Open Future NZ "Be the change you want to see in the World"
Mahatma Gandhi
Communities of Practice by John S Veitch
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Building an "Open Future©" demands continuous learning and adaptation.  All learning is social, the things we see other people doing influences our own behaviour. If we are unsure of ourselves, when we lack knowledge of our own, we follow the lead of other people we know and admire.  If you choose your fellow travellers well, it's likely they will favorably influence your decisions, as you try to make your "Open Future©" real.  

People are often afraid to join Communities of Practice, especially if some of the members have reputations for expertise, and short capacity for humoring newbies.  The proper response as a newbie is to listen a lot, to read a lot, and to ask short but interesting questions.  Find the key point of confusion, or the main issue and draw attention to it.  You don't have to be an expert to make a valued contribution to a community of practice.  

If you are going to make an "Open Future©" for yourself, you need to become the change that's needed.  The world will do what it does, other people will make their own choices, and you need continually to adapt, to be the missing link that makes your "Open Future©" more likely.

All human networks act like the nervous system of society.  They tell us when and where things are going well, and where it's hurting.  If our networks are functional, we'll have the ability to respond appropriately to the current situation.  The process of cell to cell communication in the human body models the ideal very well.  

The Value of Community

Peter Gloor has a unique combination of academic and industry experience. In the academic sphere, he is a Visiting Scholar at the Center for Coordination Science at MIT's Sloan School of Management where he leads a project exploring Collaborative Innovation Networks. He is also a Research Fellow at Darmouth's Tuck Center for Digital Strategies. Peter has written 5 books and over thirty scholarly papers. His latest book "Swarm Creativity - Competitive Advantage through Collaborative Innovation Networks" appeared January 2006 from Oxford University Press.

"Don't be a star, be a galaxy." Peter Gloor talks about his work mapping social networks.

Apoptosis is the process of cell death that was badly understood for many years.  We now know that all living cells "signal" to surrounding cells, sharing the news, "I'm OK". and receiving the confirmation signal, "Your OK".  Cells also have another message, which is normally sent to cells that are misplaced or malfunctioning.  That message is an instruction; "Die".  This is the cause of the mysterious process of apoptosis, where cells die on command, just like a switch has been turned off.  Properly understood apoptosis is not a failure, it is the normal process keeps the living body healthy.  Failure of the apoptosis process causes cancers.

Conversations occur between equals.  In human groups, small talk so often labelled as unimportant, is a similar signaling system.  Chat about the weather, the football match, or the children, is the glue that helps people feel connected to each other.  Groups have social rules for membership.  Almost always unwritten, but clearly understood by all "members".  People rarely break those rules, and if they do the consequential loss of trust may lead to exclusion from the group.  

The political leaders of most countries, and the management and board of directors. of companies and government departments, find the growth of online communities of practice and social networks very challenging.  They feel a strong urge to "control" what's happening.  Or to forbid access altogether.  To do so is to shut down the "signaling system" so that only the signals of a few people are functional.  If that happens, people starved of necessary signals, retreat into survival mode, escape to elsewhere, or like the body cells, choose the "die" option.  I don't see, if there is to be an "Open Future©" that there is any alternative but to encourage everyone's free assess to the messaging system.  

Communities of practice combine personal identity, community identity and personal learning.  Each group develops it's own set of generally agreed assumptions, it's own recommended practises, and it's own set of issues about which debate revolves.  A community of practice is capable of "group think", of becoming trapped by ways of thinking and behaving that become a barrier to innovation and new learning.  Open groups are less likely to be trapped in that way.  Every group needs new members who ask different questions and who bring different problems to the group to keep innovation alive and the groups learning edge moving.  

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