Meeting on the ledge

(or why I don't get out much…..)

We think

I’ve been reading the latest book which has the blogs all a-twitter, We-think by Charles Leadbetter. Leadbetter is a management guru who looks primarily at innovation, and here he examines the impact of the Internet on society as a whole. He points out the way the Internet facilitates the sharing of information, and how this less competitive attitude is already changing society. In his view people primarily want recognition for their ideas, and the easy sharing of these ideas that the Internet can give is leading to a more egalitarian and cooperative way of doing things: being creative en-masse. Linux, created by the then-student Linus Torvalds and developed initially by volunteers is one example. The book itself is another: he points out that 257 other people contributed ideas for it and edited the drafts on his wiki.

It is well worth reading, and quite inspiring at points, but I don’t fully share Leadbetter’s optimism. The last chapter talks about how ‘we-think’ could co-exist with the private ownership of ideas for financial gain, and I think this is where his theories have their weaknesses. I’d like to say that people are prepared to share for the common good, but I don’t always see this in my workplace or in the world around me. Perhaps the power hierarchies and fierce protection of copyright are the signs of a system under threat, but the recent government statistics indicating that in the UK we’re rapidly becoming a more diversified society are not evidence that we are becoming more inclined to share and cooperate for the greater good.

Perhaps this is Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs in operation, and simply means that some people’s lower-level needs are greater than others, or maybe it is just Darwinian survival of the fittest?  It does reflect that the Internet is changing society in ways we can only speculate upon. My hope is that the world of 2050 is closer to that of We-think than a cyberpunk dystopia, but it is good that influential thinkers like Leadbetter are raising possibilities – both in the minds of our powerful decision-makers and those of us who influence them through We-think.

August 1, 2008 Posted by | General | , , | Leave a comment