The No Year Plan

2004-12-21

One of my favorite quotes from Linus Torvalds is this:

My own personal goal has pretty much always just been to live a nice life. That has many facets to it -- Linux obviously being one. Technical interest mixed in with a ton of joy in interacting with people even if only electronically. I certainly see that as a continual part of my life, but I'm not making any five-year plans. Look at what happened to countries that tried that -- I think they are equally destructive in personal life.

Today CNET published an interview with Linus in which he expanded on his approach to project management:

One myth that I find interesting, but which has nothing to do with Linux or even the IT sector in particular, is the myth of how a single person or even a single company makes a huge difference in the market. It's the belief that things happen because somebody was visionary and "planned" it that way. Sometimes the people themselves seem to believe it, and then the myth becomes hubris.

I have to continually try to explain to people that no, I don't "control" what happens in Linux. It's about having an environment that is conducive to development, not so much about any particular leader. And I think that is true in most cases, be it the "great sport coach" or the "great spiritual leader."

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And I'm not trying to say that individuals don't matter. Individuals do matter, and I'm a huge believer in the theory that a motivated and smart person can do more than a thousand people who aren't. But what matters more than any individual is the kind of environment that brings in the people who shine. One of the things I think Linux has succeeded really well at is to let people shine.

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I really can't plan my way out of a cardboard box. All my long-term stuff is very fuzzy "intuitive" stuff, not something I could really put into words. I try to avoid having very specific goals in the long term, and instead have more of a general feel for what kinds of things I like and don't like. Some people may see that as undirected, and hell yes, it is. On the other hand, it's pretty flexible, and exactly because I'm not focusing on some specific goal five years from now I'm also not losing track of the problems people experience today, or ignoring somebody else's vision.

Read the whole thing.


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