Tuesday, October 28, 2014

What's the sand in your sandbox?

I was picking up my son from the daycare when I realized something. It took me for a round trip to the days I started at Jolla.

It was early July 2012. I was very excited about everything I had learned about the company over those few months preceding my hire. I was looking at non-hierarchical and self-organized group of talented people; teeming of can-do-attitude, and plenty of enthusiasm to match. With very lean ways of working, Jolla was about to play ball with the big guys. It felt amazing, and I was all game.

I'm a person who lives to do things. I love to study things by taking them apart. Every disassembled object has a story to tell, and those stories feed my obsession to learn and understand how everything works. When other kids at daycare played with their toys, I had a bag full of broken household appliances and power tools to disassemble. As a courtesy of my parents. Otherwise I would've taken apart something that actually worked, much to the horror of my daycare teacher.

Countless dismantled things later, Jolla was the perfect do-all-you-can buffet for me. It was very informal and open 24/7. Everything in that buffet was optimized for doing things together. So many things to take apart an learn from. We all had done mobile operating system work before. This time we just had to do it with a fraction of the manpower, without any hierarchy and management overhead. And the best way to do that, is getting your hands dirty with it. Explore, play, take stuff apart and and put back together. Don't be afraid of mistakes, instead love them for guiding you.

I realized Sailfish OS was the sand in my sandbox. Days on end, I went in to make sense out of things. It was important to work closely with developers, so there was just us and the sand. No matter how long it took, we would keep our hands deep in the sand. It was wonderful that nobody cared if I had sand all over me. Learning and understanding was more important.

I climbed out of my car and closed the door. My son was waiting me at the daycare gate with a big smile - all covered in sand. He doesn't mind the mess. Because it doesn't qualify as one for him. Instead it represents an exiting interaction; a freedom to do anything he wishes. It dawned on me that some people have learned to avoid getting sand on them. For those, I have a secret to share: you can unlearn it.

Learn to tolerate that the sand is messy. It's the purpose of the sand to be all over the place. It's up to you to mold and craft it to whatever you wish. No right or wrong way exist. The only rule there is: you can't make great products without getting sand on yourself. Your ability to do amazing things is only backed up by your relationship with the sand.

So take a look at your sandbox. Whatever it is that sand represents for you, get to know it again. Don't be afraid to get some of it on yourself. Take a look how kids do it. They don't see a mess. They see fun.

So should you. It's time to reconnect with the sand again, just like back in your childhood. Smile follows naturally.

Thanks for reading and see you in the next post. In the meantime, agree or disagree, debate or shout. Bring it on and spread the word.

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