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Consultation and the Age of Networked Intelligence

Steve Caswell recently joined ebbf and right away decided to contribute and applied for

one of ebbf’s open positions. With this article he starts his role as ebbf journalist of meaningful stories.

“When many people think about business, they often envision an environment that is managed based upon a traditional model of command and control. The agenda is set by executives and managers, who control the business operations in a top down manner. Employees frequently are given their marching orders and are expected to perform based upon parameters set by their bosses. While consultation and its close cousin collaboration have a value, they are typically not listed as key elements of that traditional management style.

Over the last 30 years, however, business has undergone critical changes. Perhaps the most important is that management by command and control in numerous leading companies is giving way to a new model that can be looked at as management by collaboration and consultation. The driving factor for this change has been powerful computing devices and communication systems that have ushered in today’s age of networked intelligence.

Age of Networked Intelligence

In their pioneering books, Wikinomics (2006) and Macrowikinomics (2010), authors Don Tapscott and Anthony Williams identified five principles for the age of networked Intelligence as follows:

  1. Collaboration

  2. Openness

  3. Sharing

  4. Integrity

  5. Interdependence

In their books, they explore how the printing press, back in the 15th century, revolutionized the world by putting information into the hands of millions of people. They wrote, “Eventually a rising class of informed and powerful businessmen, professional soldiers, and intelligentsia in countries like France and in the British colonies demanded a new kind of economy and new forms of rule free from the old power of the Church and feudal nobility.”[1]

They continued, “Thanks largely to the Internet we are crossing a similar chasm today. Long-standing monopolies and power balances are once again being challenged as more people from more regions of the world now connect, collaborate, and compete on the global stage … In the long run we will look back at this period as a time when the world began a historic transition from industrial capitalism to a new kind of economy based on new principles and new ways of thinking and behaving.”[2]

Collaboration and Consultation at its Core

It is hard to understate the importance of collaboration and consultation in today’s new world. If we go back to the time the Internet was being developed in the 1970s, its founders were working to develop what they hoped would one-day become a gigantic global network. In order for that to happen, they believed that the evolution of the network had to be based upon an open, collaborative environment that engaged its users to become involved in its development.

In an interview last year with one of the Internet’s founders, Vinton Cerf,[3] he answered a question about the Internet founders’ vision for controlling the Internet as follows:

It was never about control. It was about building something that could grow to a much larger scale. … The funding [from the US government] was used to create an environment of collaboration and sharing — starting with the ARPANET and continuing with the Internet. This was always about facilitation, not about control … The program managers at DARPA and NSF were particularly focused on this process of fashioning a bottom-up, facilitative environment. The program managers, starting with Bob [Kahn] and me and going on to Stephen Wolff [at NSF] among others guided the development community towards collaborative processes. As the Net and its institutions grew, the government agencies were able to shift responsibility to these multi-stakeholder, bottom-up processes. I think the story is more about the choice of the government program managers to facilitate this process rather than one of ceding control.”

Integral to Today’s World

The bottom line is that consultation and collaboration are not just critical skills to master in today’s networked world. They are the core skills of a new style of management – management by collaboration and consultation – that is now practiced at numerous leading companies globally. These organizations thrive by engaging their employees at every level of their business by listening to them carefully and making them a critical part of the planning and operations processes as well as by bringing in experts from the outside to contribute their perspective. ”

We hope you will come and enjoy exploring with us this and other perspectives on #consultation at #ebbfmilan international ebbf learning event.


[1] Tapscott, Don and Anthony D. Williams, Macrowikinomics, Portfolio/Penguin, New York, NY, 2010, page 23-24.

[2] Ibid., page 24.

[3] Vint Cerf is credited with co-developing the Internet’s key protocol, TCP/IP, and also played a critical role in the Internet emerging from a tiny network for academics into today’s global powerhouse. I conducted the interview with Cerf while serving as the Senior Researcher for a paper written by Don Tapscott and Lynn St. John for the Global Solutions Network project entitled, The Remarkable Internet Governance Network. The paper, which explores how the Internet is governed and why it’s important, is available at

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