We live in a fascinating time when historical ways of thinking are being exploded. One of those ways of thinking is linearity. We think of cause and effect, looking for causes whenever we see phenomena that we classify as effects. The stock market went down. What caused it? There’s a war in Syria. What were the causes of war? Amazon.com got huge. Let’s look backwards and reconstruct the decisions and actions that caused this explosive growth, because then we can reverse engineer it and reapply it in the future.
Linear thinking is over.
Networked global exchange platforms like Alibaba and Facebook and, yes, amazon.com, force us to abandon all vestiges of the linear and sequential views of human progress. Searching for consumer dissatisfactions and designing solutions for them is one example of a linear, sequential thought process. Innovation is not about solutions designed by a few; it is about interactions between networks of people and knowledge. Innovating is not a process; it is a set of collaborative practices taking place on these nested, interconnected networks. That’s a challenging idea: progress is made by interconnecting not by identifying problems to be solved.
The next phase.
The next great phase of progress is the bridging of disconnected worlds: interconnecting humans and nonhumans in new ways to build new innovation opportunities. These opportunities can be further explored, and ultimately exploited, through the integration of ideas, tools, images, and languages. There is no predicting the new experiences that will emerge. Once interconnection starts, there is no linear thinking that can chart or even track its progress.
Entrepreneurship Is Simultaneously Individual And Social.
There’s an interesting twist to this non-linear thinking. Entrepreneurship and innovation are no longer merely business issues. We must open up a much broader landscape: social, cultural, material, and contextual. The shared knowing and doing of an interconnected society can improve lives, evolve new institutions, and change culture. Connections-in-action can lead to a new collective sense of co-created markets and social betterment.
These are new perspectives for individuals who are interconnecting in networks. Digital entrepreneurs are shaping markets through their doing and knowing. They create new ways of developing, diffusing, and using knowledge and new ways to generate and promote innovation. Dr. Cristina Mele calls these digital innovators “inno-mediaries.” They encourage new innovators (consumers, communities, and experts) to enter into the co-creation of innovation by enabling new practices and connecting globally distributed resources resources. These new practices emerge from individual acts (entrepreneur as hero), but then become shared practices, available to many. It is the interconnections between knowledgeable individuals—dynamic interconnections that are ever changing, adapting, shifting, and adjusting—that enable new activities. Progress consists in this complex interconnectedness of actors and actions. Individualism consists in the unique efforts we can each undertake and the unique contribution we can each make as a result of the greater intelligence that comes from interconnecting.
Global Exchange Platforms Are the Inno-mediaries.
The global exchange platforms that facilitate interconnection are many and varied. Supply chain companies can check their disruption risk by linking all their global vendors on a platform, linking to real time event information (like natural disasters or political uprisings or transportation disruptions) and assessing the implications of those events as they happen. A rock band can connect to fans, venues, people looking for jobs as roadies or fill-in drummers, and lawyers to protect their songwriting and performance I.P.
Consumers can connect to their general practitioner, and to specialist doctors, to labs for tests and results, to pharmacies and content, and run their own health care management.
One interesting interconnection platform that points towards our cultural future is Patreon. It’s a platform that links creators and artists and writers and anyone who is creatively innovating with patrons – people willing to offer money to support them. In historical times, great artists had patrons. Michelangelo had the Medici family. Leonardo had the Duke of Milan. Now you, if you are a creator, can find your own Medici family (or, more likely, a few $5 / month or $10 / month patrons) on Patreon. Dr. Jordan Peterson, for example, has over 9,000 patrons. His creation goal is “accredited online humanities education to as many people as possible around the world”.
Patreon is one more example of the technologies of spontaneous order. Like never before, creators looking for patrons can connect to anyone in the world and ask for monetary support in their endeavors. We don’t know what will ensue. Great art, new music, new literature, new ways to teach humanities, or new ways to evolve institutions. Connections-in-action can generate all kinds of innovative progress, with no possibility of predicting exactly what the connections will generate. Spontaneous order promises no certainty of outcomes, just the acceleration of progress and betterment for all, through interconnection.
This article is adapted from The Interconnected Individual: Seizing Opportunity in the Era of AI, Platforms, Apps, and Global Exchanges, by Hunter Hastings and Jeff Saperstein, to be published by Business Expert Press, July 2018.
You can find Center For Individualism on Patreon at https://www.patreon.com/hunterhastings