This period of year is the time to look back and especially look ahead. Therefore I challenge you to think about 2010: Will it be the year of the cathedral or the bazaar?
The title is borrowed from Eric Raymond’s famous essay [1] about the contrasting concepts of a cathedral – long in detailed planning, fully conceived of to a detailed extent, and fully constructed prior to opening; with the bazaar – a constant babble of contending interests and agendas, open to all and sundry.
The concept of the bazaar is the fundament for the Open Source community. Trends like ‘mass collaboration’ and ‘commons-based peer production’ even changed the World Wide Web from being primarily about the storage and retrieval of information into a fully-fledged basis for communication, social interaction and participation (web 2.0).
The new features of the digital age or network society really do amount to a basis for a fundamental rethinking about social interaction, communities, and collaboration. considering these features from a business point of view results in some interesting ideas. Let’s consider some.
After the great economic crisis of last year, many people lost their faith in the financial institutions. After the formal nationalization of all those banks which have been rescued as part of the general bail-out, there is a public demand to organize this in a completely different way. Tony Briant [2] referred to the mutuals, which are ‘friendly’, ‘co-operative’, ‘benevolent’ or ‘mutual’ societies, particularly the investment and finance organizations. The idea of mutuals, in the form of building societies, dates from the late 18th century when groups of people got together to pool assets so that between them they could eventually buy the land, materials and other resources needed to build a house for each of them. One of their key roles was to act as mortgage providers, balancing the funds they held as savings against the funds they provided to lenders financing their house purchases.
Combination of the technology and ideas of mutuals has been taken up by the financiers which results in the new form of internet-based mutuality. For the financiers it has proved to be the platform upon which a truly global, supra-national financial system can be established – able to evade any local or national control or other forms of regulation, simultaneously offering high volumes of near-instantaneous transactions at negligible cost. Imagine how this will change the financial system!
The basis of this new form of collaboration is its anarchic character, allowing a babble of different
agendas, free from central control – particularly government and other quasi-governmental bodies. It represents the alternative basis for cooperation and solidarity. Think about the health care system and even the government itself!
People might think that this has nothing to do with them for the coming years, except in case of some nice initiatives e.g.: c,mm,, But think about your own organization. I guess this is like a cathedral, an hierarchical institution managed from the top. But is it possible to achieve the same results in a bazaar-like context?
I wish you all a great 2010 with a lot of wisdom. And if you have some moments of reflection during the holidays, think about what your role will be in the bazaar next year.