Future of Network Economy – Keynote speaker Ross Dawson

Ross Dawson is a widely acclaimed keynote speaker. He has delivered numerous keynotes on the subject of business networking and network economy and is considered one of the most influential thought leaders in this space.

Keynote speaker video – Sun Microsystems Executive Forum

Recently Ross gave a keynote speech for the Sun Microsystems Partner Executive Forum, where Sun brought together the top executives from its extensive partner network for an update and relationship building session.

Below is an 8 min video containing brief excerpts from his keynote, titled The Future of the Network Economy.

Topics covered in this inspirational keynote video include:

* In the Depression of the 1930s there was little structural change in the economy; in the current downturn there will be massive change.
* In a connected world you can – and must – reposition yourself across boundaries.
* Scale-free networks provide a common structure across society, web, infrastructure and more.
* Collaborative filtering is where the web is going: it enables us to find what is most relevant to us from infinite content.
* Open innovation requires identifying and stimulating the social networks where relevant ideas are proliferating.
* Our individual and organizational reputations will precede us, giving us and others insights into our expertise, reliability, and credibility.
* Strategy in a network economy based on the flow of information and ideas requires us to rethink alliances and identify opportunities in new domains.
* The law of requisite variety means we must be at least as flexible as our environment.
* Studying ants’ collective behavior can help organizations understand how to tap emergence to create value.

Full Transcription: Sun Microsystems Executive Forum

Ross Dawson:

The future of our lives, of our business, of society is very much in a networked world. We think back to the period which is being compared to the times today or coming up and the depression of 30’s. During that phase economic structure barely changed at all, there were the same business activities going on there was really very little change, which today we’re going to see because of the connectivity, because of the networked world we will see the pace of change accelerate and that is an extraordinary opportunity for those who will take it.

So, in the next 20 to 25 years you can confidently predict that the global economy will again double in size and all of that growth, all of that growth in the economy from things that weigh nothing. Ideas, information, knowledge, services, that is where the shift is coming.

In this linking of knowledge, this linking of ideas more faster and faster is what we can really think of as the birth of the global brain, the networks are literally coming to life and as we are so connected, which is only just happening today, that is a real analogy. The people on the planet are as the neurons in the brain, and we are all participating in the emergence of the birth of a higher order life form.

I guarantee you that in the challenging times ahead if you stay within the existing boundaries of your business, of your industries, of your clients, the way you are perceived – you’re going to find it very challenging. But as we are connected, that is exactly the opportunity where you can transcend those boundaries, to play with those boundaries, literally to be able to move into new spaces, to be able to re-position yourself, to be able to take advantage of the opportunities.

What I call scale free networks. Now a scale free network is the network that has the same structure at any size. Be at the macro level or a smaller level, and this absolutely applies to the internet, so this particular image of a scale-free network could apply to any of those things: to social networks, to the spread of disease, to infrastructure, to life, to thought, to the internet and these all have exactly the same underlying structure.

This particular framework, which I created recently on the future of the media lifecycle, which looks at how content flows both through the “how we consume that at home”, and “how we consume that in the mobile space” to create our personal clouds where we store information and that flows back, precipitates back into the sea of content.

So, this collaborative filtering is where the whole web is going, where there’s aggregation of this life streaming that participation enables this infinite content to be made where we can find what is relevant to us.

For the networks to come alive, we as people must interface directly into the networks, so Doug Engelbart invented the mouse 40 years ago, that is ancient technology. If you are using a mouse that’s antediluvian, everything can be replicated, everything can be copied. So, unless you are either innovating or able to protect that intellectual property that value, the half-life of that value, disappears, in a shorter and shorter time, as we’ve seen earlier. This is now innovation laid open, open around the world, and when I was consulting to Procter & Gamble around these issues, I was looking to identify how do you find out where are the communities, where are the people who can contribute the ideas, how can you connect to these people to create the network of ideas, where again, moving beyond this technological network and the social network and the network of ideas that are linking out of which innovation flows and unless you are plugged into that you are an island and you are not able to participate in these networks coming to life.

Social networks are ultimately about people being connected here in these scale-free networks which we saw before. Now, if I asked you how an organization works, I often get an organizational chart, but the reality is that this is how organizations function. There’s a study I did of a large Australian organization, the top 100 executives looking at where there was communication, where there wasn’t communication. The network structure of that organization, and as a result where the functions and dysfunctions.

Now as we move into more and more connected, more and more transparent more and more open world where information flows readily our reputation precedes us, and as organizations and as individuals. So we are just on the cusp now. There’s more and more ways in which we can gain insights into what our reliability is, what our competence is, how valuable and useful we are in a particular context. So, expect your reputation to precede you and expect to be able to gain insight to people’s reputation before you meet them.

In my book Living Networks I describe what I call the flow economy, and the economy based on the flow of information ideas. What I described at the beginning as this weightless economy. Everything that weighs nothing is basically around the flow of information ideas, that’s what your business is and that’s why your assisting your, your clients with, and there are six elements of that:

• Standards
• Relationships
• Connectivity
• Interfaces
• Content and
• Services

And a very powerful strategy tool is to understand where you are currently, which elements of this you are participating in currently, who you are partnering with to be able to create the other elements of this flow economy, and where you can shift into new areas.

The law of requisite variety back William Ross Ashby 1958, basically says the only way you can control your destiny is to be more flexible than your environment. Today your environment is very flexible, very fast moving, very fast paced. So, your organizations must have the flexibility, the adaptability which comes out of being able to tap the concepts of how ants work and move to be able to create value, to be able to be effective and to win in this world.

Now, I’m not saying that you or your colleagues and organizations are like ants, but absolutely we can learn, again looking at some of these principles of network science to understand how ants collectively are creating quite extraordinary things and these emergent properties in how they follow the pheromone tracks to be able to find with the honey is in your kitchen. Or to be able to work together, to be able create extraordinary structures. These are all based on the similar principles of the web 2.0 style tools to be able to allow us to discover what is interesting to discover, what is relevant to be able to tap into and create value inside organizations. If you pin organizations down to process and workflow they will commoditize they won’t be able to progress they will be in boxes, they are within boundaries. Those that allow that emergence to come out by playing with that balance between structure and unstructure to be able to use the tools that allow these ideas to flow out, that’s where value will be created.

The pace of change is absolutely extraordinary and moving faster, and this is going to really, literally explode over the next coming days, weeks, months and years. So I invite you to build the future of the network economy. Thank you.

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