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The 2.0 Business Relationship: Are you investing in your network?

Social media is getting plenty of traction, but I’m still intrigued by its untapped potential, both inside the enterprise and out in open spaces.

Stubbornly, several barriers to adoption remain.

We’ve been chipping away at these hurdles here, first exploring culture in the organization, and then engagement. Those conversations have helped to surface yet another challenge: how to build valuable relationships (call them “virtual” if you must) using social media.

Let’s tee it up this way:

What are the dynamics and limits of “relationship” in a virtual world, where connections are free, global, and easily made? Can true value be achieved? And can we navigate network overload?

We’ll start with traditional business relationships, to set the stage.

Whether inside or outside of organizations, people are constantly meeting, connecting, and communicating. Results will vary. Some will pass each other by completely. Others will move closer together in their thinking and spark a collaboration, or they might hit a snag, and move further apart. It’s all in motion.

A successful organization brings a master plan to the madness. Via work groups, partnerships and/or employment relationships, an enterprise uses structure to bind together groups of people with a shared focus. There’s still that constant flux of relationships: people connecting, communicating, and learning. But if and when coordinated, good things happen, and the organization has a chance to thrive.

The impact of social media.

Our hyper-connected world accelerates and multiply’s our ability to connect with people anywhere. Boundaries of time and place are removed. Whether tweeting or blogging, the potential to meet, share and learn from others – literally around the globe – is unbounded. But there’s a catch. As you start to engage and connections start flooding in, you are soon forced to ask: Should this person be in my network? Should I reach out to them? Or will I be wasting my time?

Up front, there’s really no way to know.

I think most people that exit social media, often in frustration, do so in face of those daunting, never ending decisions. And that’s unfortunate. The possibility of each new social media connection creates a fascinating opportunity. Each connection you make brings the chance to challenge your thinking, expand your horizons, and even to change your path.

Navigating the challenges of network building

What factors will influence the chances of an online business relationship in the 2.0 space? I think it boils down to a couple of key things:

  1. Clarity of your intent. Why are you here? Are you tapping social media and building your network for a reason? Get in touch with that. Share your intentions right up front.
  2. Common ground (context). With intent on the table, establishing common ground is a matching exercise. Search engines and hashtags and communities are all ways to get connected. Believe it or not, this part is becoming easier by the day.
  3. Investing in your network (learning to “time box”). Relationships tend to benefit from ‘going deeper’ but time is increasingly precious. This is where many connections with potential fall short. Set aside an evening, a cup of coffee, a few minutes a day for network building. Put a box around the time commitment. That “time box” can be small, medium or large. Change the time allocation as needed, but make a commitment, to yourself and your network, so they’ll know what to expect.
  4. Dare to adapt. Ultimately, you may find many connections don’t align with your objectives, but don’t be too quick to filter on that. You may find new opportunities or interests by being open minded and flexible.

Sure, building a network via social media can seem overwhelming. But as the virtual world unfolds around us, it’s time to look deeper at its potential to spark new levels of collaboration. We need to think hard about what it will take to build value into our networks.

It’s easier than ever to connect with people online in the 2.0 space.

But the ultimate value – for you and for your connections – is driven by a shared willingness to focus, to set aside a little quality time on a regular basis. Even if it’s in small chunks. A tweet here. A blog comment there. One or two twitter chats. Okay, maybe three.

Are you willing to make an investment?

Pathways for change in the K12 Ecosystem

It’s easy to toss aside the notion of meaningful social change. For starters, you’d have lots of company. But let’s take a look at an area with mounting problems and the highest of stakes:

Un-packing the Challenges of K12 Education

By any measure, our western culture and economy – and within that universe, our education systems – have grown so large and intertwined that we quickly scoff at the notion of doing something to improve them. Countless well-intended efforts have failed. Or they succeed for a bit locally, but then can’t scale. Frustrations mount. Those inside the hardened silos of our aging institutions are just as trapped by their realities as those on the outside.

It’s not a lack of passion or desire. It’s just that, as a society, we’ve become overwhelmed by ‘the system’. It’s been going on for a long time – by most accounts, over 100 years. Quite simply, it feels like we’ve lost control, and in some important ways, we have.

What if we changed the rules?

The problem with social, cultural and economic forces – the complex result of human interaction – is that the outcomes don’t align with our intentions. Most of us were reared in a simple (linear, Newtonian) world of ’cause and effect’, and we expect a simple answer to every problem.

Why can’t we just fix schools? Or healthcare? Or the economy?

What we’re learning is that complex systems – especially the human variety – work and behave very differently. We must focus on actors, motivators, outcomes and patterns.

We must attack these problems in a different way.

EcoSys is a social innovation group that started in August 2009. The goal of the group has been to apply a new science – the study of complexity in social ecosystems – to the hardened problems we face as a society.

Intriguing? Ambitious? Yes, on both counts. But open your mind for a moment.

Can you imagine the potential of global thought leaders discovering a focused problem-solving dialog, adding to it, and ultimately building a shared knowledge base of solutions?

Can you imagine an objective exchange of ideas and concerns, shared publicly in the spirit of collaboration, subordinating agendas and special interests in favor of meaningful, scalable innovations?

Can you see social media – Twitter, in fact – as an engine for change, with the connections of each contributor serving as pathways to deeper insight and focused action?

That work is underway, and we’ve posted some K12 progress here.

We’ve still got some work to do on it, as we continue to refine our issue framing.

Are you ready to Engage?  Join us each MONDAY at 9pET using hashtag #ecosys. You can use TweetChat  (try this link), TweetDeck, TweetGrid or HootSuite to join us. Just be sure the #ecosys hashtag is in each tweet, and search on that tag.  Bring your insights and an open mind. It’s free, unaffiliated, and destined to make a difference.

How do we know?

Because 3 years in and some +40,000 tweets later, our topics are gaining traction and spontaneous conversations are starting to break out. We call that momentum. And we’re working to take a step to the next level.

Stay tuned. And welcome to the K12 ecosys.

Original framing blog
Full process
EcoDNA (our first emergent innovation)
EcoSYS founders

The DNA of Collaboration: Unlocking the Potential of 21st Century Teams (where Ecosys is a case study)

Mind Maps 101

Everybody makes lists. It’s how we organize things. In fact, lately, I’ve had so many balls in the air that I’ve been making lists of lists. I guess its multi-tasking at its best.

What if we could create a list of lists visually, and put them online?

That’s pretty much what a Mind Map does, and the technology is taking off. I am by no means an expert, but I see the ability to visually organize our insights and our subject matter as powerful. If carefully constructed, important relationships are intuitive.

Here’s an example. If you’re like me, it’s getting harder to keep track of which topics and people are associated with the expanding universe of Twitter chats. So I used mind mapping to create a sample PDF; a thumbnail is shown here:

MindMap

MindMap Sample - SM Innovation

My map shows two primary chat groups #SMCHAT and #INNOCHAT, which, collectively, focus on how we can tap social media to drive innovation. It all seems to center around collaboration, so that’s in the middle. My personal depth in this space is on the social media aspect, so I focused there. I thought through the various aspects of SM, and devised related branches. As moderator of #SMCHAT, I’ve watched topics “emerge” over the last 5 months, so those relationships became apparent fairly quickly. In the 2-page PDF (version 1.2b), I fleshed out the space a bit more, showing related chats and hashtags. I added references to group leads and TweepML stakeholder lists (there’s that word again!), then saved it as a PDF.

A mind map like this one can help you navigate subjects and, if cross-referenced with resources, perhaps even help you to identify subject matter experts (or “SME’s”).

To address some potential questions:

Why the blank lines coming out of #INNOCHAT? That chat is redrafting its charter; watch for updates. No details on some branches? Those are areas I know less about, or in the case of Enterprise 2.0, I’m showing them to create some context and to spark more discussion. Do you disagree with some of my lines? No problem. Let’s collaborate, and we’ll fix them.

See how easy?

On Wednesday, 10/28 at 1pET, #SMCHAT will be all about Mind Maps. We’ll use this time to discuss what you can do with these exciting new visualization tools. I’ve invited a couple of experts, including @chuckfrey, @litemind and our own @jkloren to share what they can.

If you’d like to experiment with an open source (free) tool, take a look at XMind.

And this just in: a great interview w/ Mind Map expert Chuck Frey, super insight for the mind map chat.

I’ve roughed out an agenda and will share it shortly. That is, if I can remember what list I wrote it on. Hope you can join us.

Chris (@SourcePOV)

What’s Next at ECOSYS?

[Overview. Since August, the ECOSYS public collaboration team has been developing an approach to frame problems and solutions in social ecosystems like Education (#EDU) and Healthcare (#HCR). Prior posts in this thread introduced the ECOSYS framework describing the building blocks of our process model.]

On MON 11/2 we started framing our EDU Issues. Progress to date:

Areas we have touched on are in yellow. Most recent updates are in orange. Considerable work remains, but we’ve begun to attack the core challenge of rigorous framing.

On MON 11/16 we reviewed the ARRA Federal Stimulus model for Race to the Top to understand ECOSYS impacts. From our master list, we developed a cross reference showing problems that appear to have less RTTT priority:

  • P1 Learning Culture
  • P2 Incentives
  • P5 Workforce/Jobs
  • P6 IEP/Custom Curriculum

One line of thinking: we can add the most value by addressing these areas. To help further frame these issues and potential solutions, we think it’s critical to provide strong ecosystem definitions, so we’ll continue to maintain high priority for:

  • P7 EDU Ecosystem

What do you think? Do you have ideas on these topics, or our conclusions? We’d love to have you post them here as blog comments. You can also pose new ideas, questions and inputs on priorities to our #ECOSYS tweet stream. Just be sure to use the #ECOSYS hashtag, and we’ll see it.

We connect and engage via LIVE CHAT. This let’s us vet and brainstorm progress and develop solution language in real-time. You are more than welcome to join. Just bring your insights and an open mind. You can access the chat LIVE at the appointed time in a variety of ways, but we recommend TweetChat.

The next ECOSYS LIVE session will be MON 12/7. Time for future meetings is TBD, but meetings to date have been at 8pET. ECOSYS needs diverse stakeholder input, which means we are likely to need your engagement. Meet the team. As always, your ECOSYS contributions are appreciated.

ECOSYS Homework: How to frame our Problem Inventory?

On Monday 10/12 we had a great chat to finalize our Ground Rules. We’ve agreed work on our “process manual” is not completely closed, but we’ve also determined the basic rules are framed well enough for us to the move forward. The next stage? Framing the problems in our social ecosystems.

The team asked what should be done to prep for our next session. Great question! So here we go:

10/19 Assignment 1. What would an Inventory of Ecosystem Problems look like? Obviously, there is more than one problem in each ecosystem, so they’ll need to form a list. But what would each entry on such a list look like? To help you get started, there are some requirements to keep in mind. We need to minimize confusion and ambiguity; a reasonably informed citizen (as opposed to an expert) must be able to recognize the elements, the context of the problem, and the various possible outcomes. And everyone will need to agree on the way it is framed. It’s a lot harder than it may have seemed. If this task was easy, someone would have done it by now.

If you have thoughts, we’d love to have you post them here as blog comments. You can also pose directional ideas or questions in our tweet stream #ecosys or you can post quick clarifying questions on NING.

We will vet and brainstorm answers in our weekly chats until we have a workable approach for constructing a issues inventory. As always, you’re ECOSYS contributions are appreciated.

If you have a heart for social innovation, you’ve come to the right place.

Imagine: A Knowledge Renaissance

Close your eyes, and imagine:

a world where education and learning are priorities, with families planting and nurturing the first critical seeds of curiosity in their children;

a place where businesses of every size and shape focus their talent on innovations that improve the human condition, less obsessed with maximizing dividends and more focused on the triple bottom line of profit, people and planet;

a time when communities are quick to form around the shared values and talents of people around them, when insights are traded as a valuable currency, and information silos are relegated to history books.

It’s one tapestry, really. Can you see the common threads? It’s all about people. In fact, relationships not only matter, they’re at the core. Collaboration is the rule, not the exception. And our cultures embrace knowledge and knowledge sharing at every level.

On Thursday 10/15 in Raleigh, I shared my perspective on a coming Knowledge Renaissance. We discussed how people can tap social processes and technologies, first to find each other, then to collaborate. We also discussed the value of learning, the positive dynamics of human interaction in communities, and the roles we can play to revive learning science.

Let’s face it. Taking on century-old paradigms won’t be easy. We’re gathering up threads for a new tapestry.

I’m pulling together the key takeaways. Meantime, thanks to everyone who came out to participate in the discussion. Stay tuned.

The Path to Enterprise 2.0 (a Virtual Workshop)

Look around your company. Are teams working at cross purposes? Are you seeing good ideas get sidetracked? Do organizational silos and the politics that go with them result in project delays and failures?

You’re not alone.

It’s time to engage with others tackle these challenges and identify new ways to enhance productivity in your organization. You’re invited to participate in a bi-weekly Twitter-based conversation (#e20ws), beginning Tuesday, September 29 at 8 pm ET. We’ll discuss culture, engagement, alignment and technology. And that’s just for starters.

If you need some background on Twitter chats and hashtags, you’ll find that in more detail here.

All corporate professionals are welcome, but teams that generate insights, make connections, and share ideas across the organization will get the most value. These days, that’s almost everybody. But to create some focus: think Marketing, HR, Communications/PR, Customer Service and IT.

As with any public event, you’re responsible for exercising good judgment. Here are some pointed suggestions:

  • never share proprietary information about your company;
  • unless you’re an independent consultant, avoid references to your company in your Twitter ID and profile;
  • if your ID includes corporate branding, add a disclaimer along the lines of “views shared are my own, not necessarily those of my company;”
  • if your company has a social media policy, become familiar with it before engaging in online, public conversations.

In a sense, it’s no different than a regular public conference: you’re under no obligation to speak up. What’s different, however, is that direct, real-time interaction is just a few key strokes away. To access the live chat stream, simply launch the Tweetchat application at the appointed time:

http://tweetchat.com/room/e20ws

That’s it! Now, all you have to do is show up and bring your point of view. Plan to network and learn in real time with some of the most engaging, insightful folks in industry. 20th century silos and workgroup problems have been daunting for everyone. The 21st century is already in progress. We’re saving you a seat.

Chris (@SourcePOV)

A Process for Public Collaboration

Thanks to Jay Smethurst (@jaysmet) for guest posting this week — as we continue to explore new approaches for innovation in complex social ecosystems, I wanted to gain an expert’s perspective on some of the challenges; Jay has an extensive background in collaboration, and was gracious enough to lend some thoughts. CJ 9/14.

Jay Smethurst

The kinds of challenges we encounter in social ecosystems like Chris has described in prior posts require new approaches to developing solutions. I have been facilitating face-to-face collaboration for over a decade, and the design process we use to solve “wicked problems” (link) in the real world is applicable to these social ecosystem challenges as well.

Our face-to-face processes, however, need to be deeply reconceived to leverage the strengths of various social media tools. The goal of this post is to propose a generic design process for solving complex challenges with a widely distributed participant population using social media. For now, let’s table discussion of the specific SM tools that are most beneficial for the different stages of the process, though tools will be central to a viable solution. Naturally, to solve a specific challenge in a specific domain, we will need to tailor the generic process and tools to the particular requirements of the project.

The Project

This entire process begins when someone brings us a problem that requires some new thinking. These problems tend to fall into two categories. The first set of problems are those new problems that haven’t been solved before — new conditions or trends are creating new challenges that require an innovative solution. The second set of problems are those in which two or three camps have firmly entrenched positions about what the solution should be — in this case, the problem often needs to be reconcieved in order to discover new approaches that don’t align with the current us-versus-them models.

Our first challenge, then, is to formulate a very concrete objective for our virtual collaborative process. Generally, our objective is to develop 3-5 options or models of potential solutions, along with an evaluation of each approach. The number of options (3-5) is intended to represent more options than the one or two that are normally on the table already. This allows both “camps” (for the second set of problems) to participate fully, then joyfully thrash the “other side’s model”, yet fully engage in the development and evaluation of one or more new approaches. Because this process does not intend to identify “the best” model (although it often does), it diffuses some of the most volatile politics — we are rigorously evaluating the benefits and costs of several options, not driving any particular agenda. Every participant should find some ideas to like and some to dislike, and they are free (indeed, encouraged) to share those ideas. In such an environment, the extremist rhetoric of both “camps” in an issue tends to lose steam.

The Team

The participants in this process will be divided into two groups – the Core Team and the Extended Participant Group.

The Core Team should consist of 5-10 people with a good mix of expertise and skills. This group should include facilitation expertise, SM experience, and subject matter experts (“SME’s”) representing a variety of stakeholders in the social ecosystem that’s in focus. The Core Team drives and facilitates the entire process, and this group is responsible for delivering the final outputs of the process. The members of the Core Team must be willing to engage in a pretty rigorous design process — exploring different viewpoints and options openly before bringing their judgment to bear. Remember, if anyone had “the answer” already, we wouldn’t need this kind of process to begin with!

The Extended Participant Group includes everyone else who contributes to the process. Ideally, this large, diverse group will engage in an extended design process along with the Core Team. It is possible, however, to engage various stakeholders in this process in limited, non-obtrusive ways. We can invite input and participation at various levels that will all add value to the process. Some stakeholders will want to contribute a lot of time, thought and energy. Others will want only to respond to a survey. Both levels of engagement are to be encouraged and accomodated. The Extended Participant Group will engage in specific tasks and assignments developed by the Core Team. Their input will then be synthesized and incorporated by the Core Team into the next round of activities.

The Process

The generic process for Virtual Collaboration includes eight stages. The different responsibilities and activities of the Core Team and the Extended Group are outlined below.

  1. Process Design (“Calibrate”). The project begins with the recruitment of a Core Team. This team will then translate this generic process into a detailed program for this particular project. They will define the objectives and deliverables and map out the assignments and toolset for the project. The Core Team will begin to promote the project and recruit the Extended Participant Group.
  2. Orient. The purpose of the Orient phase is to set the context for the challenge that is being explored. The Core Team must also orient the Extended Group to the process and tools being used to explore the challenge. A number of methods may be used to Orient a group. An Entity Relationship Diagram asks participants to diagram the flows of information and resources between each stakeholder in a system. In an education system, for example, the stakeholder might include parents, teachers, students, administrators, school boards, communities, businesses, colleges/universities, etc.
  3. Explore. The next challenge is for participants to examine new perspectives and vantage points of the challenge-in-focus. Again, there are dozens of methods that can be used to help a group Explore new perspectives. Groups can look at different aspects of the challenge from different time scales (past, future, fast, slow), from different stakeholders (end users, suppliers, investors, producers, etc.), or metaphorically from different systems (other organizations, industries or living systems).
  4. Build Options (“Prototype”). At this stage, participants must now struggle with solving the “real” challenge, but with certain constraints either imposed or removed. We want participants to “play” with the challenge and to see it in new ways. By imposing or removing constraints on their designs, we help them escape the mental trap of focusing on the barriers to change. Edward de Bono calls this the “intermediate impossible” — by playing with an “impossible” scenario, we might discover some new insight that allows us to design an innovative and workable solution in the real world.
  5. Synthesize. Each participant would then be invited to explore the models that others had developed and share insights, questions and feedback. By looking at the models created in Build and the feedback and insights, the Core Team would then identify 3-5 generic models or solutions to the challenge. The Core Team may also ask the Extended Group or a subset of that group to synthesize this short list of potential solutions. The 3-5 options would then be posted and described in general terms.
  6. Final Build (“Consolidate”). Now we develop the final solutions. The Core Team would then ask the Extended Group to flesh out each of the 3-5 models in detail. How would each model work? What would be the roles and responsibilities of each stakeholder in this model? How could the funding work? How do information and resources flow through the system? The Extended Group could work individually or in teams to develop a detailed model for one of the 3-5 options. (Participants may develop models for multiple options, but we need them to develop distinct and separate solutions for each option at this point.) These models will be posted in a shared space. Ideally, these models would include a visual model of the system, a narrative in text, possibly a quantitative model of how it would work, and a brief (1-2 minute) video of the participant explaining their model. The Core Team then has the enormous task of synthesizing all of the work of the Extended Group into the 3-5 Final Models. The Core Team will polish and publish these models publically and invite comment.
  7. Test (“Rate”; “Validate”). Next we invite public evaluation of the different options that have been developed. At some level, this is the most comfortable interaction for most public discourse — “what do you think of this option?” There are a variety of methods for collecting feedback on these options, and it’s a good idea to gather multiple modes of feedback. Edward de Bono developed the “PMI Tool” (Plus Minus Interesting) to move discussions beyond merely love-it/hate-it. We would ask each participant to list the Plusses of each of the 3-5 models, the Minusses, and the “Interesting features” — those elements or aspects that are novel, different, or just interesting for some reason.
  8. Publish. Finally, the Core Team would synthesize the feedback on the 3-5 models. As the final deliverable, the Core Team would then publish the suite of 3-5 solution models, along with the public evaluations of the PMI for each.

I’ve just described a process that engages a very broad audience in the design and evaluation of novel solutions to complex challenges. This process can be made open to the public on issues of public policy or closed to a more restricted audience for, say, corporate strategy or innovation challenges. At some level, this is a pretty generic design process: Orient, Explore, Build, Test. It is in the application of the generic process to the specific challenge that the difficulties arise. And layering in a social media toolset as the interface for all of these design interactions adds a whole new set of complicating factors.

But the output is something pretty spectacular – a variety of novel options developed and vetted by broad, engaged and informed public. How does this compare to the process for developing public policy today? This creates a much deeper and more nuanced public understanding of the issues and challenges, rather than the overly-simplified, us-versus-them battles of rhetoric that we often see around very complex social challenges. This process requires a deft and dedicated team to facilitate it, and an engaged participant group to contribute their best ideas and insights.

It goes far beyond a chat on Twitter or a discussion thread or a blog post. But the combination of SM tools in service to a sophisticated design process has the potential to raise the level of discussion on hundreds of pressing issues in our sociaty.

So, the question I put to Chris and to you. What will it take to make this work? And what challenge should we tackle first?

Framework for Ecosystem Change (2): Evolution

Below I introduce a framework for Ecosystem Evolution, a collaboration-based process to achieve innovation in our social ecosystems, which includes complex spaces like Healthcare and Public Education.

Our thought process has been evolving since August 2009, and can be tracked in this stream.

This problem-solving approach is intended to be comprehensive in its objectives and capabilities, yet straightforward in its design. It is made possible by incorporating insights from complexity science, as well as the rapid evolution of the social media platform, which allows cross-disciplinary subject matter experts (“SME”s) to work together in an efficient, virtual manner.

Paradigms: the Way Things Work

At the core of this framework is a realization that there is a current way of doing things, and multiple, new, innovative ways of doing things better.

Using paradigms to frame and analyze developing ideas is important, especially in early stages, when the alternative solutions are still formative [1]. It provides an intuitive frame of reference for discussing ecosystems: boundaries, rules, behaviors, and outcomes, all important elements that describe the complex systems we will be tackling. This “way of doing things” (both current and improved) is often the source of significant debate. Semantic challenges abound. Traditionally, problem/solution scenarios are written down in many ways, ranging from pure text (popular in legislation) and napkin drawings all the way to complex diagrams and flow charts, using a multitude of formats and tools. We will need to keep the process focused on ideas and content, not tools.

Due to the complexities of our social ecosystems, the nature of changes involved must go far beyond any notion of incremental adjustments. Contemplating the “game changing” notion of a paradigm shift precedes any fundamental, structural changes in our current paradigms [2]. To innovate, we’ll need to challenge conventional wisdom in each domain, or subject area. This approach will help us achieve that.

Let’s take a look at my proposed Ecosystem Evolution model, which provides a collaborative overlay to the Current State view that I originated in my last blog post.

Ecosystem Framework pt 2

Ecosystem Framework pt 2

The over-arching characteristics of this new model are:

– All stakeholders will have opportunity for input
– Social media plays a critical role as “open collaboration forum” for idea exchange
– Invested producers with a financial stake will have more limited roles
– Consumers (most impacted by ecosystem outcomes) will have a voice in articulating outcomes
– Consumers will get final validation (via “rating”) of proposed solutions
– Several open-loop cycles ensure iterative improvements toward final innovation
– Multiple iterations or “feedback cycles” ensure consensus

There are a couple key points to take away from this.

(1) Actionable Scope (need to be realistic). A framework like this is a representation of a complex set of relationships, interactions, intermediate steps, and deliverables. The simplicity of the model should by no means imply trivial efforts or shallow treatment of the topics. Rather, considerable work is implied. This model creates the process backbone for a series of connected collaboration teams. Further details on “how” will be forthcoming.

(2) Adaptable, Scalable and Efficient. This approach creates the means by which the rigorous and appropriate discussions might evolve uninterrupted, through a “hub and spoke” model of work group replication. In other words, any number of problem-solving teams may be spun off from the core problem team within the ecosystem, to work on sub-issues, and report back. This makes the Ecosystem Evolution process adaptable, scalable, and via multi-tasking, quite efficient. Given the complexity of our ecosystem issues, this is perhaps the ONLY way problem solving could be meaningfully performed.

(3) Focus and Rigor. We will begin to ask the right questions, and record all viable answers.

(4) Meaningful Social Innovation (“disruptive”, and otherwise). Using this model, we can embark on a journey of discovery and social change that has heretofore been unsuccessful. It will be powered by people, connected using social media, supported (with further discussions) by both government and industry, and ultimately, embraced by all stakeholders. Clayton Christensen has made strong and insightful statements about the need for “disruptive innovation” to achieve change from outside ecosystem walls, and the many mechanisms required [3]. I think his vision is the right one, and this Framework intends to achieve it. However, with participation from producers and consumers alike, the degree of “disruption” can be minimized, and simply acknowledged as a working objective. After all, we won’t score a “win” if we create economic chaos. I believe the collaborative approach is the disruptive innovation that has been needed. The approach itself is an innovation in collaborative techniques imagined by Don Tapscott, but not (as yet) fully implemented [4].

(5) Who benefits? First and foremost, it will be the consumer, as this approach is designed to achieve their objectives. But in the end, all stakeholders will win, because we will have created a viable, optimal, balanced approach for delivering services.

This is clearly ambitious. Why am I so optimistic?

Because there are lots of smart people out there. We simply need to engage them to start solving the tough problems.

It’s time for our second test (and this is a non-rhetorical question): Can we make this work?

Notes:
[1] Kuhn, Thomas, Structure of Scientific Revolutions. (1992).
[2] Meadows, Donella. Leverage Points (web, 2008).
[3] Christensen, Clayton. Disrupting Class (2008): McGraw-Hill, Ch.8, pp. 179-196.
[4] Tapscott, Don. Wikinomics (2006): Penguin, Ch.6, pp. 151-182.

Unraveling Complexity (the Missing Link): A new approach for solving problems in Social Ecosystems

For months I’ve been reaching out to colleagues to explore barriers to collaboration, a key tool in the social innovator’s toolbox. Among those queried (and in spite of diverse backgrounds), virtually all had experienced significant barriers to collaboration over the years including silo-thinking, dated and inefficient problem solving models, cultures of control, and a strong, prevailing lack of trust.

Consensus? The barriers to innovation seem to be as universal as they are frustrating.

So something is broken. What is the root cause?

Beth Noveck and David Johnson have published important research on how new Social Media collaboration technologies can change the game. Their perspective on a New Science of Complexity is summarized in this People & Place blog post and explained further in an excerpt from their research. Their focus was the U.S. EPA (including the Federal process for environmental research and legislation) but their conclusion, which I agree with strongly, is that the principles are applicable in business (#e20) and broader social venues (#gov20) as well.

My primary takeaway?  I now believe that INNOVATION IN COMPLEX ECOSYSTEMS will depend on an improved collaboration process – a new middle ground for problem solving – that balances large-scale central organizational approach with grass-roots contributions by individuals. It is about finding the “sweet spot” between rigid structure and adaptive, organic sourcing of ideas. In a new and somewhat uncharted public collaboration space, it means that the forces of organizational scale and leverage can be networked – connected – with discrete centers (or hubs) for contribution to produce more rigorous solutions.

At the core of this thinking? A realization that traditional large-scale organizations (with their central thinking, hierarchical layers, and silos of functional experts) are generally ineffective when dealing with complex situations. Quite literally, they are too rigid. Without the ability to adapt to new variables or to coordinate across silos, grid-lock ensues. And complex social ecosystems are impacted, since “sending in experts” is how we tend to attack these issues. On the list? The well known structural challenges in energy, sustainable food and water sources, public education and healthcare.

What’s needed is an outright paradigm shift in problem solving models that are fundamentally more interactive and cross-functional. And focusing on complexity theory is key, because it begins to unlock some new doors. For one, there must be an organic aspect that allows solution teams to learn, self-correct and grow. And to meet the requirement of connecting people more dynamically, Social Media is the ideal technology. Some examples? Think about experts engaged in live chat. Acceleration of thought synergies. Tools to merge and re-mix knowledge. Ability to leverage and extend dynamic repositories.

With focus and coordination, we can work to find the elusive “sweet spot”.

In terms of naming and framing the problem, the above research makes significant strides. The next step is critical as well, and is just as exciting: in pockets across the internet, the new collaboration is already starting to appear.

Are you seeing it too? Let’s talk, I’ll show you where and how.