Small Powerful Words

Red Hat Mission I came back from GE headquarters the other day with my head full of thoughts. First, I’m going to mention Chris Grams, from Red Hat, who stuffed my head up almost to the top. He talked about the importance of community in the success of Red Hat, and did so in such an elegant way as to make me want to dust of my RHEL3.0 software and build servers. But you don’t have to be a nerd to appreciate what Chris does for Red Hat. I included their hip video down below.

In. That’s the powerful word. It helped Red Hat earn a billion dollars while they gave away free software for a living. Yep, Red Hat is free (most of it, anyhow). They’re a billion dollar – B-billion dollar – company who gives their product away for free, and the way they power this growth and success is by being in communities. They don’t own communities. They’re in them.

Other Words of Power


But only if you mean “one of us” and “we of the ____ community” and “our community’s ideas.”

Communities do have leaders, but that’s not always you. Communities have active participants. That one, you can do.

A simple post, but ask yourself this: would the senior team at your company accept this? runs on the Genesis Framework

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  • megfowler

    You are always thinking. And in doing all that thinking, you manage to save the rest of us who stare into space a little too much. :)

  • Jamie Favreau

    I have learned you can't get anywhere in life… with out help. Business is built around partners and collaboration… to get a job you should network. So you can't do it alone.

    Technology let's us share things…. but it was the technology which allowed us to share more. With out the Firefox shareaholic button I doubt I would be as much of a linking junkie but I try and help my established community.

    I think you need to blend the model to get the job done. You can never do it alone. Which is why relationships are born.

  • Brad West

    There are some great Power Words, I totally agree that the communal ones are among the strongest especially when you have your own house in order. Establishing yourself make take a little time as a communal leader and to create a world wide rave. I personally have not felt like I have a creation or invention that I feel is worthy of being recognized so hugely YET.

    My focus is on helping others and that is always a win win situation
    Brad West ~ onomoney

  • D Harrison

    Meg has already made the point but it bears repeating.

    Chris, I appreciate the fact that you stop me in my tracks and give me cause to pause and reflect.

    Thank you


  • Bella Darling

    Dear Chris,
    we were confronted with exactly this problem just yesterday! Eager to build a blog and a community the boss came in and asked “But who is the leader of the community?” We said “It's not about leadership. We want to be part of a growing community and welcome people to become a part of it and to share/spread an idea.”
    The boss believes this won't work. That WE must provide a person in charge who sets the rules and controls the community.

    Too much control limits many opportunities.

  • stevedevane

    Hi Chris,

    I had a writing coach once who said he could greatly improve my writing with two words of advice: shorten everything. Thanks for reminding me that short words should also be powerful.

    And I agree that participating is often as important as leading.

    Steve DeVane

  • Chris Grams

    Hi Chris, thanks so much for the nice words… although I think I could turn around and say the same thing about you…one day, and my brain is full of new ideas…

    Reading Trust Agents then spending a few minutes talking with you helped me realize that building communities in the social media world and the open source world share a ton of common themes. Most of them are the same lessons your mom taught you when you were a kid– you talk about them in your book too… Share. Be humble. Don't be selfish. Do unto others… That kinda thing.

    As the video says, your mother was right:)

    Was a real pleasure to meet you. Look forward to continuing the conversation.

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  • Don Lafferty

    The senior team at MY previous company – a top 10 supplier of high technology printed circuit boards – wasn't even transparent INTERNALLY, but this is a common condition in the high tech manufacturing space where holding your cards close is associated with competitive advantage.

    That mentality is a significant challenge for some companies. Overcoming the built-in fear associated with being beaten to market is tricky.

  • Jeff Stolarcyk

    For just two letters, that 'in' is important. The entire game changes if the preposition gets changed to 'of'.

  • Jodi Kaplan

    Three more short, powerful words:

    Let me help.

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  • Beach Betty PR

    Thanks Chris for reminding us that one person can't do it all alone. It takes community. That's been a common theme in the blogosphere lately but an important one.

  • pamcourt

    I can't wait to call my mom and tell her once again she was right! Simple truth, yet very impactful and easy to execute. Thanks!

  • DShan

    I think many spend too much time concerned with what they want their ideal community to be, as it relates to their business goals, and lose site of who they might be IN their community or the communities that exist already.

    Planning a party is great, and gives you lots of influence over the type of party you have and who gets invited.

    What it doesn't guarantee is that you'll be the most memorable person at the party, or even likable, for that matter. It doesn't mean you'll be included in the most meaningful conversations. In fact, you might be so busy making sure there's enough food and drink for everyone that you miss the party altogether.

  • Gilda Bonanno

    Thank you for reminding us about the power of community in sharing ideas and yes, even in making money. I belong to the National Speakers Association where our belief is that when one professional speaker is successful, he or she doesn't take a bigger piece of the pie than other speakers – instead, the whole pie gets bigger for all professional speakers.

    And thanks also for reminding us about the power of words, especially the right word. As Mark Twain said, “The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter–it's the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.”

  • Angela Connor

    Here's a portion of the comment I posted over on Chris' blog where he relates getting others to build your community to Tom Sawyers efforts of getting others to whitewash his fence It seems right to share it here as well:
    You have to be one of the biggest participants in the community to make it a success. I tell all community managers and those interested in becoming one that you have to be prepared to contribute the most and have the most passion about the community. Sure, influencers will come, people will embrace the community and treat it as their own. That’s great. But those people can go just as easily as they come and that is what we must be mindful of. So even if you do somehow get people to paint your fence, so to speak…chances are they won’t finish the job. “
    You're right Chris B. Participation is key. You HAVE to be in the mix, contributing and putting in the time. That's work, but the payoff is big. I can preach that because I do it daily.
    Angela Connor | @communitygirl

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  • Steve

    I was really looking forward to watching that video (I included their hip video down below.) But I didn't see a link?

  • Ryan Biddulph


    It's easy to get caught up in the whole leader/follower thing. Many focus on hierarchy but the reality is *team.* Everybody works together. Without followers a leader isn't too useful. The same holds true the other way around.


  • Glenn

    Another killer post and I know that sharing and community are the way. It would be nice to know how RH became a billion dollar company if they are giving away their products. For most of us that spells red.

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  • Elizabeth Cottrell

    Wow…I know you were thinking business models when you posted this, but this resonates powerfully with those of us who also work with community foundations all across the country…”connecting people who care with causes that matter.” Cool stuff…

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    You share our ideas about the power of yes and Community Thanks for the reminder, even make money. I of the National Speakers Association, where we believe that success is a professional speaker, other speakers than he or she does not take a big piece of pie – all professional speakers instead of the whole pie gets bigger for .

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    Technology let’s us share things…. but it was the technology which allowed us to share more. With out the Firefox shareaholic button I doubt I would be as much of a linking junkie but I try and help my established community.

    I think you need to blend the model to get the job done. You can never do it alone. Which is why relationships are born.

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