was trying to push you out of business with my idea.

I think a lot of these values for me, or this value for me came a lot from doing a lot with Free Software Foundation and looking at Patent Law, Copyright Law, number of things that say the best innovation actually tends to come when you allow people to build on other people’s works.

I think that that was a lot of it. The other thing is it really became petty. I mean people would be just stupid on purpose because it was so fulfilling to go hurt a competitor and then…

Jade: Even sometimes at your own expense.

Derek: At your own expense, right. See, the problem is you start to become stupid, because it’s like well, keeping Jade from getting the work is better. I don’t even care if I get it, as long as I keep him from getting it.

It’s like what a waste of energy is that? I mean to starve you out doesn’t do me any good. If I go on, I just kick ass, then I don’t need to worry about that, and if you’re kicking ass too, then awesome. If we’re both kicking ass, we are going to attract a whole bunch of other stuff.

A lot of this at the time for us was talking around talent. It was talking about funding and if you look at the areas that attract the most talent, look at the areas that have the most funding, it’s because there’s a lot of awesome stuff happening there.

It’s not because “Oh, the one person is in-charge,” or the one company has the lion’s share of what’s going on.

Jade: It’s like having a great restaurant that is surrounded by other great restaurants.

Derek: Right.

Jade: Right. That doesn’t detract from you. That actually is an attractor for more people to experience the greatness of your restaurant. But we don’t see that happen in real life.

People get way more territorial than that. They have a hard time understanding that concept. I remember us having that problem a lot very early on in the Gangplank days where I am a web developer, and you run a web development company and the customer becomes the imagined scarcity.

There were battles and wars and things happening inside of Gangplank because I was afraid you were going to come steal my customer set. I remember having to constantly harp on people say, “No, there’s plenty of customers for all. If we were all doing great work, we would all have an abundance of customers.”

Derek: I see this in the power networking groups, and it’s even evolved into a lot of co-working spaces I see, and a lot of mindsets of freelancers. It’s like, I am the PR guy and I don’t think that another PR guy should be able to have a desk in our space.

Jade: We need the exclusivity agreement.

Derek: Right. Like if I am going to be here, I need to be the only PR guy, because when I bring clients and I don’t want people to know who my clients are because they are just going to try to steal my clients.

That is a lot of the mentality that I think we were really fighting against, fast-forward to a point where we had multiple instances. We still have instances of companies merging together that were inside of Gangplank.

We’ve had instances where employees have left one company inside of Gangplank, started a competing business that does almost the exact same thing in Gangplank, next to the company that they left. Those companies collaborate on customers and ideas and help train each other.

Jade: Yeah, and we’ve helped people with that. We’ve given them examples of our contracts of our former employees who moved to one desk over to start their own company.

Derek: Yeah, I think it was Mike Binder who said it really well. In Silicon Valley they have the really awesome saying of, “I switched my job, but I didn’t switch my parking lot,” and Binder said, “I switched my job, and I didn’t switch my desk,” like trump that, right?

Roy: Yeah. I think there’s something too about focusing on the wrong problems when you start worrying too much about competition. If you are really focusing on your customer and focusing on making their lives better, ultimately it doesn’t matter if you are the one who gets to help them or if it’s the better alternative that’s also available.

When you insist on doing great things, you start focusing on delighting people and not on making money, and that making money happens to be a side effect of that. It almost becomes irrelevant at that point because that’s given where if you do great things.

I feel like that’s part of the problem as well that you are just too focused on making money, that you just try to compete with everybody all the time instead of trying to make the people that really matter, happy.

Jade: I think this is very easy to understand on the lowest level that we can see that there’s direct competition between businesses, and it shouldn’t have to be that way. But I think this statement of Collaboration over Competition also exists at a higher level.

When we talk about multiple Gangplank locations or cities working together, government, things like that, how do you see this value holding true at that next level out?

Derek: I think it scales the same way. People just tend to not think about that way. You have cities and you’ve got one city next to another city, and they are fighting for the next company that comes in and lands in their city.

In reality, what they really should be thinking of is the region. In reality, more often than not, the person that works at the company that you are trying to attract, may or may not live, or go to school, or have a wife that works, or a husband that works, or a spouse that works in the same city.

The more opportunity a region has, the more attractive it is to somebody. I think a lot of times we get very shortsighted in that as well. The other part that I think starts to be a little bit silly is we don’t recognize, we all have our unique DNA, whether we’re individuals, whether we’re companies or whether we’re cities or corporations. When we play to our strengths of our DNA instead of worrying about what the competition is, I think we open up the ability to do really magnificent things.

We can start to say, “Hey, if we work together on this, we can do something that is so much better than if we weren’t doing something together.” I firmly believe that you will see this principle in play at some time in my lifetime, bar I live another 20 years or 30 years, where you will see companies working, and when I say companies, I mean bigger companies working out of the same buildings or sharing the same resources and blending to the point where you don’t know which employee belongs to what company, and they are in the same space.

Jade: What would that mean for those companies?

Derek: I think it would mean that they would be able to advance things much quicker. Think of if I was doing an automobile assembly line or I was doing an advanced chip manufacturing plant. The capital costs in doing those things are still fairly expensive.

If we were sharing that line, or sharing that resource of some kind, and it could be any resource, it doesn’t have to necessarily be a physical piece like that, and I had access to really bright engineers and really bright folks.

Some of them maybe work for me, and some of them maybe work for you, and then some of them maybe work for both of us. Maybe they had a really specialized skill that we only needed for a small amount of time during chip production or maybe there’s only few months of time.

If I have them it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense because the best of their talent is not being used and if you have them, the best of their talent is not being used. But if we are kind of sharing them back and forth, that allows us to continue to riff and build on common things that are really commodities.

You see this time and time in markets place, the things that are hot commodities in scarcity at some point become commodities. But then when you have those commodities, people build on them and launch stuff into the stratosphere.

We look at the free software where a web server would be an example of this. Like at one time the Netscape web server was extremely expensive, really hard to configure, all sorts of problems with it.

As Apache came in, as other things started to come in, and we’re made commodities, where they didn’t really cost anything. They are really easy to do. Look at how it exploded entire new economies that didn’t exist before.

I think that’s what we are really talking about is if we can get to the point where we are going fast enough that stuff that is valuable today is a commodity three days later. That means the innovation cycle is just fucking insane, whereas if stuff that is scarce today is scarce 20 years from now. That means our innovation cycle is really slow.

What does it cost? Can any of us go to the moon today? The answer is no. But if we got to the point where owning a spaceship, and going to the moon cost the same thing as owning a car, and putting gas in the car tank, think of what would happen, all of the new industry that would blow up out of having that capacity.

I think it’s as much about capacity building. In my mind it is like once you break the scarcity model. You open up a capacity model and once you have capacity model like you’re enabling things that humanity can’t even think of right now.

Jade: How does that kind of collaboration work? How do we envision people embracing collaboration at that level?

Derek: Oh, you tell me.

[laughter]

Jade: We’ve been experimenting with some different things in the leadership structure and just kind of the interactions of how Gangplank functions at a higher level. We struggled with authority and hierarchy, things like that.

One of the things that we found that is the most important for real collaboration is true alignment, and that requires a whole lot of things including some level of intimacy, trust, all of those things.

If we are going to be too large corporations sharing this very precious resource, we better have a very deep and trusting relationship in order to make that be successful.

Derek: Yeah, I think for me the big factor is right now companies are focused solely on bottom lines, and they are focused on profits. Because of that, that becomes a scarcity model for them, because I want to dominate the market, I want the position. I want everything about that because that means more money for me.

What that means is less innovation for everybody else. This is proven time and time again and this is why we have Monopoly Law. When there’s somebody that has monopoly, innovation goes down significantly because there’s no new ideas coming to the table. Any new ideas gets washed out.

I think we are starting to see that. If we look at the millennial generation and the generation coming after them, I think they are far less focused on what’s the bottom line dollar and they are far more concerned with making massive impact to the universe.

When you get people that their goal is to make a dent in the universe, not that clearly people have to be able to make paychecks. They have to be able to eat. They have to have their needs met.

When people start to say, “What fulfills me is doing incredible stuff that nobody has ever seen before, that moves the market forward,” then, a lot of those difficult discussions about sharing resources go away. Because we’re not worried about a bottom line, we are worried about getting it further.

Whether you get further or whether I get further, at the end of the day, we both win. If you get it so that we can get on the moon for the price of a car, I win too. If I do it, you win too because it’s not about like how do I squeeze the bottom dollar out of doing that. I think that’s a mindset shift that is happening that I don’t think Wall Street even wants to talk about.

But look at the distrust that people have in the banking system, the funding system. Look at the number of people that are choosing to work independently or to have no loyalty to a company.

I think what they are saying is, “My personal happiness and my personal fulfillment is more important to me than a really big paycheck.” I think some of the brightest people in the world are having that viewpoint.

It’s only going to take one or two companies that have really bright people that operate that way and achieve extraordinary results before that becomes the de facto standard. That goes back to the commodity problem, like once we’re able to do it and they make things a commodity, how do you compete with them?

Jade: Yeah. That’s all the time we have for today. Join us on our next podcast when we talk about “Community over Agendas.” Thanks for listening.

play audio Dangercast #1   Collaboration over Competition

GP Brownbag: Chad Smith & Open Forum

When you think of animation, most likely the first image that pops into your head is either a Disney or Pixar character. Ever since that black and white mouse came onto the screen as Steamboat Willy, animation has taken a place in our minds as an entertainment medium.

Yet, there is so much more to the animation field than we are aware.

Chad Smith of Being Studios, will be our featured speaker for Wednesday, June 30th’s brown bag presentation. Smith has recently taken up residence at Gangplank and has already created a series of hilarious cartoons based on the regular activities taking place inside our walls.

More than that, Smith will be talking about the many opportunities available in the animation field, and how businesses can use the medium to tell their stories. Anything and everything you ever wanted to know about animation will be answered, and perhaps you’ll even end up as part of Smith’s Gangplank cartoon collection.

Something a little different

Some of you may recall that a few months back, Derek held an informal discussion about the future of Gangplank after a brown bag. We are planning on making this a regular occurrence, to hear your thoughts and share updates about Gangplank. These open forums will take place the last Wednesday of the month, before the brown bag presentation.

This open forum is for the curious, new members and Gangplank veterans alike. Want to know what Gangplank is? We’ll cover it. Want updates on the move? Come and ask. The open forum will begin at 11am. Stick around to catch the brown bag.

Jay Roger’s Brown Bag

Local Motors CEO and Co-Founder, Jay Rogers, was kind enough to come share his vision of the future of the car industry with us last month. Rogers explained the traditional model of car building and how that model is no longer sustainable. He shared the history of Local Motors, as well as how open-source car design localizes a vehicle and involves the purchaser in the process. Below is his presentation for your enjoyment. Local Motors will be hosting an Open House for their new factory in Phoenix at the end of July. Check back for details about the event.

Jay Rogers

Why you shouldn't miss Hacknights

Hacknights were started to provide an opportunity for like-minded individuals to connect, share ideas and launch new ventures in the community. Every Wednesday around quitting time, a hodge-podge of developers, bloggers, artists, techies and entrepreneurs are thrown together in one giant room – and crazy things happen.

If you haven’t had an opportunity to attend a Hacknight, here’s a taste.

Last night, more than 40 people showed up to Gangplank for Hacknight. Our first ever roller-hockey game was played in the loading area behind the building. Josh Strebel of Page.ly acted as videographer, riding around on the new Gangplank bike shooting the bloody battle. Injuries were sustained, with the Conrey-Hurst-Charland team pulling off a 3-1 victory. Who says girls can’t play?

In the midst of the game, lots was going on inside Gangplank. Nicholas Dibiase and Brandon Franklin struck up an impromptu jam session, playing percussion and guitar for attendees enjoyment. Also on the music front, Stern Savage stopped by to drop off a sneak preview of his mixtape, to be released July 31st.

Hacking activities were in full swing as well. Heat Sync Labs set up a lock picking table, with various levels to challenge Hacknight attendees. Nick Hammond managed to pick all the locks, save the hardest.

And of course, what’s a Hacknight without a ridiculously awesome YouTube video about college sports?

Even with all the distractions and activities, Hacknights main draw is the amazing conversations between people. Artists, musicians, dating advice bloggers, marketing consultants and coders discussing sports, differences between the sexes and getting to know one another. These initial meetings are the stepping stones that create projects and passions that move the world.

Why miss out?

Linchpin Meetup Recap

Last night, 40+ people assembled at Gangplank to discuss the book Linchpin, written by marketing guru Seth Godin. The book discusses the idea of making yourself so good at what you do that you are indispensable, and that causing disruption by rapidly eschewing traditional models for new ones is a worthy endeavor.

The Linchpin meetup, put on by Tyler Hurst and Stealthmode, broke attendees into groups to discuss key concepts from the book, including overcoming fear, qualities of leadership, our current education system and the importance of learning to lose. Each group presented on their topics with a discussion portion following each presentation.

Many of the participants had recently left Corporate America and were starting ventures of their own. Their interest in attending the event stemmed from wanting to meet others that were in a similar positions for encouragement, ideas and general networking. Throughout the evening connections were made, relationships were formed and attendees walked away with some insight into their own status as a Linchpin, and where they might improve.

For coverage of the event, as well as an interesting take on startups in this economy, check out ABC 15′s video. Also, listen to Gangplank Studio episodes 35 and 36 to hear attendees discuss what the word Linchpin means to them.

New staff member

mustache 150x150 New staff member

Hey, I’m Katie Charland, the new Director of Operations for Gangplank.

Last week, Gangplank welcomed me as its first full-time staff member. Though I’ve had the pleasure of meeting many of you through various events, I’ve got a long way to go if I hope to get to know the 2,000+ Gangplank members and fans.

Gangplank means something different to each person that walks through its doors. My journey to this position started over 3 years ago when I began teaching.

Fresh off my bachelors degree in poli sci and communications, I was looking for an in to Chicago politics. On a whim, I applied to Teach for America and was accepted as a 7th grade history teacher on the border of Mexico and Texas. This experience forever altered my life, as I became passionate about nonprofit causes.

After my 2-year contract was up, I moved to Arizona to pursue a graduate degree at ASU. My masters program focused on public relations for nonprofits. In May 2009, I graduated and went off into the world.

And what a crappy world it was. Recession, Arizona unemployment hovering around 10% — ouch. Having become involved in the social media/PR scene, I was able to contract myself out for various small projects. It was during this time I was introduced to Gangplank.

At the beginning, I was terrified. Here I am, a tech/social networking newbie and (gasp) blackberry user, surrounded by the hacker elite of the Valley. Intimidated? Hell yeah.

But what’s great about Gangplank is its welcoming spirit. People love to chat and network.

Not only that, Gangplank is an organization with tremendous potential. All I had to do was ask if I could help plan events for Gangplank and was instantly assigned to brown bags.

Now I’m staff (though still not an iPhone convert). That’s my Gangplank story.

I want to hear yours.

Just as Gangplank means something different to each person, everyone has a stake in the organization’s future. What is your experience with Gangplank? What would you like to see it become?

Schedule a chat with me.

GP Brownbag: 'Opportunities in a time of mass upheaval'

Everyone loves free stuffEric Keosky Smith HD Photo 11 smallest cropped 259x300 GP Brownbag: 'Opportunities in a time of mass upheaval'. Unfortunately, most big companies are out to make money and dislike giving away their products for free.

Then Shwaag came along.

The company’s CEO Eric Keosky-Smith has taken local social media by storm with the concept of social powered generosity. His site gives away premium products, such as Amazon Kindle, to encourage real generosity by brands and promote consumer loyalty. Members get a shot at unique, high-quality products and the participating companies get advertising through social media buzz and happy customers.

Keosky-Smith has a long history with developing marketing strategies that break new ground. With over 25 years experience in technology and consumer marketing, he’s been behind some of the largest product launches and initiatives of the past decade.

His extensive history may be why he had trouble picking a topic – there’s just so much be wants to share with Valley-area entrepreneurs! His topic, ‘Opportunities in a time of mass upheaval’ will encompass many of the subjects he wanted to cover, including marketing and relationships in a social media world, as well as how to bridge generation/technology gaps in business.

Wednesday, June 16th @ Noon
Bring your lunch (and questions).

Gangplank Updates

Looking to reserve permanent space at Gangplank?

You’ve been to Gangplank a few times and you like what you see. If you’re thinking about setting up a more permanent base of operations, we now have a “Gangplank Space Request” form to streamline the demand. You can find the form on Gangplank’s website under the ‘Participate‘ and ‘Collaborative‘ tabs.

There is no fee to make Gangplank your base of operations. Our wifi, conference rooms and podcasting studio are at your disposal. We simply ask that you respect the space and work of fellow Gangplank members, as well as be willing to collaborate with the community.

Um….brown bags?

We want you to there! Our guests are at their best with a live audience that keeps them on their toes with lively discussion and questions.

But if you absolutely can’t make it…

Yes, we are filming them. Yes, the video will be posted to the website as soon as is possible after the talk. We also will be posting summaries of the presentations and providing information about speakers to come. If you can’t make it to the brown bags each week, best bet is to bookmark this blog.

Have a speaker suggestion? Let’s hear it!