Information privacy as a responsibility?

A post by Joshua-Michéle Ross asks the question how we can benefit from the digital age without compromising our information privacy:

So why is it that we seem to have more comfort when the capacity for total information awareness lies with corporations as opposed to government? Experience shows that there is a very thin barrier between the two.

His conclusion:

The true work of the 21st century lies not in refining our technology – this we will achieve without any political will. The work lies in re-imagining our institutions.

via Captivity of the Commons – O’Reilly Radar.

Is decentralized collaboration possible for all types of work?

This post captures a couple of quotes from an interview with Tim O’Reilly about leadership and effective collaboration that I found intriguing. My take-aways in summary: recognize that you have to set a context, which entices people to contribute to; know the strengths and weaknesses of your team members; and create a (decentralized) system that allows every member to realize their own vision, while still contributing to the whole.

On defining leadership:

Harold Geneen (…) said, “The skill of management is achieving your objectives through the efforts of others.”  (…) While I completely subscribe to the concept, because the skill of management is indeed achieving your objectives through the effort of others, I have always worked with the framing of another quote, which is actually about writing (…) from Edwin Schlossberg, who (…) said, “The skill of writing is to create a context in which other people can think.”

On being a team leader:

It’s a kind of pattern recognition, which is going back to how I think about the process of editing. It’s a little bit like what Michelangelo used to say about making a statue; that it’s about finding the image that’s hidden in the stone. I think editing a book is like that. Leading a project is like that. (…) I think that leading your team is like that also. How do you get a group of people to achieve their potential? By seeing who they are, and what they can accomplish.

On the architecture of participation:

I think one of the reasons why certain projects fail is because they’re mixing and matching from the wrong systems. We have to have a system that has a fundamental characteristic that there are small pieces that people can work on independently. I think this is why, for example, people have said that they’ll do books as Wikis, and it hasn’t really taken off. Why not? Because a book is a fairly large, complex thing with a single narrative thread. Wikipedia is a set of pages, and the atomic unit of content is something that a single individual can make a plausible promise at, and other people can update and tweak. And the whole is the sum of many, many such small parts. I think, for example, that there are certain types of works that lend themselves to that kind of collaborative activity–being more free-form precisely because they’re designed in such a way that the pieces fit together.

Especially the last quote, the reasoning why wiki books have not taken off, makes me wonder if real collaboration with complex team processes can be designed to work beyond organizational contexts where someone can set the right incentives (e.g. through compensation) to have everyone pull in the same direction.

Work yourself out of a job to be sustainable

[T]hey have a “deliberately unsustainable” business model. In other words: do great stuff while you can, and when you can’t do it anymore, stop. This is the model that governs most businesses and artistic endeavors. It’s the reason terms like “jump the shark” exist. Most companies, rock bands, and sports teams are only brilliant for so long. Then they start to slide. Then they die.

via Museum 2.0: Deliberately Unsustainable Business Models. Found through this talk.

Some businesses are set up not to last, as is the case of most non-profits trying to solve societal problems. When the problem is solved or the vision is reached their purpose to exist vanishes.

On creating value

There were a lot of people who were completely complicit in this grand rip-off of the financial system, because they were thinking about capturing value for themselves, they weren’t thinking about creating value.  —Tim O’Reilly in his Keynote at ETech 2009.

The principle he advocates here is Create more value than you capture. Why? because if everyone only thinks about their own return independently of the overall impact, we get system breakdown, as in the financial system, climate system, food system, … Instead we can choose to create community and lasting value!

Balancing Empathy and Power

[T]here are two kinds of approaches to transform the behavior of organizations, one approach is to use empathy to understand human needs and motivation, and the other is power, the ability to force or coerce a particular behavior. (…) It appears to me that the empathic approach and power based approach are often at odds in organizations or out of balance.

via To Be Sustainable Organizations Must Balance Empathy and Power.

I believe that the rise of the participatory internet culture and the growing concern about environmental impacts by companies will force many organizations to emphasize empathy much more than they currently do to keep clients, staff and partners.