Social Mission Of Project To Product
The back cover of the Project to Product book states that: “All author royalties will be donated to the P2P scholarship and not-for-profit organizations supporting diversity, women, and minorities in technology”. This post provides a short summary of why I decided to do this, and why I think this mission is important and aligned with the vision of the book.
The goal of Project to Product is to help organizations survive and thrive in the age of digital disruption. The mastery of software delivery at scale is so unevenly distributed that the majority of the world’s economy and wealth will be concentrated in the hands of a small number of tech giants if things don’t change. While the model in the book predicts that the rise of the giants will continue, it also offers hope to the other organizations that still form 80% of the world economy. We need a much broader set of organizations to drive competition, fuels innovation, and better supports our social and economic systems. The tech giants don’t need any help mastering software delivery, they already have, and the only interesting question is what markets they disrupt next. Project to Product is intended for every other IT and business leader wanting to help their company thrive, and spread the wealth generated in the Age of Software to go beyond a small handful of tech giants and towards fueling a much more diverse and healthy economy.
An accelerating shift of the means of production and wealth creation to software is the key implication of the book. As predicted by Carlota Perez in 2002, and very evident today, social systems and regulations will only now start to slowly catch up to the way that technology has changed our economy and our lives. As such, the decisions made by companies who thrive through the creative destruction brought about by the Age of Software will have a major impact on our society.
I come from an academic background, and had the opportunity to spend a decade working with researchers across the globe. I then spent the following decade working with enterprise IT leaders across the globe. And I noticed a stark difference. In academic and research circles I took diversity for granted. While we still have a long way to go, in my own experience, women and minorities were represented in debates, workshops and brainstorming sessions. I didn’t appreciate how important this was until I attended dozens of meetings with senior IT leaders where the only attendees were white middle aged males. Outside of some small improvements at tech companies, I can’t say I’ve seen much of a change since I left academia a decade ago. Just this past summer, I sat in on a meeting with over 30 IT leaders who rolled up to a global IT executive. All attendees were completely uniform demographic except for a single woman, who was clearly practiced at interrupting with very precise timing in order to break through the groupthink that was happening in the room. The middle men, much as I respected a lot of what they were saying, were simply piling on. That scene made the problem very vivid for me. It’s not that the white men weren’t brilliant, many of them were. It’s that too much of the same perspective generates too little new information. A key problem is that this kind of lack of diversity causes an unhealthy amount of groupthink and fuels any tyrannies of a single dominant view or perspective that may exist.
In order to solve difficult problems, we need the different point of views, perspectives and communication styles that make for better problem solving. The more gender, socio-economic and ethnic diversity we get into tech, the better the ideas and solutions we will discover. I have two young daughters, and I would prefer they grown up in a world where decisions about technology and AI are made by diverse teams instead of uniform groups of men of a single socio-economic status. At Tasktop, we have been trying to lead by example, with our long standing core value around “diversity in thought” and support of programs for women and socio-economic diversity in tech. But that’s only a drop in the bucket. To help the bigger cause, all of my author proceeds from the Project to Product book will go to supporting diversity, women, and minorities in technology.