Looking Back at Looking Forward

sharing knowledge about organisational foresight


I read Ross King’s biography Machiavelli over the break. I found it a fascinating and insightful view of Machiavelli and life in 15th century Europe. How things have changed….and remained the same!

King identified an inherent conflict in Machiavelli’s thinking which I feel is very profound. On the one hand Machiavelli held that “Men are unable to master their own natures” (p176) effectively stranding the individual in a form of perpetual stasis.

Whatever influences through birth or environment work to forge the individual, once developed norms of behaviour are hard to change. Unable to learn either from the past or adapt that which is emerging they act as passive vessels… mistakes and history are repeated.

So much for freedom of action. How can a Prince dispense wisdom and advice to others and expect them to change.

There are obvious parallels with operationalising strategic thinking and achieving organisation change. Perhaps it is better to act in collaboration with like minded individuals working through interconnected networks.


January 13, 2008 Posted by | knowledge networks, philosophy | , , , , | Leave a comment

Digital Business Ecosystem

Came across this European Commission initiative today. The DBS is an open, web-based collaborative research and software development forum to development applications for small-to-medium enterprises. Participants are from research institutions and business.

Interestingly the DBS applies systems-thinking to its task. The intention is that, like all ecosystems, users can learn, interact with others, adapt applications to suit and continue to have these applications change and evolve over time. Of course this involves complexity – through the constant interaction between users and applications.

To quote the site, the most exiting development is “the use of software applications and services that are able to ‘evolve’ and to organise themselves in a way that is optimised for the end user.”

This initiative is commendable but it is not clear how successful it has been. I have come across online research/collaborative communities that appear to have been launched with a great deal of enthusiasm and vision…only to trail off to disappointment.

Still, this is one to look further into.

December 16, 2007 Posted by | collaboration | , , | Leave a comment

a thousand tomorrows on climate change

Today’s email from the ‘a thousand tomorrow’s blog described four scenarios on responses to climate change developed by Open the Future. One of the critical uncertainties was between centralised and decentralised control – seen as fundamental uncertainties about how the future will play out over the next few decades.

In the decentralised control scenarios collaboration dominates.

This analysis is very close to Vision 20/20.

November 27, 2007 Posted by | collaboration, foresight | , | Leave a comment


During my recent vacation I read Wikinomics: How mass collaboration changes everything by Don Tapscott and Anthony D Williams. All about the transfer of power from institutions to distributed networks. The trend to distributed networks is very powerful as the ability to innovate, enhance, and share – the positive feelings/reputation enhancing/business development/economies of scale opportunities, and agility and responsiveness are all very compelling.

So I’ve been tracking the wikinomics website and am looking at the Wikinomics Playbook (a peer produced guide to collaboration in the 21st century. I’m interested in the value systems and generally accepted rule of behaviour that govern online collaboration. In the Tower of Google the statement is made that those who trust collaborate better… and trust is mostly a question of shared value systems.

Well, two apparently diametrically opposed thoughts come to mind:

  • how can there be mass collaboration in a world of fragmented value systems?
  • does mass collaboration mean there is a ‘global value system’ that distributed networking is tapping into?

Cause for some investigation I think.

November 8, 2007 Posted by | collaboration, knowledge networks | , , , , | Leave a comment

Clash of cultures or world economy?

Fascinating article by David Brooks (New York Times) on the theologian John Mcmurray’s influence on Tony Blair.

There’s a quote from Blair “Globalisation begets interdependence, and interdependence begets the necessity of a common value system to make it work” and later “We are witnessing the beginnings of a new doctrine of international community”. While economic globalisation is mature, the politics are not. What is needed are multilateral institutions to act in pursuit of global values.

This ‘international interdependence leading to world community’ view prompted thinking at the local community and organisational level. As far as politics go, this view suggest there is a need for collaborative institutions between Federal and State governments in Australia.

In a policy sense there are indicators of advancing multilateral collaboration such as the inter-governmental work on anti-spam. The driver is again global with the internet being an international network of networks. Jurisdictions are realising they share recurring internet security and privacy issues. What’s more, the creative and innovative thinking behind e-security initiatives are attributable to informal networking.

At the organisational level, a similar ‘clash between cultures’ occurs. Divisions internally are barriers to whole-of-organisation, or multiple line area collaboration. The resolution of these problems is to have informal networking foster coalitions of understanding and self-help on mutual interests.

May 12, 2007 Posted by | collaboration, Globalisation, knowledge networks | , , , , | Leave a comment