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.
– Social 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.

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