Personal vs. Corporate

A corporation is a legal fiction designed to create an impersonal — or rather, a non-personal — entity. The idea was (still is) to protect the assets of the individual from business losses. So there is a requirement to separate the finances of the individual from the finances of the corporation. When people forget to do so, and it makes the news, it is usually in the context of the types of abuses which brought us Sarbannes-Oxley — the officers who dip into the corporate till for personal gain. Clearly, in that context, mixing corporate and personal interests is a bad idea.

But what about those people who mortgage their homes to start a business?

And what about the creativity and energy and passion and education that people bring to work? That they owned before they took the job?

In the last century, we’ve worked hard to try to separate the professional from the personal. The larger the company, the more aggressively the separation is sought (with rare exceptions).

I’m unconvinced that this is a good thing. In fact, I believe that the greater part of what motivates the Open Source movement is the desire to bring the personal back into the workplace — a hearkening back to the family business. This is why it continues to be referred to as the Open Source community. The community refers to the individuals who participate, and not their employers. The expectation is that if an individual changes employers, that will not (necessarily) affect her participation in any Open Source projects.

And that sensibility — the personal versus the corporate — which makes the idea so attractive to the individual, is the same sensibility which makes it so threatening to most corporations. It involves ceding control to your employees. It involves letting your employees bring their personal passion and creativity and energy into the workplace.