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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