Collaborative Innovation and Collective Intelligence


I recently had the great pleasure of writing this article with Doug Solomon.  Titled "Leadership and Innovation in a Networked World", and published by the MIT Press’s innovations journal,  this essay takes a look at what’s happening to the state of the art of getting stuff done in a world where having meaningful interactions with people via things like Google Docs, iSight video cameras, and yes, even World of Warcraft, has become an everyday reality.  Here’s the heart of the article:

Unfortunately, by seeking the rare brilliance of a limited few instead of the statistically likely success of the connected many, the “lone genius” worldview has limited our ability to make meaningful progress in everything from technology, to organizations, to education, and all the way to society. We’ve done very little to systematically develop technology to support the innovation process. Overall, we are still in the “horseless carriage” days of living in a truly networked world. We can do better, but how do we begin to engage this new way of being? We believe a path to the future can be found by paying conscious attention to evidence of what works in the world today, and by asking the following questions as we work:

  • What are some of the enabling collaborative tools available today?
  • What lessons can be learned from organizations doing networked innovation?
  • How do things get done in a networked world?

Writing this essay was a chance to learn by doing.  Though Doug is a colleague of mine at IDEO, and we sit in the same building, we almost never see each other because we’re always off cranking on some interesting, but separate, project.  That, plus the fact that we’re both crazy busy, led us to use Google Docs to help us write the article in a collaborate way.  We began the essay at 11pm in the lobby of a hotel after the first day of the Fortune iMeme conference, and then proceeded to write it whenever we each had time.  For me, that meant waking up at 5am on a Sunday for some quiet working hours, or writing a few lines while sitting, delayed, on the tarmac at DFW.  Over 744 (!) revisions later, Doug and I had what I hope passes for a coherent essay, and during all those days of writing, we only worked face-to-face two or three times.  There’s something to this technology-enabled collaboration stuff.