Friday, January 12, 2007

Collaboration = Foundation

I'm reading a book about online collaboration, and something jumped out at me.

Wikinomics, How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything

by Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams

Here is the paragraph that caught my attention:

"Competition through free enterprise and open markets are at the heart of a dynamic economy, but if there is one additional lesson to take away from this chapter it's that we can't rely on competition and short-term self-interest alone to promote innovation and economic well-being. Vibrant markets rest on robust common foundations: a shared infrastructure of rules, institutions, knowledge, standards and technologies provided by a mix of public and private sector initiative."

The reason this paragraph caught my attention is because it goes to one of the core values that unite progressives across the spectrum of political ideologies. That core value is the need for a solid foundation under everyone that allows us all to reach for our potential. The only way that innovation and healthy competition can exist is on a foundation of collaboration and cooperation. Without both, we have neither.

The conservative ideology drives competition down deep into the middle of our cultural, financial and legal foundations and forces us to believe that we should all try to become islands able to handle everything ourselves in our personal lives, and to rely on a strong military to protect us from "those people over there". The metaphor I used, driving competition down deep, appears to my mind like a wedge being driven into a piece of wood that we are getting ready to send up in smoke.

The progressive ideology, on the other hand, is a picture of letting the trees grow and thrive alongside the many other living things in the forest. Every living thing in a healthy ecosphere has a place, knows its place, and is able to thrive in that place. I believe that we can translate that healthy vision to our economy, and give every worker, every business and every innovative idea a place in that economy to not just exist, but to thrive. In the classes and reading that I have done about the ecology of our planet, the longer forests are allowed to grow and thrive, the stronger they get. I think that's a good vision to reach for, an economy that establishes a solid foundation for all, provides the nutrients for innovation and growth, and lets that sustainable growth continue far into the future.

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