"We’re optimizing for happiness," declares Tom Preston-Werner, CEO of GitHub. "We’re not doing this just for the money." If you’ve never heard of GitHub, you should—and you will. One of our Most Innovative Companies for 2013, GitHub occupies a key place in the world of open-source software development. And software, more and more, is at the heart of every business.
Hackers and coders have long been positioned as outsiders, sometimes by dint of stereotype, sometimes by self-definition. The developer community has its own idiosyncratic rules and mores. There are few resources that bridge the divide between business and developers.
Things used to be this way for designers: They were aesthetes who didn’t really understand business imperatives; they were helpful to check in with or to tart up a finished product, but not central to financial success. Today, thanks to the likes of Apple and J.Crew, top execs recognize the primacy of creativity across all parts of an organization. That’s one reason millions of readers visit our Co.Design site each month. (We’re now accepting submissions for our annual Innovation by Design Awards.)
We think software creators deserve a similar platform for attention and scrutiny, and that software is a discipline every businessperson needs to build proficiency in. It’s why earlier this year we launched a site called Co.Labs, dedicated to the ongoing, iterative software development at the core of so many innovative ventures—and not tech gadgetry. (Goodness knows, there are plenty of sites focused on that area.) Stories on the site range from how Etsy attracted 500% more female engineers to what American startups can learn from the cutthroat Chinese software industry. The launch itself occurred at South by Southwest Interactive, which draws tens of thousands of people to Austin—not just coders but also product makers and marketers, who are increasingly recognizing the centrality of ones and zeros across the business landscape.
Which brings me back to GitHub. It may not be a household name in your household, but in the community of developers, it is every bit as totemic as the first iPod was for product designers. It is a window into an increasingly important world. We plan to open this window ever wider at Co.Labs. Come by for a peek.
A version of this article appeared in the May 2013 issue of Fast Company magazine.