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Thursday 3 October 2013

Look out for signals of discontinuity and change

The rise of the Internet is signalling a move away from information and products broadcast at passive people to information and products created with the involvement of active people. The Open Source Movement is recognising these signals and creating platforms for the development and sharing of high quality, user generated, freely available software. (The Apache Software Foundation is a good example.)

The technology driven reduction in mid-skilled jobs is signalling a shift away from traditional middle-class office or factory based jobs towards careers in high technology areas or specialist manual areas, such as caring and hospitality, that technology cannot automate. Collaborations that help people into work are recognising these signals and looking for ways to make high technology and specialist manual jobs more accessible. (The Anita Borg Institute is an example of an organisation that works with partner businesses to help women and under-represented minorities into high technology careers. The Opportunity Partnership helps young people gain the skills necessary for specialist manual work in the care and hospitality industries.)  

The retirement of the 'Baby Boomer' generation is signalling a change to the look, feel and nature of later life and the potential contributions older people are willing and able to make to society. Collaborations focused upon the needs of older people are recognising these signals and looking for ways to enhance the contributions older people can make to society. ( is an example of an organisation that works with others to enhance the contributions and quality of life of older people.)

The achievement of a critical mass of qualified, graduate women is signalling a change to the look, feel and nature of the workplace and the amount of influence women are willing and able to have upon it. Collaborations that promote the interests of working women are recognising these signals and seeking to use the influence of the growing number of well-educated working women to encourage and support the ambitions of all women within the workplace. (The previously mentioned Anita Borg Institute, with its support for the mentoring of women in high tech industries, is a good example of this.)

Increasingly easy access to information is signalling a change in our relationship with Governments and businesses and in the amount of influence we can have over their activities. Collaborations focused upon changing the nature of Government and citizens' relationships with it are recognising these signals and seeking ways of encouraging people to use their newly acquired powers. (Wiki Leaks is a high-profile example of a global collaboration that is changing the relationship and power dynamics between Governments and citizens.)

Smart Mobile technology is signalling a change in the way we communicate and go about our day to day work; it is immeasurably increasing the flexibility, scope and versatility of our interactions with not only other people but also the systems we use and need. Collaborations working to enhance the health and quality of life of people in the developing world are recognising these signals and seeking ways to exploit mobile technology to enhance the effectiveness of their work and support the achievement of their goals. (Vodafone's collaboration with private, public and 3rd sector partners that uses mobile technology to save lives through vaccination in sub-Saharan Africa is a good example).

The above are recognised signals of discontinuity, signals that point towards radical and significant changes that are happening to a greater or lesser extent all over the globe. As you can see, clever collaborations have sought to align themselves with the direction of travel of these signals, so strengthening the effectiveness of their activities.

What signals of discontinuity and change does your collaboration need to look out for? How can it take advantage of them to further its cause and achieve its aims? How can it effectively align its strategy and goals with the new directions and priorities these signals are pointing towards, so enhancing its relevance, credibility, influence and effectiveness?

For more about collaboration go to: Sleeping-with-the-Enemy-Achieving-Collaborative-Success-2nd-Edition

Stop Press! 3rd Edition now out: click on the link to your top right... 

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