Just browsing the December 2012 issue of the Scientific American last night my eyes where caught by the very first lines of text as by-line to the cover on the opening page:

Anyone can have a bright idea, but it takes considerable brainpower (and hard work) to figure out how to transfer an enticing notion into a practical product or process that can improve people’s lives.

Like a carpenter that sees everything as a hammer or a nail, I instantly linked this to my own endeavour to uncover “human collaboration”. I think I am on to something relevant – an enticing notion – but it takes considerable brain-time – brainpower * hard work – to make progress, any progress.

To make it even worse my notion is not one-dimensional, nor do I have the right wordings available yet. The quote above just reminded me of the fact that I am at the very beginning of getting my notion into insights that in the end will proof worthwhile and apprehendable to others. I must admit that even describing the notion itself is still a problem. I sometimes feel a writers block coming up: so much to say, so little words available, every word invokes seemingly unanswerable questions – for now – or opens whole territories of thought.

Gore CoversizedWith his book “The Future” Al Gore did a pretty fine job to describe and analyse the mega trends we are part off. Gore identifies 6 different developments, which he labels as:

  • 1) Earth Inc: the deeply interconnected global economy;
  • 2) The Global Mind: a planet wide communications grid connecting humans, sensors, data and (intelligent) devices;
  • 3) Power in the Balance: new balance of political, economic and military power;
  • 4) Outgrowth: rapid unsustainable growth;
  • 5) The Reinvention of Life and Death: technologies enabling the design of matter and life;
  • 6) The Edge: the relationship between human civilisation and the earth’s ecological systems.

These developments and the dynamics it brings to us in our daily and professional lives have me amazed everyday. These mega-trends are shaping our future and alter our ways of collaboration. NB To me # 1 (interconnection), #2 and #5 (both technology driven) are basically driving the change of the other 3, which are not less important for the future of humanity.

While reading Al Gore’s book I realised that I should focus on what I want to add to the understanding of the phenomena we are part of with my blog Red Planet Dust. I do not have to proof our world is changing or how it is changing for this is “common knowledge” by now and available to anyone wanting to “consume”.

The mega-trends we can all witness changing our world today and tomorrow change our ability to collaborate. What I find most interesting to think and ponder about is how these trends will change the very way we collaborate. Not only in a direct and explicit manner when we form small groups (N>=2) to achieve whatever we are after, or in bigger structures like companies or even countries or economic blocks, but I am especially interested in how it will influence the ability to “implicitly” collaborate. NB I use this the word “implicitly” due to the lack of a better word: for what I refer to please see: Traffic Jam.

Pollution (i.e. negative externalities) is not a regular part of our considerations as individuals/companies and our economic models are not catering for them in a way that the polluter is indeed the one that pays; the ability to collaborate (positive externalities) is not recognised at all, let alone properly valued. “The ability to collaborate” is hardly tangible; at least pollution you can measure, smell or link to disease and death. At the same time this ability to collaborate has been part of my professional life for 25 years. Something that was at the core of the value added of the services/companies at hand while being illusive for all participants involved. the_world_is_flatWhether it was the wholesaler that allowed EOMs and installers to create a decoupling point between them effectively changing the basic relationship between them profoundly and enabling much more efficient internal working processes at every participant, or money and payments that allow for anybody to collaborate with anybody else, or standardisation as a means to agree on using the same principals and technical subsets as to increase our ability to collaborate as an industry and beyond (e.g. SEPA and EACHA).

To understand the impact and the real merits of (e.g.) money as a means to collaborate, or laws, or standardization and interoperability, or market places for that matter, we need to be able to understand the contribution these “mechanisms” make in our ability to collaborate. We need to understand the ability to collaborate it self before we can understand how the before mentioned mega-trends in general or specific examples in particular will improve (or disrupt!) our ability to collaborate.

As described by Thomas Friedman in “The World is Flat” we see the world changing and we can see that our literal ways of collaboration are changing. He describes a world in which the borders are broken by new technology. The effect that location independence has on the cooperation and competition between people and businesses leads to large shifts. These shifts are part of what we have been addressing by the generic term ‘globalization’.

I am interested in the mechanisms that form our ability to collaborate as to be able to better understand how our lives, companies and societies will be impacted by the mega-trends in an interconnected world.