Clay Shirky: Sharing changes everything

Posted: 10/13/2014 - 09:31

Clay Shirky
, New York University professor, author, and a leading thinker on the effects of the internet on society, delves into the disruptive power of technology and collaboration on how people live and work.

Born in 1964, Shirky grew up with the cyber age: he’s been writing about the internet since 1996. He’s a deep thinker about it, as reflected in two of his books, Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing without Organizationsand Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age. The titles explain a lot about the direction of his thinking.

In an interview earlier this year published by the management consulting group McKinsey, Shirky noted that “sharing changes everything.” He studies the way people collaborate because “when communications tools come along and they change how people can contact each other, how they can share information, how they can find each other – we’re talking about the printing press, or the telephone, or the radio, or what have you – the changes that are left in the wake of those new technologies often span generations.”

The thing he looks out for, he continues, “when any source of disruption comes along, when anything that’s going to upset the old order comes along, is I look for what the collaborative penumbra is.” Basically, how can collaboration be extended when something new and disruptive occurs.

The collaborative penumbra can work in seemingly opposite directions, in tight groups or virtually no groups at all: “You’ve got these collaborative environments where almost no one has to coordinate with anybody else. When I upload something to Thingiverse, or I make an edit on Wikipedia, it’s not like I need anybody else’s help or permission. So the collaborative range is expanding.” Both work: tight groups have more resources, and loose groups can be much more loosely coordinated and operate on a much larger scale, he says.

“I think the people who think about collaboration want to know what’s happening to it, and the answer is everything.” Shirky’s point is that when “communication is so abundant globally it may as well be free.”

Shirky’s work definitely resonates with me. And it’s one of the primary reasons we made the strategic decision to make much of our work on the Vested methodology and business model open source.

Vested has a variety of open source tools available for individuals and organisations to learn about how the model works, both in theory and practice, and in tight groupings or in less formal or smaller group scenarios. The Vested library has an extensive catalogue of case studies and white papers that present real-life examples of collaborative outsourcing under the Vested business model – all free downloads. There are also open source online courses for those interested in learning about Vested and a variety of resources for understanding and assessing the collaborative business model. For example, there’s a module on the Five Rules of Vested and various self-assessments to help in understanding the Vested mindset, including an Organizational Readiness Self-Assessment.

Yes, everything is happening when it comes to collaboration and open sharing.


About The Author

Kate Vitasek's picture

Kate Vitasek is an international authority for her award-winning research and Vested business model for highly collaborative relationships. She is the author of six books on the Vested model and a faculty member at the University of Tennessee. She has been lauded by World Trade Magazine as one of the “Fabulous 50+1” most influential people impacting global commerce.