The information ecosystem
The viability of having many contacts
We shall be dealing with the mechanics of virtual meetings in a later chapter, but, for the moment consider the advantages of having multiple on-line experts and multiple on-line clients.
In the bricks and mortar world, an entrepreneur, an auteur or a managed team might hire a consultant to provide them with expert information and assistance in solving a problem. Let's say this consultant charges five thousand dollars a week. In the vastly complex world of e-business, with so much changing and conflicting information, any particular consultant, however clever of expert, is unlikely to have complete knowledge. Their opinion is bound to be biased, or, limited in some way. So, instead of having one consultant at a cost of five thousand dollars a week, wouldn't it be preferable to have five consultants at one thousand dollars a week each?
There would be no need to physically meet them, or, any need for them to be brought together. They could be dealt with simultaneously, and in isolation: allowing five independent expert opinions to be obtained for the price of one. This is possible in the world of the Internet, because the time and effort involved for both clients and experts in virtual meetings - using e-mail communication - could be used far more efficiently.
In a similar way, an expert consultant could make their services available to a number of different teams (or entrepreneurs, or auteurs) at the same time. Perhaps charging one thousand dollars a week each to five different clients, rather than five thousand dollars to one - quite practical when physical meetings are mostly unnecessary. This arrangement would suit the consultant because their employment risks would be spread and they'd be in full command of their own time - enabling them to concentrate upon a narrow area of expertise where they can become truly expert.
Such "on demand" consultants or specialist could also build up a parallel set of contacts linking them to other specialists and experts on the Internet - in or relating to their area of speciality. In this way, the specialist or expert can link anyone who has hired him or her with to a full range of knowledge in a particular field. This arrangement is illustrated in figure 14.7.
Specialists can supply information and help to a number of teams simultaneously. They can have also have links to other specialists on the Internet to enhance their personal expertise
Seen as a system, it becomes obvious why the environment of the Internet involves collaboration rather than cooperation. It also explains how cooperative groups can work in conjunction with collaborative groups. It seems that the interface to the Internet environment acts as a dividing line. Inside the Internet is a world more suited for collaboration. Outside is a world more suited for cooperation.
Notice also from figure 14.7 that the expert or specialist will need to establish two quite different groups of contacts:
1) For collaborating with peers, to create an on demand knowledge base and be able to be aware of changes and new development in the chosen area of speciality.
2) A list of clients and contacts for getting work
These are the egocentric groups that were discussed at the beginning of this chapter. The expert or specialist will be at the centre of a self formed group of contacts, having to create a mutual feeling of trust and reliance with each contact individually, but, without any need for those contacts to even be aware of each other's existence.. Clearly, the relationships between an expert and the expert's contacts will be collaborative rather than cooperative. Similarly, an entrepreneur or/and an auteur can also form an egocentric group of collaborative expert contacts, who provide a suitable number of knowledge links to them (and through them their cooperative team).
Any member of a cooperative team can also form an egocentric group of their own to draw in information or assistance from the Internet. This will give them indirect access to any of the millions of other people on the Internet who might be able to enhance their particular function in the team.
Stepping back, from the micro view of individual associations, you can get an idea of how the Internet achieves a universal organisation. With teams linked to a number of specialists which are each linked to other teams and at the same time linked to various other specialist, it is not difficult to see how the Kevin Bacon and small-world clustering effects can provide an efficient framework for knowledge exchange throughout the system. It is probably not a coincidence that the human brain uses a somewhat similar form of communication architecture for transferring information around its interacting network of neurons.