I have been very quiet as of late on my pet subject “collaborability”, unfortunately. The subject asks for a serious amount of prolonged and heightened concentration to get back into it; let alone being able to bring it forward. It proofs more demanding then the most complex and demanding business challenges I have ever encountered, and I have seen some demanding ones… Maybe one day I will be able to pick it up again with full force.

One of the central aspects of my approach has been to not seek historic proof upfront (deduction) but to create a theory first that then can be tested (induction). From my methodology:

“If the theory is robust enough maybe we can apply these general ideas on history to see if the patterns have some extra-historical support. It is a question though if it can only be done on a limited scale, for special purposes, or that it can be done in a larger way so that the general course of history, at least in some important aspects, can be fitted into place.”

Flipping on Flipboard I stumbled upon a TED video showing David Christian: “The history of our world in 18 minutes”. Indeed, a very concise history of the universe. At the last part of the TED Talk David makes an argument that makes his view on historic developments on the increasing complexity also be relevant for the development of collaborability from a rather fundamental historic perspective. His narrative nicely fits my views on the development of collaborability – quite literally our collective ability to collaborate. (NB see for introduction page)

David introduces 7 thresholds to explain how we are moving forward form the big bang onwards to ever increasing complexity (i.e. as opposed to the second law of nature that says we are moving from chaos to order). From the transcript (see full video below):

“Humans appeared about 200,000 years ago. And I believe we count as a threshold in this great story. Let me explain why. We’ve seen that DNA learns in a sense, it accumulates information. But it is so slow. DNA accumulates information through random errors, some of which just happen to work. But DNA had actually generated a faster way of learning: it had produced organisms with brains, and those organisms can learn in real time. They accumulate information, they learn. The sad thing is, when they die, the information dies with them. Now what makes humans different is human language. We are blessed with a language, a system of communication, so powerful and so precise that we can share what we’ve learned with such precision that it can accumulate in the collective memory. And that means it can outlast the individuals who learned that information, and it can accumulate from generation to generation. And that’s why, as a species, we’re so creative and so powerful, and that’s why we have a history. We seem to be the only species in four billion years to have this gift.

I call this ability collective learning. It’s what makes us different. We can see it at work in the earliest stages of human history. We evolved as a species in the savanna lands of Africa, but then you see humans migrating into new environments, into desert lands, into jungles, into the ice age tundra of Siberia — tough, tough environment — into the Americas, into Australasia. Each migration involved learning — learning new ways of exploiting the environment, new ways of dealing with their surroundings.

Then 10,000 years ago, exploiting a sudden change in global climate with the end of the last ice age, humans learned to farm. Farming was an energy bonanza. And exploiting that energy, human populations multiplied. Human societies got larger, denser, more interconnected. And then from about 500 years ago, humans began to link up globally through shipping, through trains, through telegraph, through the Internet, until now we seem to form a single global brain of almost seven billion individuals. And that brain is learning at warp speed.”

Crucial is the ability of speech and language, one of the main mechanism form the collaborability model which allows the Homo Collaborans to exchange intangibles like knowledge.

“Collective learning” comes pretty close to the essence of collaborability – quite literally our collective ability to collaborate – in which we as “individuals” are part of a kind of superorganism creating its own potential to create new and ever increasing complexities.

Just a byline from David’s TED talk:

“Collective learning is a very, very powerful force, and it’s not clear that we humans are in charge of it.”

See the TED talk yourself:

PS This blog is #200 since starting 6 February 2013