One of the things that has always intrigued me immensely is how companies can operate while not a single person in that particular company has a full apprehension of what that particular company is about and how it works, and I dear say not even how it truly earns its money. One could argue that a company is in effect a superorganism.



[…] exhibit a form of “distributed intelligence,” a system in which many individual agents with limited intelligence and information are able to pool resources to accomplish a goal beyond the capabilities of the individuals.

Still companies, even huge and complex ones spanning all continents, can be successful over long stretches of time. Obviously a company is more then the sum of its parts. Companies, like ant hills and beehives, are self directing while based on a colony of “workers” who as individuals have no clue of how the underlying collaboration mechanisms work that let the anthill survive or even prosper.

In companies people are at least aware of the group they belong to and that they are supposed to collaborate to achieve some joined goals, however vague this can be for the individual participant and however tiny/specialized the task involved for them and however small their view on the rest of the company. The collaboration is perceived mostly as being “direct collaboration”, while implicit collaboration is an important part of the fabric that lets the company function in good order.

With my inquiry into collaborability I see this phenomenon returning again at the scale of society at large. At this level and in regard to collaborability and the collaboration mechanisms individual persons do not even have the notion that they are collaborating most of the time, nor feel part of a defined group, there are no stated goals nor are there tasks considered consciously.

The scale of the phenomenon and the complexities at work in collaborability are “just” to big to be apprehend-able by the individuals involved. Individuals who are basically limited in their capabilities. NB I have covered this theme on our limitations and on how e.g. decision making is changing as a consequence of the prevailing mega trends ad nausiam here at Red Planet Dust.

But to understand how our society works and how we as individuals and all the types of groups we form collaborate it is essential to supersede the level of the individual persons to find the dynamics and mechanisms that are “governing” our ant hill. Like if you have to if you want to understand the complex workings of a company but then a little bit more ambitiously…