Charles Leadbeater was one of my favorite speakers at TEDGlobal in Oxford last month. Here's what I wrote about his talk. Yesterday, while poking around this amazing Internet world we're creating together every day, I came across a presentation Leadbeater made at a conference in Amsterdam last March. Here's the conference site, and here's the QuickTime movie of Leadbeater's talk.
Leadbeater's talk presents another fascinating view of the new open source, collaborative approach to innovation at the heart of Linux, eBay, The Sims, etc. He distinguishes the innovation that takes place in traditional organizations, "pipelines," from that which takes place in these pro-am, prosumer, distributed networks, or "swarms." By the way, John Seely Brown used the same term in his excellent talk at Supernova, available on a podcast from Doug Kaye's incredibly valuable IT Conversations (which, for all you non-geeks, also presents great ideas outside of IT.)
While innovation pipelines rely on special people ("creatives") in special places ("departments") doing special things, swarms provide open opportunities for users to create adaptive applications of the "kernel" presented by an originator. That, plus a set of rules for self-monitoring (viz. Wikipedia) presents broad swaths of territory for large numbers of innovators.
Here's a teaser slide ("Swarm Innovation: Assumptions") from Leadbeater's PowerPoint presentation (also available at the conference site):
- Innovation is social and dynamic
- Authorship joint, complex and evolutionary
- Knowledge created by interaction
- Use is creative
- Organized without being an organisation
I particularly like the fourth point. In pipelines, the innovators assume that they have determined the nature and purpose of their innovation. In swarms, users take up the innovation in a creative fashion and adapt it to their own wants, needs and desires; their own way of being-in-the-world. Use in itself, then, is a creative enterprise.
If you have 20 minutes or so, watch Leadbeater's presentation. You won't be sorry.