Cognitive Surplus (in the Enterprise)

While writing up some of my thoughts on the newest McKinsey Quarterly article on Web 2.0 in the Enterprise (this post will follow soon) I was tempted to follow some small detours. Namely this one with Clay Shirky, getting interviewed after his keynote at the FASTForward ’09 conference in Las Vegas, talking about

  • The effects of low cost coordination and group action.
  • Where to find the next layer of value when many professions are being disrupted by the Internet
  • The necessary role of low cost experimentation in finding new business models

You can find these and other videos at the FASTForward site (together with the Euan Semple one, that I’ve posted here). What led me there once more is the McKinsey argument that the biggest ROI comes from what Clay calls the “cognitive surplus”, i.e. the underused human potential we have in our  companies and that can be tapped with Web 2.0 participatory tools (yikes, let us not forget 2.0 paradigms, principles and methods in all this discussion, yes?).

So this made me pull up more stuff I’ve posted on Clay before here (Clay Shirky on Cognitive Surplus and on innovation in the digital economy), my review of Here Comes Everybody and here:

Clay Shirky says on CIO Insight that businesses are just beginning to understand the value—and challenges—of social technologies.

Nora Young of CBC Spark show posted audio from a full interview with Clay Shirky. The interview is worth hearing, and touches on some of the topics in his new book (Here Comes Everybody, see also here and here) – such as the pros and cons of social media, new business models online, and how big change comes from human motivation, not shiny new technologies. Download the mp3.

Nora and Clay started off by talking about our “cognitive surplus,” which Clay describes as “all the free thinking time that society has access to… in the brains of its citizens that isn’t getting used for specific tasks.” Think TV watching time, except Clay has some ideas on how you should be/could be spending your surplus.

and especially here:

[…] Well, yes, don’t blame the web intranet when it’s filter failure, yes, the ability to pay attention in the Web 2.0 age is the “work smarter, not harder” version 2.0″

But probably the most interesting thing is what I’ve argued with in The power of networks and pragmatic adoption:

[…] it makes sense to think about social software uses in the enterprise: When technology becomes “boring”, i.e. taken for granted, it has the chance to move into the mainstream of people caring more for business problems and efficient solutions than for tech in itself. Now’s the time for pragmatic minded enterprise 2.0 consultants, rosy times ahead, obviously.

Well, skip the last sentence, that was in April 2008 😉

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13 Responses to “Cognitive Surplus (in the Enterprise)”

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