Cognitive Surplus as Innovation Key

Several of the projects we work on with our team at imply change. The real difficulty is when we have to deal with systems and organizations that are often trapped by rules, both contractual or cultural that don’t leave space for innovation or paradoxically force innovation to adapt to old paths and 20th century structures. I’m not here to whine about it, in the end this is often a reality that consultants, including myself, are used to dealing with. What I would actually like to do is drive your attention to this TED video by Clay Shirky on how cognitive surplus could change the world.

Have a look at the video and check the notes I shared below…

Here are some of the points that I found interesting:

– Cognitive surplus = free time & talents (motivation/generosity) + consumer & share (tools/tech)
What happens with cognitive surplus? Human motivation and modern tools allowing that motivation to be joined up in large scale efforts.
РSocial vs contractual motivation. In the 20th century we thought that the lack of contract would let people operate without any constraints… unfortunately this is not true. They operate with social constraints instead of contractual ones.
The advantage of social constraints is that they construct a culture that is more generous than the contractual constraints do. On the other hand what’s broken by contractual constraints stays broken, and this condition can persist over long time periods.
– So the trick is in understanding where we are laying on the economic side and where on the social side.
– Communal vs Civic value
Communal value: created by the participants for each other. We find it everywhere we have large amounts of public data available online (photos on flickr, videos on youtube, etc.).
Civic value: created by the participants but enjoyed by the society. Goals are not just set up to make life better for the participants, but to make life better for everyone in the society in which the system is operating. This is not just a side effect of opening up to human motivation, it’s going to be a side effect of what we collectively make of the concept.
– Long story short: people have a lot of free time, and they can do better when not trapped by contractual constraints. So organizations designed around the culture of generosity will be able to achieve incredible effects without an enormous amount of contractual overhead.
– The key: Support people who are trying to use cognitive surplus to create civic value. By doing that we’ll be able to change society.

Thoughts? Share them here on the blog or via twitter @vascellari.


Wind of Change Blowing on Content Producers

Photo by Martin-Neuhof

“Hey Andrea! When will you release a new post on your blog? Can’t wait for it!”
I’m happy when I receive direct messages like this one. Yes I will keep blogging, I’m just going through an intense period that doesn’t leave me much space for producing ‘free content’ here on my blog.

In the last 6 months business exploded for my team and me at itive. We are taking care of several new projects and have new clients waiting down the line to work with us. This period in which I’m living now got me thinking about the time I spend creating and sharing free value VS payed work for my clients.

The good side of the free content is that it helps me to share snippets of what I do with people who find value in it and end up contacting me when they need help with their marketing, PR, web design, etc. This ultimately translates in more work for my team. Sharing free content on my blog also gives me the chance to exchange thoughts, ideas, and opinions with you. Learning from each other is priceless. I am and will always be thankful for what I learned and will keep learning from our conversations.

On the other hand, the client work I do with itive is what ultimately puts food on the table and pays the bills. So when new projects come, I have to take care of them.

I see many other friends and colleagues changing their relationship with the free content they produce. Here are a few names:

The balance between investments in free VS payed is my dilemma and it’s not something that I extend to the people I listed. Someone might be drowning in new tight schedules, others have less or nothing more to say so they are reducing the amount of time for producing free content to leave space for other activities that add more value at a personal level or for the organization they are working for. Priority is shifting.

I feel that we (content producers) all have arrived to a point in which we are evaluating more carefully where to invest our time, energy and experience.

Am I going to start charing for my content?
I don’t think this will happend anytime soon. Part of the what I produce will keep being released for free, but recently I’ve been thinking about if/how this will change in future.

There’s a wind of change blowing in our industry that is making me and many other content producers think. Do you feel it? What’s your take? And if you are a content producer how are you dealing with it?