With the discussion around Making Actionable Sense I and II, I think we are really entering uncharted waters. That means tough questions are to be answered.
Ross Mayfield has kindly offered the use of a SocialText space to explore further. At the same time a good way for me to play around with Wiki’s.
Next to that I’ve been discussing this via e-mail with Lilia Efimova and Martin Roell.
Martin asks the following highly important questions:
Ok we should collaborate, or better we feel we want to, but why exactly should we do that? What are our individual goals? Do they match so much that we can actually be effective together?
Do we have enough overlap to be able to devote a sizeable amount of time and energy , and make it contribute to our work and results now? As with Martin my work is not research or writing, taking part in those are the extras. My current income comes from billeable projects and hours with clients, and that will be all the more demanding if I succeed in becoming an independent advisor.
Nevertheless those are the most obvious types of activities to collaborate on, research and writing, and the ones that open up new ways that will possibly provide income in the future.
Also let’s not forget that most of what we are blogging is the frontline of our thinking, and that in it’s turn is at the frontline of what is changing in the world.
Knowledge work and thought-leadership are much the same thing, I agree with David Gurteen.
A lot of us are not just early technology adopters, but early social adapters as well: in my view our thinking is already aiming to respond to changes that most people will not see on the horizon for years to come. And that is not because they are stupid and we are so bright, it’s just that it so happens that part of our abilities lie there.
Being at the frontline does not generate you business with main stream clients, especially the SME’s that form the bulk of them, even worse it might very well be frowned upon as idealistic, unrealistic, and ‘just not how the world works’. If it wasn’t for my international network of fellow bloggers and colleagues at KnowledgeBoard I by now would probably believe that I was the village idiot with my thoughts on KM, instead of becoming surer and surer that my ideas do hold value but that that value is still largely obscure to the general public and thus to our prospective clients.
So how do we find the overlap in our work we can do together, without taking a chunk out of current income? Either by doing it in spare time or by finding applications that pay now. Presenting subsets of bloggers as networks that collectively offer services might be a way of doing that. Hiring one of us then means hiring the network as a whole. A broad international experienced network that finds it’s geographically local outlet in one of the networks individuals.

Several initiatives I’m aware of implicitly or explicitly try to do that.
Personally I think this has potential as it combines the best of the independent single consultant (geared to the problem, not to off the shelf copies of previous solutions, flexible, versatile, agile) and the bigger consultancy organisations (authority by wider reputation, explicit bodies of knowledge e.g. toolkits), and might even turn out to be the basic enterprise model of the future: ad hoc virtual organisations of people from within a wider network, emerging around a specific question or issue, melting back into that wider network after the need has been fulfilled. These types of organisations are intrinsically geared to delivering value, not to merely furthering their own continuity. It’s the network that needs to survive and grow to sustain its individual members, the organisations are the blosoms on the tree (or less poetic but more to the point: the mushrooms on the mycelium).

Moving as a network requires some shared set of values (which I think are already partly present in the blogosphere) but it will give your (prospective) clients a better outlook on what to expect from you. Consultants are points of reference for clients, making the network visible gives them the consultants point of reference as well.

Do we have similar goals, probably some of us do, but not all of us, and not all the time. I am pretty sure however that that will not have to be an obstacle, as we are already in our blogs used to all of us having our own agendas. We acknowledge that in our blogging practice, and so it is already part of the built-in traits of our blogging ecosystems. We will have to identify the overlapping goals and build our thematic and ad-hoc organisations around that. We will then become part-time colleagues, and colleagues to others for different other portions of our time, while continuously being part of the larger network.

7 reactions on “Making Actionable Sense III

  1. Succinct analysis of some key issues. Who said “Don’t mistake a clear view for a short distance”?
    There’s enormous value in raising a far-reaching vision, testing it, pushing it, and encouraging others to join the ride. But the gulf between where we are and that visionary end point is huge. To get there will require hundreds, maybe thousands, of intermediate changes in technical, cultural, and social realms.
    It is natural that sometimes we will get impatient. For me it is about keeping enough of the vision in mind to know where I’m going, but to ratchet it down to where there is tangible value for the people I work with every day.
    I have high hopes, but realistic expectations, for some of the ad hoc organizations we are now playing with. However they work out, I’ve no doubt that they will help us all move down our paths to the future.

  2. Ton Zijlstra has been reflecting

    Ton Zijlstra has been reflecting on muliple conversations among bloggers on how to collaborate to do work. He discusses a model where groups of freelance consultants join together to work on specific client problems, in groups that dissolve and reform…

  3. Blognetze zu virtuellen Organisationen

    Ton Zijlstra denkt weiter �ber “Making Actionable Sense” nach und fasst Gedanken, die im Mailwechsel mit Lilia Efimova und mir enstanden sind in einem langen Blogeintrag zusammen. Die gro�e Idee…

  4. The scenario you describe is viable and works, I can attest to this first hand, although I found it only worked in one specific scenario: The Client must have nothing to hide.
    As soon as they fall for the pompous absurdity of the NDA(Non Disclosure Agreement), they cut their own throats and seal their own fates. Sorry for the blunt analogy, but it’s been invariant in every NDA-attended contract I had over 23 years, and after that much reliability over that much time, you begin to suspect there may be a pattern.
    In my other contracts, where there is nothing to hide because the differentiator was the service (rather than the plumbing), every client was amazed how fast things just came together. The reason for the speed, of course, is the combined effect of parallel processing with matching the right task to the right know-how by exercising good know-who.
    parallel distributed expertise
    In my early contracts, this was primarily on art shows; I could openly discuss any requirement of an Udo Kasemets piece with anyone in my network, without any fear that Udo’s “intellectual property” would be compromised. Similarly on my contracts for academics and scientists where having the result was more important than owning the machine that gets it. The freedom to be ad-hoc is extremely important because, of all those black dots behind me, I don’t really know who among them will be necessary for completing what specific contract component. The red dots change over even very short time frames, sometimes one dot defers to another, sometimes a dot you ask for a reference surprises you; you need the freedom to ask anyone.
    Then came opensource. With Free Software, there is no threat to the so-called “Intellectual Property” because no one will get the edge. Open Source is what the cold war once called detante, it is assurance of a balance in commercial power among peers. Because the code is open and free, you can discuss your client’s project on the mailing lists, in Usenet, at LUG meetings, even with other clients, and invariably someone would have at least partial solutions that could be strung together to get the work done.
    Maybe it’s an America-at-war thing, but sadly, increasingly, on this side of the pond and in the past two years especially, all my clients have turned their back on this collaborative advantage. All have become obsessed with owning the means far above achieving any ends, almost as if the success of the project doesn’t even really matter anymore. Even where closed ownership is completely irrational (why does a national broadcaster need competitive advantage in news-story data-entry software?) in their paranoid delusions of greed, they have erected inpenetrable IP Curtains, dug deep lawyer-infested moats around their business plans, veiled everything in a cloak of secrecy, and invariably every last one has lost their shirt or simply failed to deliver any product — they all learn the hard and painful way how creating good software is astonishingly expensive, but creating bad software is even more so.
    I am at once amused and disgusted to see even those who were once big supporters of your Ad-Hoc Org via free-software contracting methodology are today, in this deepest of dark markets, getting starry-eyed dreaming how, if they could just own everything they will so quickly become so fantastically rich — it must be a tin-pan-alley depression-era mentality, as not one can cite a single successful and sustainable real-world example yet they remain undeterred in their holy quest — in many ways, they remind me of the middle-managers and telephone sanitizers at the end of Doug Adams’ Hitchiker’s Guide who declared leaves to be money and began stuffing their clothes with fallen leaves in a vain attempt to hoard more than their neighbour!

  5. Knowledge networker skills: ‘getting more’ and ‘giving up’

    One more piece from Mark Fletcher’s blog “cit”I haven’t posted in awhile because I’ve been busy.

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