Imagine building a product used by 150 million people and relying extensively on volunteers and individuals outside your company walls to create it.
That’s what Mozilla Corp., maker of the web browser Firefox, has done for the past 10 years, under the helm of Chairwoman and former CEO Mitchell Baker.
The organization’s open-source development model is an experiment in managing innovation beyond corporate borders. On Firefox, 40% of the code is not from employees.
What can leaders learn from Mozilla about running an innovative company?
“Look hard at whether there are areas where you can give up some control, because the returns are great,” says Baker. “The idea that a single individual is the best decision-maker for everything and should have ultimate control works only some of the time.
“I think for Steve Jobs it works because he’s so good at what he does. But if you’re not Steve Jobs, I have found that, sometimes, even when I don’t like something, there’s often real value in stepping back and asking questions ... Let the problem play out a little bit.
“When you just ask people to stop what they are doing, you lose their creative thought.”
—Adapted from “Succeeding at Open-Source Innovation,” Lenny T. Mendonca and Robert Sutton, McKinsey Quarterly.