Henry Ford's famous dictum that the public could have any color automboile it wished as long as the color was black has since given way to its philosophical opposite: "We have to to stop marketing makeable products and learn to make marketable products."
At last, however, the dangers of too much reliance on this philosophy are becoming apparent. As two Canadian researchers have put it, "Inventors, scientists, engineers, and academics, in the normal pursuit of scientific knowledge gave the world in recent times the laser, xerography, instant photography, and the transistor. In contrast, worshippers of the marketing concept have bestowed upon mankind such products as new-fangled potato chips, feminine hygiene deodorant, and the pet rock..."
Deferring to a market-driven strategy without paying attention to its limitations is, quite possibly, opting for customer satisfaction and lower risk in the short run at the expense of superior products in the future.
This is from an essay by Robert Hayes and William Abernathy on the decline of American competitiveness published in 1980. It's still getting (re-)published in print today. Today it can be really hard to get people's minds around the idea of marketing makeable products.
Switching gears (ahaha, oh the puns never stop!), did you know that in 1970 Toyota had a 2% market share in the U.S. car and light truck market and only managed to edge it up to 3% by 1980, 8% in 1990 and 9% in 2000. It took over 30 years of persistence to hit double digits in that market. They are now the world leader in automobile manufacturing with a larger market capitalization than GM, Ford and DaimlerChrysler ... combined.
There is a Japanese word for this approach: jojo. Slowly, gradually and steadily. They combine it with ostentatious vision (to develop dream cars that honestly sound god damn amazing but completely unrealistic to me =) and a commitment to the "basics" like quality, defining a culture and continuous improvement (kaizen) paired with revolutionary change (kakushin). Toyota's success, it seems, has been realized through a relentless commitment to broad system thinking over the long haul.
What does this have to do with KDE? Everything. Reading about Toyota's history, current challenges and philosophy gave me goose bumps more than once as there are so many parallels in the challenges they faced and continue to face and where we are as a project. I have to say that I like how they are going about things as an organization (without getting into the larger issues surrounding globalization) and think there is much for us to learn there.
Ok, I'm done rambling for today (but it's such a beautiful day outside!) and am off to implement a proper background system for plasma ...