Sunday, September 18, 2005

Tom Malone @ AC2005

Tom is from MIT and is speaking on The Future of Work ... and I believe that I am really going to like this talk. He is really interested in organizations ... and how Intelligence Amplification could come from organizations of intelligent humans. I thoroughly believe this, and that he is on the right track.

One of his first examples is the Wikipedia, and that the organization of so many people - however loose - was an amazing feat. His bottom line prediction is that technology is changing the whole world of organizations in a way similar to the revolution of democracy. He feels that the costs of communications are the core element, allowing the individual to have access to vast amounts of information which allows for individual choice ... over top down management.

His next example was eBay. Amazing stats:
$3.3 Billion revenue in 2004
~430,000 people make their living from selling on ebay
If these were employees, they would be one fo the 5 largest employers
What eBay has attained is to reinvent the right kind of infrastructure and community to invent a whole new kind of retailing. He feels this is the next logical stage of a pattern that has been repeated throughout history. These stages have been:
  • Bands - decentralized, unconnected
  • Kingdoms - centralized
  • Democracies - decentralized, connected
He feels that transitions between stages are based on the declining costs of communications. The more that decision making information can be decentralized to the edges, the more efficient and valuable the organization becomes.

He had some interesting examples of how democratic principals are slowly entering into leading companies:
  • W.L. Gore - managers become managers by finding people who want to work for them
  • Visa International - independent banks vote on policy questions
  • Mondragon Cooperative Corp - employees elect the board of directors and vote on key issues
Markets are another way that this revolution is taking place. Outsourcing is one type of market ... creating the e-lance economy. Funny that Elance is a web site that actually implements this idea. I have friends who have used Elance teams to do software development ... from Sri Lanka and India. Intel has apparently been exploring the use of futures markets within their manufacturing to manage manufacturing capacity.

MIT developed a Process Handbook with over 5000 processes and activities that can be used for planning purposes within organizations. They are looking to create an Open Source version.

He showed the classic self-organizing humans demonstration ... the interactive media solution by Cinematrix. It demonstrates - with the flight simulator example that he showed - that there is a real power in collective human organizations that have simultaneous access to the same data.


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