2006/12/23

Why Collaborate?

"Without outside stimulation it was hard to break free of his own assumptions. One mind can think only of its own questions; it rarely surprises itself."

This quote is from Ender's Shadow, by Orson Scott Card. When it was spoken aloud by my computer today, whilst playing the Overdrive audiobook version of the above book, it explained clearly a major reason for collaborating with others. There are a few people who work best by themselves and can produce unique and powerful contributions when laboring in solitude. Those types of people will often come up with breakthrough ideas and 'eureka' insights. Most of what is accomplished in the world, however, is best accomplished by people working together.

A somewhat nebulous, and until now unstated, goal of mine is to get to know enough of the right people to form a critical mass of innovative, entrepreneurial and technology-focused individuals. This goal is a natural outgrowth from, and result of, my exposure to and (limited) understanding of a number of concepts, including the following:
  1. Schumpeter's swarming theory and ideas about needing a critical mass of entrepreneurs and innovators to bring about the "creative and destructive effects of technological innovation."
  2. The NEW EOS report's call for improved collaboration, entrepreneurism, and networking in northeast Wisconsin.
  3. Friedman's 'Flat World' vision of Globalization 3.0 in which individuals and small groups are key players.
  4. Margaret Mead's quote, "A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."
  5. Malcolm Gladwell's Tipping Point concept of how people are connected through others, combined with Keith Ferrazzi's Never Eat Alone stories and ideas about how much can be accomplished by connecting with people, especially those who have similar or complementary ideas and goals.
  6. Vint Cerf's observation about the importance of "...being immersed in an environment where science and technology was interesting and important."
The network towards which I'm working has not yet reached critical mass, and its growth and maintenance will, I suspect, be a lifelong addition. The emerging network has, however, started to produce glimmerings of what is possible. Several ideas discussed over the past three years have taken root, and others are simmering in the kettle. NEW END, NEW NET, WSMS group, BarCampMilwaukee, BarCampMadison, and a few more have come out of the network. A supercomputer, a new linux gui, Milwaukee Media Lab/Fab Lab, NEW IEI, SpaceCamps, and many others have been discussed and may one day grow and reach for the sunlight. Based on what I've seen, read and talked about with others, there is one thing of which there is no doubt in my mind:

An open source environment with true collaboration between a neural net of hundreds of interconnected innovative, entrepreneurial minds will produce some amazing projects and events!

*****

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