Collective Knowledge, commons, and collaboration

Ever since I started working at a major organization, I thought that the best benefit as an employee is the access to a network of talented people that potentially cover every possible domain of action. If you want to grow both as an individual and as a professional, you can simply start making connections, following your interest and curiosity, and I ensure you that you will find people willing to share with you their experiences opening up for you new paths of discovery.

I have been always talking about collaboration, but when looking deeper at it, I ask myself how to spark and foster it, without just waiting for it to happen.

Here is where the learning opportunities of a network and collaboration collide. Learning in other words, is the exchange of knowledge, and a requirement for collaboration to happen. Through learning experiences, our curiosity can lead us in building stronger ties with future collaborators.

What I truly advocate for, is not only to create learning opportunities for ourselves as individuals but to join efforts creating open structures and frameworks that can advance collective knowledge and progress.

So knowledge is a resource that needs to be maintained and nurtured ensuring that it serves and benefits an ecosystem in its entirety. As such it can be seen as a “common”.

Recently, I got introduced to the work of Elinor Ostrom, a social scientist active in the field of commons, common-pool resources and collective action, and both the definition of commons and her 8 principles resonated with me.

Conventional economic wisdom said that property that is communally owned tended to be mismanaged, a phenomenon known as the "tragedy of the commons." Ostrom was able to debunk this popular theory, which was originally outlined by ecologist Garrett Hardin, documenting many places around the world where communities have cooperated successfully to govern common resources and ensure that they remain viable for current and future inhabitants.

Reading the words quoted above, makes me think about how employees develop collective knowledge. The Knowledge around the products they make, the audience and consumers they serve, and the craft they own. How could they collectively look after a common that serves their shared interests?

I am convinced that part of the answer to this complex quest lies in how we exchange knowledge and build relationships with one another. An effort in this direction that got me out of bed in the last months has been creating an internal network that introduces novel (at least for traditional corporations) behaviours that promote the evolution of collective knowledge, a network to grow personally, professionally, and collectively.

Its main functions are:

  • To promote peer-to-peer learning, fostering new connections and energy in the organization.
  • To explore the organization's priorities, providing dedicated informative, interactive, and collaborative spaces to share insights, updates and initiatives, and ultimately collaborate and provide new proposals and solutions.
  • to introduce radical transparency and accessibility in the organization, by allowing every member to organize or join meetings in a shared calendar.

The last point above introduces a new behaviour and a shift in the knowledge ownership paradigm. Sharing knowledge and making it accessible and transparent is what I believe can serve the collective interest and unlock unexpected opportunities of connection and exchange.

The collaboration culture and practices in web3 have an incredible influence on me. Many values in Web3 are not totally new but actually, look at historical and contemporary models of organization that are now enabled by new technologies.

Transferring knowledge from the frontiers of decentralised collaboration to a different and more traditional working context is a design challenge that requires me to unveil all the possible triggers to embrace new values, mindsets, and the adoption of new collaborative processes.

This initiative alone won’t be the ultimate solution to avoid the tragedy of knowledge as a common, but surely a first step toward it.

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