Is the future a “Murmuration” of people, things and organisations? A look at the new frontier of collaboration.

I think that most of us are aware of the benefits of collaboration – after all, that is the whole point of ng Connect. We know that pure competition is a zero-sum game (if one gains, another loses) but what many of us are not aware of is the profound synergy between the ng Connect collaboration ethos and the bigger picture of what is happening in our world.

Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License  by  Magharebia

All around us we see the principles of collaboration emerging in the form of new models to replace our traditional Industrial Age institutions. We’ve seen the Jasmine Revolution which has been a revolution of revolutions – no leader, no dictate or doctrine, just a body of people collaborating through social media to reboot their institutions. We know about empowered patients who take their health care into their own hands and solve health problems via collaborative patient networks – in some cases saving their own lives.  And collaboration can change business models such as the Chinese motorcycle Industry which produces one third of the world’s motorcycles with no dominant OEMs and many small businesses collaborating through the Internet. These factors, together with concepts such as crowd funding, show that this new way of working is already happening. Collaboration is becoming the new way of life.

In many ways the “old way” is typified by our approach to Intellectual Property (IP) and the way we protect it.  For example according to Don Tapscott in his inspirational MacroWikinomics lecture, the music industry in the United States lists suing music lovers as its third most important source of income, contrasted to Nike’s GreenXchange where IP is shared for mutual benefit. Difficult issues, of course, come to light but there is certainly change in the air and one that many will argue is overdue. What better illustration of our broken systems than the recent banking crisis?

My vision of the Internet of Things (IoT) fits with this thinking. I see a hyperconnected world enabling a new age of collaboration between people, things and our environment, improving our quality of life. It’s a big vision, and one that may seem a way off, but after all the future is futuristic!

If you have not seen the incredibly beautiful and moving natural phenomenon that is “murmuration of starlings”, check out this video below.

Being fortunate enough to live on the Severn estuary in England, I have seen this for myself many times. Don Tapscott talks about the parallels with this new age of collaboration and likens the starling’s behaviour to a “state of being aware or informed”. The parallels are interesting, in that the IoT finally promises to take that extra step from pure connectivity to intelligent connectivity, not just “knowing” everything about our surroundings, but collaborating based on this information and taking positive action to improve our lives.

I think we are heading to a new type of equilibrium in our business world. In game theory, equilibrium is achieved when no player can benefit by changing their strategy while the other players keep theirs unchanged. However, the point is that in our traditional model, reaching equilibrium does not necessarily mean the best payoff for all the players involved, but in many cases all the players might improve their payoffs if they could somehow agree on strategies different from the equilibrium. And how might we do that? By collaborating of course, via programmes such as ng Connect.

Rob Parkes

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