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The Business SIngularity
Friday, September 10, 2004
Extrapolating from the phenomenal growth of computer networks and their power to transmit information, Jacques Vallée noted that at some point all existing information would become available instantaneously everywhere. This is the "information singularity".

The point to remember, however, is that abstract, non-material variables, such as intelligence, information, or innovation, aren't subjected to the same "limits to growth" which characterize the exhaustion of finite resources. Such variables could conceivably reach values which for all practical purposes may be called "infinite".

--The Socio-technological Singularity, Principia Cybernetica Web

Increasing Returns. As the number of connections between people and things add up, the consequences of those connections multiply out even faster, so that initial successes aren’t self-limiting, but self-feeding.

Feed the Web First. As networks entangle all commerce, a firm’s primary focus shifts from maximizing the firm’s value to maximizing the network’s value. Unless the net survives, the firm perishes.

No Harmony, All Flux. As turbulence and instability become the norm in business, the most effective survival stance is a constant but highly selective disruption that we call innovation.

Relationship Tech. As the soft trumps the hard, the most powerful technologies are those that enhance, amplify, extend, augment, distill, recall, expand, and develop soft relationships of all types.

Come Together

Business is morphing into flexible, self-organizing components that operate in real time. Software is becoming interoperable, open, ubiquitous, and transparent. Workers are learning in small chunks delivered to individualized screens presented at the time of need. Learning is being transformed into a core business process measured by Key Performance Indicators. Taken together, these changes create a new kind of business environment, a Business Singularity.

Business organizations are evolving into networks. What happens inside the corporate walls is nowhere near as important as the overall flow of value from raw material to customer. Internal boundaries are obstacles to be overcome. Networks shared among suppliers, partners, and customers integrate the business into a commercial ecosystem that is, no surprise, a larger network. The real-time enterprise is being born.

Business software is evolving from client/server to networks. The network really is the computer. The internet is the new model of IT architecture. Open networks that can talk with one another are far more valuable than yesterday’s proprietary, isolated fortresses. As on the net, enterprise software evolves with changing conditions, routes around damage, and reaches out to form new connections. Software is beginning to serve business instead of demanding that business contort itself to software's demands.

People are networks enmeshed in networks with one another. Our bodies are networks. Our minds are neural networks with built-in firewalls and filters. We network with one another. Outboard memory in the form of PDAs and personal data stores supplement human wetware. The biggest factor in individual success is the quality our social networks. You're as effective as your connections.

In any thriving network, tentacles reach out to snare new members like ivy climbing a wall, because the more active members, the greater the value of the network. Growth begets growth until a tipping point is reached. Then expansion becomes explosive. The rewards of membership become so high that connecting becomes irresistable. In 1930, your business could live without a telephone; in 2004, it can not.

We are about to witness a spectacular convergence of people and businesses. Networks are connecting to networks.

Workers and their work are becoming synchronous and inseparable. Colleagues and customers collaborate seamlessly. Transparent software obliterates the business/IT divide. Organizations focus on what they do best, outsourcing everything else to the greater commercial ecosystem, sort of a global eBay for business activities. Network efficiencies eradicate the largest drag on corporate performance: slack. The pace of business trends toward instantaneity.

The way people improve their performance in this Business Singularity is called Workflow Learning. It is what corporate learning will become three to five years hence. It takes place in a virtual workplace where workers interact, learn, and control the process of creating value in real time.

More to come


Blogger Richard Veryard said...

Workflow Learning raises interesting questions for what we might call the Architecture of Knowledge. If workers learn in small chunks, how can these chunks be assembled into a coherent body of knowledge? How does the way the work is decomposed between workers affect the learnings that are accessible to them?

See my blog at http://www.dontpanic-ii.org/knowledge/2004/09/workflow-learning.html

5:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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3:25 AM  
Blogger jay said...

In case I have not been clear on this, I hope all comment spammers rot in hell. Why trash conversations with messages no one in their right mind will pay attention to?

6:33 AM  

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