Quick mention of an extracurricular activity that turns out to be quite relevant to our work here at Collective Next…
Before I joined Collective Next last year, I worked on a profile of Stephen Wolfram for strategy+business. It just got published. The idea behind the profile was to write about Wolfram not as a scientist or as the man behind such products as Mathematica and Wolfram|Alpha, which has been done 10 zillion times, but as the idiosyncratic and very successful founder and CEO of an idiosyncratic and very successful company. I had a lot of room to riff on everything from Isaac Newton’s back-cover book-quote policy to what it’s like to run a company via the phone. But the core of the profile, which I didn’t realize when I started reporting it, was showing a bit of how Wolfram succeeds as a remote CEO without being remote as a CEO:
“The practices Wolfram the man uses to lead Wolfram the company are anything but conventional. He’s best known for his technical discoveries, but his most ingenious invention may turn out to be a successful company that he built around his own idiosyncrasies: his decisions about where to work, when to work, how to work—in a nutshell, his insistence on building a corporate culture that behaves a lot like he does.”
We’re often told which rules we need to follow if we want to succeed at being a leader; it’s refreshing, for a change, to spend some time with someone who has succeeded in building a collaborative culture around his own weirdness.
And now, even though it’s not at all relevant to the article, I share with you this photograph, in which MacArthur Fellow and TED speaker Wolfram stands alongside former Guns N’ Roses guitarist Slash, who probably hasn’t read all 1,192 pages of Wolfram’s A New Kind of Science: