Accelerating Innovation | COP's Communities of Practice | Knowledge Innovation | Social Software | Spirals | Strategic Foresight

Unbound Spiral: Collaborative Spaces - Transforming Innovation Capital

June 18, 2003 08:48 PM

How might the growing interest in linking digital identity, blogging wiki's, RSS feeds etc evolve?  How might the emergent functionalities in these tools benefit our evolution and daily experiences. How will they combine and spiral to augment our collective intelligence? How will they reframe the KM knowledge innovation paradigm? For most companies it's happening more rapidly than they think. 

There's a saying "the future is here  - it is just unevenly distributed" (William Gibson). This couldn't be more true when we start to apply it to emerging lightweight knowledge innovation tools and combine it with what we know about mobility, decentralization, hyperconnectivity, online identity etc. 

Yet using the metaphor "standing in the future" we almost inevitably find ourselves reframing the space we compete in today. 

I facilitated the chart below about three weeks ago before going somewhat silent (at least on my blog) when exploring early ideas for transforming a "systems integration business" into an innovation engine.  As the tools paradigm developed we kept spiraling back to the benefits. Each iteration breaking a new frontier, each new technology providing new functionality.   

It's a WIP (work-in-progress) and making the point that all these technologies are already available they are not just effectively connected yet.  For the most part it will be bloggers reading this.  Some have the curiosity to ask:  Is corporate blogging just noise or part of a greater shift.  What about wiki's and the broader aspects of augmented social networks? Etc. 

For my part I've seen no clear model of where corporate blogging is heading.  Yet I firmly believe that blogs are part of the emerging value creation spiral.  The recent wave on posting on wiki's, forums, corporate blogs reaffirm this interest.  Similarly thoughts keep emerging about creativity and innovaton. The underlying thread is a move from systemic innovation to transformative innovation (about which I will define separately).

A few years ago Tom Stewart wrote "Intellectual Capital" and more recently followed it up with "The Wealth of Knowledge".  I'd suggest if we really think about the chart above -- IC /KC merely set us on a pathway.  The (not new) idea of "Collective Intelligence" is just now beginning to reframe how we think about capital and the types of organizations.  We now know that organizations will increasingly compete through their collaborative networks. While it's not just asking better questions -- it's the capability to capture and harness the hidden ones.  More peer driven, more decentralized; almost certainly. 

It's transforming innovation capital (lets not get hung up on definitions of Capital here) simply because what we are now after is hidden.  It is primarily social and these new tools are helping us to uncover the wealth that was always there, always undisclosed, tacit unless tapped, and too infrequently accessed.  Even a small start would include employee who's thoughts or interests you never before knew, to teams doing collaborative manual building, and spontaneous connections enabled through who we know in trusted networks. 

This is nothing less than the beginning for framing tools and an evolutionary path to a  radical shift in the collective intelligence of teams, communities of practice and organizations.

There could be much more to this post.  A little encouragement and a few questions and I might just get back into writing again. 

A little over a week ago I had the pleasure of listening to Doug Engelbart at the Planetworks conference.  Doug's summed up his life's work for the conference: "As much as possible boost mankinds collective capability for coping with complex urgent problems." 

As he developed his view of the world I realized there were similarities to the chart above  -- originally tracing to conversations I'm in with George Por which started and were furthered in France a few weeks ago.  In Doug's chart the frontier (cloud in mine) is constantly changing.  His concepts which I'm still discovering include... The "Hyperscope", "NIC's" - network improvement communities and "DKR's - dynamic knowledge repositories.  They fit easily within the above. 

One word of caution.  This is a somewhat generic chart.  Organizations wanting to explore this space must develop their own pathways augmenting their current competences and enhancing the culture of their organization.  Then having the "foresight" to take this forward begins with a few small bets or prototypes and a few committed individuals.  The key to motivating individuals to participate is creating the clear need for change and building the excitement for what the future might bring. 

Comments (3)

Stuart, this is a brilliant attempt at creating a really neat model for how collaborative spaces can really work to harness and augment collective intelligence. There's loads being written on this topic - yet this is the first piece i've seen that makes me feel it is a model that is really 'workable', even in a corporate set-up, not just among bloggers and KM specialists. And the first to focus not just on the tools or on their benefits - but on both ! Am going to link this for sure. Way to go - i look forward to reading more of your thoughts on this.

Posted by: Dina at June 18, 2003 11:55 PM

Just a small request - can u give us the option of a full RSS feed - i wanted to link to this post in full - and had to cut n paste and upstream the chart ! One click would have been easier :)

Posted by: Dina at June 19, 2003 1:08 AM

Stuart, seems to me that your thinking and synthesis is helping to make clearer the advent of "wirearchy" as a basic organizing principle - hierarchy as the soleorganizing principle for people and groups working together in interconnected ways won't sustain its effectiveness, and network dynamics doesn't, I think, include the fundamental transition that hierarchy must achieve - it must be present for many people to continue functioning in the organizations we live and work in.

My guess is that with the emerging tools, models and dynamics, we will combine and meld hierarchy and network dynamics into a broader and more flexible organizing principle that at its essence acknowledges that there is a two-way flow of power, not just top-down or bottom-up. It will likely be a "both/and" mindset, in which polarities will be an everyday part of the picture.

Have you ever run across the book "Polarity Management - Identifying and Managing Unresolvable Problems" by Barry Johnson ?

Posted by: Jon Husband at June 19, 2003 5:52 AM