Envisioning and shaping the future of work and business.

Monday, September 7, 2009

This week in links - week 36, 2009

Here are some must reads from last week. The article on innovation is especially interesting as it explains a lot of the current development of the web and information technology, including that it is very hard to describe and predict. Even though many object to using the term "revolution", I have no better word to describe the current events (revolution = fundamental change in power or organizational structures that takes place in a relatively short period of time). One significant aspect of a revolution is that you cannot predict how it will end, what will come next, when you are in the middle of it.

...much of the pace of change today is driven by the modern world’s pervasive and instant global flows of knowledge is largely due to influence of the Web and its billions of two-way touchpoints with nearly a third of the world’s population (including practically all of the developed world). In addition to ultra fast feedback loops that drive real-time action/response scenarios in the marketplace, the Web has also become an incredibly efficient, inexpensive, and easy-to-use delivery system for just about anything that an interface can be wrapped around.

The Web OS has become a fast moving river of business opportunity as the number of credible services with it has mushroomed in the last 18 months. Having the processes in place to evaluate and exploit this environment to connect with and tap into compute power, infrastructure, software, workers, knowledge, and innovation in time frames that are useful will be one of the signature challenges for traditional businesses seeking to harness what is turning into the richest accessible set of business inputs in history.

A new book by W. Brian Arthur, a pioneer in the area of positive feedback in economics, argues that genius is overrated and technology drives its own innovations.

The book's basic argument is that new technology is just combining old technologies in new ways. And all technology is, at its core, simply the harnessing of nature and its manifold phenomena for human needs.

The Nature of Technology is also about the ways in which technological evolution has a self-creating logic of its own. For one, innovation is path dependent — that is, existing technologies define what can come next. For example, when the modern microchip becomes a standard building block, it defines both the possibilities and limitations of a generation of inventions.

For another, all technologies create new problems. And these new problems call for new technological solutions.

The current new economy seems especially difficult to describe and predict. We are now entering into the era of digitization and networked interconnectivity, very different from the machine-based production of the previous economy. "The economy is acquiring a nervous system," Arthur said. "One hundred years ago, everything was done locally. Suddenly everything is hooking everything into everything else."
"The Future of Email" by Doron Aronson:
Email has been the central form of communication for over a decade and the bulk of corporate data is still stored in email. Yet, email today exists in a silo. Email communications are not readily shared across content collaboration platforms.In its next evolution, email will remain at the heart of communication but it will be tightly integrated with a variety of collaboration approaches. For example, any email content can be shared through any social networking mechanism with a single click. Conversely, social networking content can be immediately published for a pre-defined email community. Email integrated with social collaboration becomes a tool for both ad-hoc and process-driven workflow, from brainstorming to supply chain management to project monitoring to community interaction. And companies can feel comfortable endorsing these new modes of collaboration because communications and sharing of content can be managed by secure policies and appropriate control of access rights.
P&G and Cisco make widespread internal use of videoconferencing, collaboration tools.

"We connect in clicks, with video anywhere and work everywhere, so work is not a place but something you do," said Laurie Heltsley, director of global business services at Cincinnati-based P&G. "The ultimate IP [Intellectual Property] we have is [our] people and the collection of their expertise and everything associated with their identity."

With 138,000 workers in 80 countries, the $80 billion consumer products giant now finds collaboration tools to be a vital part of the business, she said. "It is an absolute necessity to be able to collaborate every day. We have a mandate to brainstorm, to listen, to innovate, where competition is fierce."

Rick Hutley, vice president of Cisco's Internet business solutions group...agreed with P&G's Heltsley about the abiliy of collaboration to bring internal experts together. "We have virtual experts, because we don't have enough experts to be in enough places enough of the time," he said. "There's a huge opportunity to leverage skills and expertise you already have in your company, but the problem is finding it.


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