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Saturday, January 31, 2009

America's Edge

I tend to draw connections between things. Sometimes that leaves people with a "whuh?" look on their face. I read this article America's Edge: Power in the Networked Century by Anne-Marie Slaughter in Foreign Affairs. She writes about the advantage the US has over all other countries because of its democratic and cultural environment where networking and the efficiencies, innovation associated with it thrive. She makes her point on the value of networks whether in government, business, competing to win and voluntary contributions such as Wikipedia. I won't burden you with the entire article. This is the opening paragraph with following excerpts.

We live in a networked world. War is networked: the power of terrorists and the militaries that would defeat them depend on small, mobile groups of warriors connected to one another and to intelligence, communications, and support networks. Diplomacy is networked: managing international crises -- from SARS to climate change -- requires mobilizing international networks of public and private actors. Business is networked: every CEO advice manual published in the past decade has focused on the shift from the vertical world of hierarchy to the horizontal world of networks. Media are networked: online blogs and other forms of participatory media depend on contributions from readers to create a vast, networked conversation. Society is networked: the world of MySpace is creating a global world of "OurSpace," linking hundreds of millions of individuals across continents. Even religion is networked: as the pastor Rick Warren has argued, "The only thing big enough to solve the problems of spiritual emptiness, selfish leadership, poverty, disease, and ignorance is the network of millions of churches all around the world."

. . . and here the first sentence of the second paragraph:

In this world, the measure of power is connectedness.

and more

Businesses in the United States can orchestrate global networks of producers and suppliers. Consumers can buy locally, from revived local agricultural and customized small-business economies, and at the same time globally, from anywhere that can advertise online. The United States has the potential to be the most innovative and dynamic society anywhere in the world.
The power that flows from this type of connectivity is not the power to impose outcomes. Networks are not directed and controlled as much as they are orchestrated. Multiple players are integrated into a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts --an orchestra that plays differently according to the vision of its conductor and the talent of individual musicians.
She writes on the importance of "conflict, not violent conflict, but positive, or constructive, conflict, the kind of conflict that produces non-zero-sum solutions. This the kind of conflict is found on American playing fields, in American courtrooms, and in the American political system. It is the conflict of structured competition, in which losers have a chance to win another day and everyone has a stake in continually improving the game.

It is also the conflict of creative destruction, the process of destroying old business models to make way for new ones.

". . . Americans are inveterate joines, volunteers, and debaters. Today, however, instead of sewing circles, debating societies, and charity bake sales, Americans have MySpace, blogs . . .and _ Wikipedia"

But the premise is the same: multiple minds clashing and correcting one another in pursuit of the truth. The work of one contributor is open and available for others to use. Participants in this process are trusted to not take advantage of that openess but instead add their own contributions

The Internet world, the wiki world, and the networked world all began in the United States and radiated outward.

Step up. Get close to the edge and network because nets work.

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