Monday, August 22, 2005

Is Microsoft a "biosphere"?

From Wikipedia's description of Biosphere II, "It was used to test if and how people could live and study in a closed biosphere, while carrying out scientific experiments." After spending 12 years working at Microsoft, this sounds pretty similar to what it's like working at Microsoft. It's easy for an employee there to live an existence that is like living in a self-contained planetarium. It's even easier for this to happen if you are in product development (vs. sales & marketing). Like inside the Biosphere II, you can see the outside world though the view is distorted and you aren't often looking outside.

The fortunate/unfortunate reality for Microsoft is that so much is going on inside the company that it's hard to keep track of it all. If you are interested in making the most of what's available internally, it can be a full-time job to track what's going on. Look at someone like Robert Scoble. The guy is fanatical about trying to keep everyone up to date on what's going on inside Microsoft and he regularly admits he can't keep track of it all. Scoble commented recently on how Ray Ozzie was one of the few C-level execs at Microsoft to attend a non-Microsoft event. Microsoft would benefit if there were more Scobles and Ozzies getting outside the Microsoft biosphere to see what's going on in the "real" world. They'd be blind-sided much less frequently if that ethos was a part of every product development group. As a side-benefit, it would also reduce many of the myths about what Microsoft is up to and what drives it. Having been inside the company as long as I was, it was often entertaining to read about the Oliver Stone-esque conspiracy theories about what people thought was going on at MSFT.

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