28 July 2008

Collaboration and Entrepreneurship in a Post-Institutional World

Clay Shirky claims that the problem of coordination and collaboration need not depend on institutions. New technology actually enables groups and individuals to collaborate without an institutional construct in which to operate. He claims that this is revolutionary and says that a revolution doesn’t take you from point A to point B but, rather, takes you from point A to chaos. The printing press took the West away from the organization that came from church rule into chaos that was not resolved until the treaty of Westphalia defining the nation-state as the newly dominant institution about 200 years later. He suspects that the emergence of social networks and peer to peer technology will do something similar to institutions today, particularly to corporations. But this time he thinks it is less likely to take 200 years and will likely play out in about 50.

I’ve talked for quite some time about the popularization of entrepreneurship and what that means for the corporation. I have basically said that the role of entrepreneur will become more widespread during the next 30 to 50 years, sweeping up an increasing percentage of employees into its net, just as knowledge work became so prevalent in the last century.

Shirky seems to challenge even the notion of what it would mean to be an entrepreneur, shedding light on how entrepreneurship might become so common. If collaboration and cooperation no longer requires an institutional overlay, or construct, entrepreneurship becomes an act of catalyzing behaviors and activities rather than focusing on creating the context or container for such activities.

This suggests that community itself may be the container for the actions and behaviors of individuals, with no need for creating institutions. It does suggest that the very notion of, or need for, institution is set to transform along with the definition of entrepreneur.

Here is Shirky's talk:

No comments: