I read with great interest a recent article by Chris Anderson in Wired Features how video on YouTube is having the unexpected effect of allowing people to learn–and innovate–at an accelerated rate. He gives the example of people learning from one another how to dance, developing skills previously unheard of. Take for example the Legion of Extraordinary Dancers:
According to Anderson, many of these dancers were self-taught through Internet video, bringing together tricks and moves previously unknown in dance. Part of this is accelerated learning and innovation, he says, comes from people sharing what they know, so that others who would otherwise be isolated can learn. And they are not just sharing what they know in words, but actually SHOWING what they know through video.
In the article Anderson draws the link between accelerated learning by video, and the increasing quality of TED Talks speakers. But is there a lesson here for knowledge workers and those overseeing our Knowledge Management practices?
Last year at one of our Knowledge Workers Toronto meetings, Stephanie Barnes took us through an interesting exercise called Bird Island (trade mark from Knoco Ltd.). In it, groups work in isolation to do their best to build a structure with a specific purpose. Once they innovate as much as possible on their own, they then share their techniques with one another. The groups are then sent back to the drawing board to see if they have learned anything from one another, and the differences are surprisingly dramatic. I am being purposely vague about the exact exercise because I hope you will try it in person, and I don't want to give away the secrets and the fun!
So Bird Island is meant to show how sharing within your own organization (under the guise of Knowledge Management) is so essential. But what about the world at large? If we can do so much better within a few–or few thousand–people, are there times when going outside your organization make sense? It is not unusual for organizations to get together with other organizations (either within their own industry or with other industries) to compare notes, but usually within the same geographic vicinity. But what if the key innovation we are seeking, the answers for improvement, are somewhere on the other side of the globe, in a completely unrelated organization?
It may actually make sense to produce video–or perhaps in this case screencasting (video of the screen and voice) to show our online tools and discuss our approaches. We will help others learn to do more, and hopefully they will reciprocate, feeding back what they learn with others. I've long felt video can have fantastic affects, but crowd accelerated innovation goes even beyond what I had thought possible.
Hat tip to Ralph Mercer for sharing the link to Anderson's article.