The speech I linked to in my last post highlighted three social forces:
- the hierarchical delegation of power via governance
- the horizontal dispensation of wealth via the marketplace
- and the social behaviors associated with community membership.
The third force, the Community, operates differently than the other two – as it does not manage contractual goods like power and wealth, but covenantal goods (using the terminology from the speech). Covenantal goods are those that increase in value when they are shared. Love and friendship are those in the social arena; knowledge and insight are examples that are more relevant to workplace conversations.
Whereas data and information is best kept as a managed good – secured in a database or document repository; knowledge and wisdom are best when they are shared (appropriately). Knowing the difference between the levels should be in the purview of Information and Knowledge Management professionals. I’ll note the old KM diagram implied here. And I’ll note that you can apply a temporal line as I do on the left side, and also a venue line – using terms that have some religious connotations – on the right side). Just like data and information are vital to knowledge and wisdom, so to traditional Enterprise 1.0 (with its focus on capturing the “was”) is vital to Enterprise 2.0. And thus the revolution is simply one in which we support the “oral tradition” to thrive.
Documents live on a disk drive, but knowledge lives in the conversation. And the two are part of the same virtuous cycle. This implies that Enterprise 2.0 must rely upon more than conversation-enabling behaviors (e.g. a policy that encourages people to talk to each other at work). It requires the tooling needed to store the information and data, so that the conversations have context and permanence. To draw the analogy back to religion for a moment — most religions have both a written text and an oral tradition. Those which only have a written text have little ability to remain relevant over time. Those which only have story-telling start to weaken over time when there is no grounding source to keep the faithful aligned.
In the E2.0 religion, we have both. Written texts live in user-generated content — in blogs and wikis. We enable the oral traditions in our comments and forums. Our worship is the development of conversation between diverse perspective who share a common interest and passion in the workplace. The result of this worship is a valuable resource for new employees, new projects, applied insight, and the acknowledgement of those who share their insight and expertise with others.
Another example of how sharing knowledge and text work together to create something of tremendous value (and has a religious feel to it) is Open Source software. In this case, the text is source code — and without it, there are just abstract design patterns, but no software. Software only has value when you combine great design thinking into literal text files full of code. So I’m going to use Open Source as an example of how the three forces are in play.
Many Open Source projects have to balance between three forces at play. Consider the prototypical Open Source project – Linux. The masses of people who love and support Linux share in the faith that having an Open Source alternative to Windows (and Unix) is a “good thing”. Moreover, it’s not just an alternative – it’s preferred for most server applications. The act of rallying around Linux-ism is fueled by a belief in a vision around its continued success.
But Linux does not live on faith alone. There is a marketplace of opportunity that brings serious money to the table. You hopefully know that “free” is a misnomer when it comes to Open Source software. After you sign a support contract for well over a $1M for “free” software, you realize, it’s not without cost. And thus the market forces of supply and demand operate in full . But there’s more – there’s the hierarchy of power that governs the actual process in which Linux evolves. Linus Torvalds is the king of the Linux Empire, and he has set up layers of highly-respected kernel-chiefs who serve as his extended team of committers. Thus all three – communal faith, market economies, and (benevolent) dictatorship operate in harmony to make this work.
Linux is only one (highly visible) example of this. Many other large Open Source projects face a similar trifecta. There are, however different ways this plays out. Some projects are governed by the Apache process, one which relies upon committees of participants who can only participate after earning enough community credibility. Or the Eclipse process, which includes an architectural review board that has an oversight role too. Other governance models are used too – and the point is: there is governance, even in what is normally regarded as a communal activity.
There are also a variety of marketplace models that are in play in the open source world. The most common model is the sale of support and services for Open Source software. But duel licensing schemes are also monetization strategies, as they get some companies to pay for free software by offering them rights that they would not otherwise have. In some cases, the Open Source process is intended to erode the marketability of an existing product by offering a “free” alternative.
And there are different types of communal models in Open Source projects. Some are communities of fate, others of faith. Communities of shared fate join together because they must. Communities of share faith join together because their members aspire to achieve a common goal.
My point? Simply to validate the “three forces” model by applying it to a situation that I’m familiar with. E2.0 professionals should find that their efforts also face these three forces in play within their efforts. Do you? If so, I’d love to see you share some examples below.