Learning from Hardware: rethinking cooperation.

On: October 18, 2007
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About Bas Bisseling
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A few weeks ago, I was watching Paul Bennett, who was one of the guest speakers at the annual TED conference. He, as a creative director, was propagating new ways in thinking of problem solving and solution finding. Doing so by trying to think “out of the box”, as he said. That inspired me into writing this post: Rethinking cooperation.

When we collaborate, each of us contributes special powers (trumps) to raise the efficiency or quality of the collective effort as a well oiled chain. This type of cooperation could be problematic if a key member decides to split, because we are depending on each other’s effort. A chain is no stronger than its weakest link, so this could jeopardize the collective effort. Why does, in this example and in many other projects, the collective rely on such a fragile structure? When the individuals pass on their knowledge to their colleagues, they will obviously loose their trump and become replaceable. The collective effort will, on the one hand, benefit from this, because it does not rely on the contribution of one individual anymore. But, on the other hand, the individual looses its competitive advantage and becomes replaceable. Could there not be a way for the two interests to converge?

Maybe we could find a solution, when we take a look beyond sociology into the realms of data management and push ourselves into thinking in metaphors. Hard drives can work together in several combinations (RAID-0 / -5). Each of these combinations have different aims (qualities). RAID-0 combines speed with quantity, but jeopardizes the integrity of the data. Hence, to jeopardize the collective effort when a key member splits. RAID-5, for many companies is the most reliable and fastest solution for data management. A few hard drives are ’sacrificed’ to maintain the greater good (Every member of a project has, besides its own knowledge, a little bit of knowledge of the other members). The RAID-5 solution does not work as fast as RAID-0, but is more reliable. (RAID-5 as a metaphor, could be labour intensive, but could spare a project member).

This brings me to the notion of ‘free cooperation’, which I will go into later on…

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