• http://www.marinos.com.gr Marinos Papadopoulos

    Incubating an NGO�s intelligent network

    Is the Creative Commons an NGO?
    NGOs�relative newcomers in the online world�have been slow to understand and make use of the unique recombinatory logic and community-building capabilities of the Internet. The real culture of the Internet�network intelligence�requires extensive interaction among all of an NGO�s stakeholders.

    Intelligence, in one of its most basic senses, is the capacity to solve problems, meet challenges, and create valued products and services. An NGO�s network intelligence represents that capacity as it emerges from the complex interplay of its network of people and relationships. And as Mary Ann Glynn put it in her seminal article on organizational intelligence (Academy of Management Review 21 [1996]): �[Network] intelligence is an [NGO�s] capacity to process, interpret, encode, manipulate, and access information in a purposeful, goal-directed manner, so it can increase its adaptive potential in the environment in which it operates.�

    The strategic use of the Internet�the medium for interaction�enhances new and deep relationships with an NGO and among an NGO�s stakeholders in ways that were unprecedented in the past. The recombinant technology of the Internet allows action not only on the pattern of links, but also on the pattern of interaction. Thus, NGOs could harness the properties of the medium�s recombinatory logic to suggest interaction among their stakeholders.

    Success in the online arena belongs to those NGOs that organize electronic communities to meet multiple social, political and commercial needs of their stakeholders. By creating online communities, NGOs are able to build stakeholders� loyalty to a degree that surpasses known marketing gimmicks for stickiness. Using patterns of search and interact, an NGO�s intelligent network processes can link social structures (who knows who) and knowledge networks (who knows what). Thus, through the network intelligence of an NGO we could get from social structures and knowledge networks to cognitive social structures and cognitive knowledge networks (who knows whom and what). It takes both, cognitive skills and social intelligence for relationship-building in an NGO�s network.

    An NGO with an intelligent network swifts its emphasis from brokering information to facilitating knowledge. Facilitating knowledge is powerful for forming associations and relationships that use a recombinant logic to link and interact. In an NGO�s intelligent network, emphasis is given not to information per se, but to communication upon information and distributed intelligence that is produced by communicated information. Mere information trafficking within the NGO�s network does not upgrade the NGO�s role to something more than information broker. The network of people and organizations which people through an NGO can reach out for information�not merely information per se�is increasingly vital. Howard Gardner, the influential professor of Cognition and Education at Harvard Graduate School of Education puts it succinctly: �My intelligence does not stop at my skin. Rather, it encompasses his tools, such as his computer and its databases, and just as important, my network of associates�office mates, professional colleagues, others whom I can phone or whom I can dispatch electronic messages.�

    Within the framework of an NGO, interaction through the unique recombinatory logic and community-building capabilities of the Internet fosters group performance. Outstanding community performance raises what behavioral and cognitive scientists Wendy M. Williams and Robert J. Sternberg identified as �group IQ��the functional intelligence of a group of people working as a unit. When community-members operate at their best, the results can be more than simply additive; they can be multiplicative, with the best talents of one person catalyzing the best of another and another, to produce results far beyond what any one person might have done.

    Interaction through online communities may have multiple forms. The glue for online aggregation and interaction is people�s needs. Community-building provide an opportunity for stakeholders to connect with each other and to learn from each other how to more effectively use an NGO�s resources. One may list NGO stakeholders� needs for online interaction and community-building in four basic categories:
    1. Communities of transaction, which primarily facilitate the buying and selling of products and services and deliver information related to those transactions.
    2. Communities of interest, which bring together participants who interact extensively with one another on specific topics.
    3. Communities of politics, wherein people�s interaction focuses on political activity aiming at the analysis of environments, personalities, and stories from politics.
    4. Communities of relationship, wherein people share life experiences and ideas aiming at the formation of personal relationships among each other and with political entities.

    The four sorts of communities are not exclusive. In most cases community-building in the online environment of an NGO bears a blend of more than one flavor. In NGOs, community managers who offer participants the greatest range of services and meet the greatest range of participants� interests within the same community are capable for developing online the strongest relationships among participants. From the participants� standpoint, the value of participating in a community lies in the participants� ability to access and exchange views upon a broad range of people and resources easily and quickly�access to and interaction upon an NGO�s network of intelligence. From an NGO�s standpoint that manages the aggregation of its stakeholders in online communities, success in online communities lies in the generation of intense loyalty in their participants�trust to an NGO�s network of intelligence�and the facilitation of collaboration among participants in modes, probably, beyond the initial scope and imagination of the NGO managers�stimulation of the recombinatory logic of the NGO�s stakeholders.

    Much like life in many for-profit organizations, Web-like connectivity is a secret for success for NGOs. Influenced by politics wherein people usually spend less of their careers in a single organization and more in short-lived, high-intensity relationships, wherein reality is rather fluid and people tend to form project-based teams, people tend to flock in NGOs interested more in who they work with rather than who they work for. NGO managers who master in network intelligence realize the difference and can lead NGOs to success.

    Network intelligence mandates NGO managers� first task: define what (recombinatory) intelligence is online in their NGOs. An NGO�s online community manager should think of the functionality of the organization�s network intelligence in the Internet. The manager could break down the network intelligence into forms that might be operational in the online environment. Operational forms of network intelligence in online environment could consist of multiple processes for aggregating, rewiring, and reassembling information and progressing communication with value chains in the network. Processes could cater for:
    1. Configuring: process for arranging information in a way that responds to a need.
    2. Dispatching: process for moving information from its source to its appropriate destination.
    3. Storing: process for collecting information so that it can be accessed easily and quickly.
    4. Processing: process for converting raw information into useful outcomes.
    5. Interacting: process for facilitating the exchange of information.
    6. Coordinating: process for harmonizing activities performed by multiple entities and participants toward a common goal.
    7. Learning: process for using experience and information to improve the ability to act.
    8. Sensing: process for detecting and interpreting signals in the environment.

    As an NGO�s intelligent network aggregates, rewires, and reassembles information, the intelligence of an NGO�s network consists of its functionality and operational capacity to process information and progress communication accordingly in the network. In an information economy, improving the utility of an NGO�s information is synonymous with creating value. An NGO�s network intelligence unlocks the real value of collaboration. Processes for aggregating, rewiring, and reassembling information in an NGO�s network represent a very different approach to merely managing an NGO because the processes extend across informational output of multiple stakeholders and enhance the recombinatory logic of the network participants�not merely that one of the NGO managers.

    In an NGO�s intelligent network value arises from the opportunity available to each service or product provider in the network to increasingly specialize in the activities for which it has capability. With an increasing number of participant stakeholders, each service or product provider in the intelligent network has a greater opportunity to specialize and improve the performance of its process. The more the acceleration of process improvement within the network, the more intelligent the network becomes. An NGO�s intelligent network creates value in three broad ways:
    1. By increasing the productivity of constituent processes.
    2. By increasing process managers� capacity for improvement and innovation and thus productivity growth.
    3. By stimulating new business formation that supports innovation within the network.

    Thus, an NGO�s network intelligence resembles the intelligence in clustering to gain competitive advantage. Clusters are geographic concentrations of interconnected companies, suppliers, product and service providers, and associated institutions in particular fields linked by commonalities and complementarities. The presence of a cluster indicates that much of competitive advantage lies outside a given organization and resides in the location of the cluster. The way clusters affect competition bears an analogy to the way an NGO�s intelligent network creates value.

    In an NGO�s intelligent network, productivity of constituent processes is increased by sourcing inputs from network participants in lower transaction costs rather than by outsourcing. Sourcing inputs from network participants minimizes the need for inventory, transaction cost, and delays. In addition, sourcing with the network eases communication, reduces the cost of tailoring, and facilitates the joint provision of ancillary or support services. An intelligent network offers, also, an NGO sourcing advantage in the area of specialized personnel. This lowers search and transaction costs for recruiting and makes possible more efficient matching of jobs to people.

    In an NGO�s intelligent network, process managers� capacity for improvement and innovation and thus productivity growth is enhanced. Process managers can often discern stakeholders� trends faster than isolated entities that reside outside the network can do. In addition, process managers can often more rapidly source within the network new components and elements needed to implement innovation.

    A successful NGO is a �cybernetic� organization, which means it is constantly engaged in feedback loops, gathering information from within and without, adjusting operations accordingly, and transforming information into value assets. In an environment of turbulent change and competition, the NGO that can process information adroitly and widely, learn from it most thoroughly, and respond to it most nimbly and flexibly will be the adaptive and evolutionary of the NGO species. In an environment wherein hierarchies are morphing into networks, old organizational forms are melting into a web, an NGO�s power comes from incubating its intelligent network.

    References:

    Don Tapscott (Chairman of the Alliance for Converging Technologies), Creating Value in the Network Economy, Harvard Business School Press, 1999.

    Daniel Goleman (CEO of Emotional Intelligence Services), Working with Emotional Intelligence, Bentam Books, 1998.

    Mohabir Sawhney (Northwestern University, Kellogg Graduate School of Management) & Deval Parikh (Pittiglio, Rabin, Todd & McGrath), Where Value Lives in a Networked World, Harvard Business Review (January 2001), reprint # R0101E.

    Michael E. Porter (Harvard University, Harvard Business School), On Competition, Harvard Business School Press, 1998.

    Jonathan Bach & David Stark (Columbia University, Center on Organizational Innovation, Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy), Link, Search, interact: The Co-Evolution of NGOs and Interactive Technology, Workshop on information Technology and Global Security, February 2002.

    Monique Girard (Columbia University, Center for Organizational Innovation, Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy) and David Stark (Columbia University, Department of Sociology), Distributing Intelligence and Organizing Diversity in New Media Projects, Presented at conference�University of Bonn, April 2001.

    John Hagel III (www.johnhagel.com), Out of the Box, Harvard Business School Press, 2002.

    Gary Hamel (Harvard University, Harvard Business School) Bringing Silicon Valley Inside, Harvard Business Review (September-October 1999), reprint # 99504.

  • http://www.law.tm Michael Froomkin

    Please could you put TITLE elements into your RSS feed so that it is usable as a slashbox …

  • http://demandmedia.net/ alan

    The RSS doesn’t seem to include any CC licenses. Guess we gotta wait for the RSS1.0 group mull a bit more ;)