Nicco Mele Keynote: Building Collaborative Organizations #KMWorld

 KMWorld 2013Nicco Mele is co-founder, EchoDitto; Faculty, Harvard Kennedy School; and author of The End of Big.

[These are my notes from the KMWorld 2013 Conference. Since I’m publishing them as soon as possible after the end of a session, they may contain the occasional typographical or grammatical error. Please excuse those. To the extent I’ve made any editorial comments, I’ve shown those in brackets.]

Session Description:  Our ability to connect instantly, constantly, and globally is altering the exercise of power with dramatic speed. Governments, corporations, centers of knowledge, and expertise are eroding before the power of the individual. Based on ideas from his recent book, internet pioneer Mele provides insights and ideas for building collaborative organizations using revolutionary technology and more!


  • The biggest impact of the democratization of computer power is its effect on individuals: (1) Our technology profoundly empowers individuals. (2) It is profoundly intimate. (He considers his email to be a very intimate place. He, like others, takes his smartphone to bed with him. He goes to sleep to it and he wakes up to it. (3) It is intentional. We sit down at our computers to DO something. This is very different from flopping on the couch in front of the TV and passively consuming what is served.
  • What does this mean for the large organizations of our time? (1) Computing power has allowed individuals to opt out of traditional work patterns promoted by large institutions. Today 1/3 of working adults in the US are self-employed. (2) Computing power has allowed consumers to opt out of the entertainment industry that has produced more movies that are remakes and sequels rather than original content. (3) In politics, computing power has made it possible for a candidate with no real establishment support to beat the candidate with the big political machine behind her. (Remember the Obama versus Clinton race for the Democratic nomination? Also consider the impact of the Tea Party on the Republican Party.)
  • Society needs to rethink the relationship between individuals and institutions: (1) Individuals now have enormous power. This audience can use the internet to check a speaker’s facts, create a conversation on Twitter to discuss his points, and go on Amazon to drive up (or drive down) sales of the speaker’s book by the type of reviews we leave. (2) We need to combine leadership and distributed power. This means giving high-level jobs to volunteers AND creating a culture that ensures there is responsibility, authority and accountability. (3) One big challenge of building collaborative teams is to channel the incredible energy of the team in productive ways. Consider what can be done by mobilizing groups of people via technology — you can have an effective political campaign or you can have a witch hunt. It’s the leadership that makes the difference. The key is to set expectations, create a culture of responsibility and then use technology to manage your staff and ensure accountability.

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