Over the last couple of years I’ve been involved in different initiatives. Some of these have been working for pay, and some have been working as a member of the community to advance a project or the field. What has troubled me as of late is that in much of this work, there are supervisors, superiors, and boards that oversee the work and change directions on a whim.
With that I started wondering what could you do if you teamed up with cool people and built stuff that you love? In most of the work I referenced up above, I’ve had the opportunity to work with awesome, super-talented people that push my own thinking…and supercharge the work we’re completing. What would happen if we could pull all of those people into a collective and identified connections and the opportunity to collaborate on something we decide.
In the past, we would look for colleagues in our area that shared our interests and team up with them. Alternatively, you could move to an area of the planet that is a hotbed for innovation in a field and bathe in the knowledge spillover. Now in a distributed economy, and through the pipelines provided by the web, we can collaborate virtually as easily as we would if we grew up in the same neighborhood.
We can look at examples of this in stories that came out of Silicon Valley, but I find an even better connection with the glass blowers of the island of Murano. Steven Johnson chronicles their story in the How We Got to Now book and series. The short story is that after the sacking of Constantinople, glassblowers fled to Venice to find refuge. To protect the public from the glassblower’s kilns and the threat of fire, the government exiled all of the glassblowers to the nearby island of Murano. In this they unwittingly created an innovation hub that many current cities are trying to recreate.
What would you create?
Of course, concepts like innovation are hard to understand and even harder to operationalize. Sometimes ideas take time to bake. They also require information spillover from colleagues and friends. These seeds of possibilities need spaces or systems to keep them alive as they develop. In the video below, Steven Johnson labels these as slow hunches and shares other historical parallels.
Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.— Mark Twain
flickr photo by nyoin http://flickr.com/photos/nyoin/2751494190 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-ND) license
Also published at Medium.com