You know that you have succeeded in articulating a business opportunity or trend when a 12-year-old student “gets it,” participates in the Q&A, and offers ideas about an application. Especially if it’s highly technical.
The venue? Jim Whitehurst, the plain-talking visionary CEO of enterprise Linux application leader Red Hat (Raleigh, NC), did a session on Tuesday for Fidelity Investment’s lecture series “Leadership in Technology” at a North Carolina university.
The program was geared toward graduate students, but 12-year-old Chandler Willoughby was there and suggested that both iTunes and Microsoft would become easier to use if Open Source gave users the opportunity to provide input on design and how the interface operates.
Jim Whitehurst knows that business thought leadership doesn’t mean pontificating with “high-minded language” and “lots of detail.” In the case of Red Hat, it means articulating a value proposition. He likened the Open Source model to Wikipedia, and even American Idol. He uses terms like “power participation.”
A comment that Whitehurst directed to the investment community: “Here’s the problem. In the twenty-first century, where much, much more of the capital is information, locking up that information suboptimizes the value of that capital.”
And directed to the grad students: “Many companies are still in the physical world, with physical products. Go in and recognize these companies weren’t structured to enable and inspire the workforce. Do your best to work in the system. They’re not trying to stifle their workforce; they just haven’t thought of it.”
In terms of forward thinking and Thought Leadership, Mr. Whitehurst continues to be one to watch, and emulate.