12.3 The rise of value networks


    “In a disconnected world, the costs of [being] evil are minimal. In a hyper-connected world, the costs of [being] evil explode.”
    – Umair Haque’s Law, HBR blog.

    In Society 3.0, people share their knowledge on their own accord; the actual intellectual property of information is of marginal importance. The opportunity for sharing knowledge makes people autonomous to engage collectively in a new way of value creation.

    Connected through social networks, people constitute an almost inexhaustible potential, not the least thanks to the abundance of free software and all kinds of useful apps. Thanks to the Internet, we are not only connected to each other 24/7, but also with each other’s information and collective knowledge. And this is how knowledge ceases to be scarce. There is an abundance of knowledge, information, work, and more on the horizon.

    That is how “access to” becomes more important than “ownership of.”

    Access to what?
    – Information about your stakeholders, supplied by those same stakeholders.
    – The collective thinking and creative power of these stakeholders.
    – The workforce capacity of your stakeholders.
    – Knowledge and all kinds of smart knowledge-enhancing software on the Internet.
    – Funds of your stakeholders.

    In the past, when we talked about the properties of knowledge and information, it was in regard to organizations and individuals who built an organization around their knowledge. And when we talked about access, then it was mostly in regard to the individual who had to make the effort to gain access. In a value chain, it is relatively easy to screen out knowledge and information. It is very different in a value network. Suddenly, this is no longer the exclusive domain of organizations (in the traditional style). Now this network consists of all kinds of individuals, and their personal knowledge and information. Private property, therefore, slowly (de)generates to collective property.

    Access is becoming increasingly implicit: as soon as people in organizations connect with people outside said organizations or with people in other organizations, it soon becomes point to point, and everyone has access to everything. And, that is when it starts to be fun. Then, you can no longer sneakily abuse the gullibility of isolated individuals because they will quickly warn each other. Together, we know everything.

    That is what Umair Haque means, I believe. Then, I read an article by Yochai Benkler. In 2006, this Harvard professor of entrepreneurial legal studies wrote in his book, The Wealth of Networks, that:

    “A new economic value creation becomes a logical consequence of the availability of an increasingly larger amount of information and knowledge, among an increasingly stronger connection between groups of people, by the increasing technological developments in and around the Internet.”

    When I read this and tried to fathom it, I suddenly understood that value creation is in a transitional phase: a transition from thinking in terms of value chains to coworking in value networks.