You heard it all before. We´re going through a paradigm shift, which calls for a new thinking. However, as with all paradigm shifts the location of power gets shifted. From what I´ve understood of what´s going on now the locus of power shifts from the centers of the networks towards the periphery of the networks. A lot of developers have already made this new thinking into a way of life and thus are interesting specimens to study for any CEO who want´s to get a grasp of where things are going.
With a little help from my friends (and former enemies)
You are faced with a new situation, you need to get some new skills or have gotten stuck with a problem you cannot solve. And you don´t want to cause unnesseary commotion amongst your superiors who most probably have less ability to even grasp the problem anyhow. You would need a peer to discuss the problem with or someone to learn from. Yo reeally have got three options depending on your company´s situation: either you´ve got colleagues to team up with, get the appropriate people to see the need to hire such (and wait patiently) or you reach out to the peripheral networks with friends, unknowns and probably even some competitors. You find them at meetup groups where you really get to know them face-to-face, but that isn´t very effective when it comes to just exhanging knowledge
Millions of developers use online places like Github (repository for code) and Stackoverflow (forum for geek-related questions and answers). What if your documents, presentations and spread sheets will end up in a Github-like place in the near future? Unthinkable that your consulting reports and strategy documents that you consider your most valuable product of your work would go that way? Maybe, but that´s probably what most developers working on proprietary software companies would have said a decade or so ago. And what the media and record industries is right in the middle of experiencing right now. So, maybe just for little intellectual exercise – think about it for a while.
The distribution of ideas and knowledge is where the Internet shines. Believe me, there IS a network where you will find the right people to ask. Not necessarily the right information, yet – but definately thhe right people to ask. Because, it seems like people that care or take an interest in what they do a) are mostly happy to share their knowledge and b) flock together with other people both online and offline. The proverbial network society is really just nerds from all corners of society let loose and empowered by new technologies to be nerds together. It´s not communism, mind you – business and commerce will keep on being the engine and rationale for society just like it has been since clever guy got the idea to put a fence around a piece of land and claimed ownership and special rights to use it. This paradigm shift isn´t about the abandonment of commerce, it´s an evolution of it – just like when industrialism changed the playing field and marginalised feudalism. The trick now, just like then is to see what´s coming and adapt to the change.
We´ll be putting dams on rivers for quite a while
I, from time to time, come back to the creation and control of value works in this emerging playing field slash society. Look at what has happened to the creation and control of value in the IT industry. The old logic of control over the value in the form of immaterial property in the form of patents and code created huge fortunes for companies such as Microsoft. And along came the new paradigm logic of collaboration between networks of people and organisations and the code was left “out there” for no-one to control completely. This new form of organisation of resources speeded up innovation and the diffusion of ideas enourmously. For those who thinks and acts according to this new logic
A developer can build a new application in months or even weeks picking snippets of code frrom different places – assemblying into something unique and valuable. By sharing the code and the lessons learned from the project with others the collective capacity to create even more is further strengtened. The true value that can be controlled isn´t really neither the code neither the new knowledge produced. They´re both easily tapped and spread to every corner of the earth with a connected computer.
What will you bring to the innovation table?
What tools you use to produce the products and services you sell will be not only transparent to others, but probably something you teach to others outside the organisational network in order to foster open innovation spaces and attract the best talent to hire. Not even how you´re planning to use the tools to create new stuff will probably be possible to keep a secret since that will be one of your best comptitive advantages – to be thee place where the really interesting and meaningful challenges are taken on – and you willl need to communicate that in order for the magic to work (talent, capital, early adopter customers etc).
So what´s the real resource left, when other knowledge based industries get tempted or forced into applying the same logic (that speeds up both your own and the competitions capacity for innovation)? The people that are able to manuever in the complex and high-velocity environment of open innovation networks will definately do fine. Just as those who comfortable with taking the risk of allowing their businesses be in a constant flux of small and often failing development projects parallell with the hopefully cash-bringing production and sales of yesterdays and this mornings market-matches. One thing is for sure. It will be about the people. And a flock of black swans.