Evolution of Ideas

As I mentioned the other day, the Wisdom of Crowds is an important idea in Web 2.0. (Before you start complaining about the term Web 2.0, go read this). And, like many other ideas being taught to us by the network, the Wisdom of Crowds is counter-intuitive. Even so, it represents with great clarity the notion that we’re learning a tremendous amount about how we work, how we relate to each other, and how the world relates to us.

But why is this happening now? Why are we finding so much innovation and ideas popping up now? Is it because technology has reached a certain level of functionality? I don’t think so. Is it because it wasn’t true before? I don’t think that, either.

I think our observations of what seems to be working and what seems to be not working have finally changed the way we think about the world. I think we’re just getting used to the Web and the implications that it has on our lives. It takes years for people to change the way they think. Some never do.

As I mentioned the other day, the Wisdom of Crowds is an important idea in Web 2.0. (Before you start complaining about the term Web 2.0, go read this). And, like many other ideas being taught to us by the network, the Wisdom of Crowds is counter-intuitive. Even so, it represents with great clarity the notion that we’re learning a tremendous amount about how we work, how we relate to each other, and how the world relates to us.

But why is this happening now? Why are we finding so much innovation and ideas popping up now? Is it because technology has reached a certain level of functionality? I don’t think so. Is it because it wasn’t true before? I don’t think that, either.

I think our observations of what seems to be working and what seems to be not working have finally changed the way we think about the world. I think we’re just getting used to the Web and the implications that it has on our lives. It takes years for people to change the way they think. Some never do.

We have never before lived in a time when we get such quick feedback from a whole network of people. If your new web application fails to grow after its initial release, you can bet that something is not right with it. It should, at the very least, be growing slowly if people are happy with it.

Similarly, as has been talked about in open source software for years, we can fail incredibly fast. If we do so, all it takes is accepting it, learning from it, and moving on to improve next time.

The big problem is that we don’t always accept when we’ve failed. And in not accepting it, we can’t learn from it. And if we don’t learn from it, we can’t move beyond it.

In other words, our actions and reactions need to happen in real time. We need to accept the rules of the network, whatever they may be, and adapt to them. They will not adapt to us.

When we become accepting of new ideas such as the Wisdom of Crowds, we open ourselves up to more of them. When we do that, we’re barely able to keep up. It’s evolution of ideas in action, and it’s wonderful.

Published: March 22nd, 2006

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