In 1968, Internet visionaries J. C. R. Licklider and Robert Taylor described a brave new world “linked” by computers.
In a few years, men will be able to communicate more effectively through a machine than face to face.
What will on-line interactive communities be like?
In most fields they will consist of geographically separated members, sometimes grouped in small clusters and sometimes working individually. They will be communities not of common location, but of common interest.
You will not send a letter or a telegram; you will simply identify the people whose files should be linked to yours and the parts to which they should be linked—and perhaps specify a coefficient of urgency. You will seldom make a telephone call; you will ask the network to link your consoles together.
You will seldom make a purely business trip, because linking consoles will be so much more efficient. When you do visit another person with the object of intellectual communication, you and he will sit at a two-place console and interact as much through it as face to face.1
Today, thanks to technologies that are no longer even at the leading edge, Licklider and Taylor's vision has become reality. For a virtual community (p.126) to work together successfully over long distances, you don't need the latest Internet gadgets. As we saw with my friend Tom Ojanga in chapter 3, for instance, even a parliamentary campaign in a developing country can be conducted over long distance. Ojanga's case is a convincing example of how a fully operational collaborative innovation network (COIN) can be set up and operated using nothing but e-mail accessed from Internet cafés.
The following three appendixes explore how the vision expressed above can be combined with COINs. While it may appear that COINs seem to come to life serendipitously at the initiative of intrinsically motivated individuals without organizational blessing, the good news is there are actual strategies an organization can employ to uncover, cultivate, and nurture fledgling COINs to become more effective. In fact, there are even things individuals can do to become more productive COIN members.
The appendixes offer advice for how to be a better COIN member, how to support fledgling COINs, and, most important, how to apply COIN principles in conventional organizations. Appendix A shows how organizations can leverage their COINs and combine customers and suppliers into a seamlessly integrated value network by embedding the COINs in a broader ecosystem called a collaborative knowledge network. Appendix B introduces the temporal communication flow analysis (TeCFlow) visualizer software tool, which gives organizations a simple way to discover COINs by analyzing the evolution of individual, departmental, and enterprise-wide communication patterns. Finally, appendix C introduces knowledge flow optimization (KFO) as a means (a) for organizations to reassign COIN tasks and (b) for individuals to become efficient COIN members and fully leverage their skills as creators, collaborators, and communicators.
(1.) Licklider and Taylor, “The Computer as a Communication Device” (1968).