We returned home soon after Britain returned Hong Kong to China. By that act, Britain finally acknowledged the end of their colonial power in that region. China had risen and was now the new center of gravity for Asia.
Back in the US, I started a software company that developed a new kind of survey technology. We used that software to help companies more deeply understand the needs of their customers.
Soon after we launched, my business partner who headed up the software development team, handed me a book. “Read it,” he said. The book opened my eyes to a nascent new reality.
It was Eric Raymond’s _The Cathedral and the Bazaar_. In this book, Raymond sought to explain how Linux, an open source operating system, came to be.
It made no sense. How was it that this operating system, the most complicated of all software code, could be written by a global collection of volunteers? And, in just five years, could threaten the core business of Microsoft, the largest software company in the world?
This story fundamentally challenged the theories of Adam Smith and David Ricardo upon which our entire economic system is based. Real economic value was being created, not by workers at the service of companies, but by volunteers following their creative passions. How could this be?
It was also during those years that I was introduced to Agile and the practices of Extreme Programming (XP) that were being used by our software developers.
Their development speed never ceased to amaze me. We learned to dream together, and then to create together so fast that often I felt I had to rush to catch up with them, rather than the other way around.
I quickly learned that my job was to guide a creative process that required me to understand, support and then to align their passions toward a common goal. If I was able to do that, we could, together, move mountains.
I began to wonder: what is this thing we call passion?
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