Mass Collaboration: from bioteaming concepts to swarmteam technology

We recently discovered the research of Ken Thompson on Bioteaming, which he defines as:

Bioteaming is about what we can learn from the teams in nature in our organisational teams. It is about how we can base our teams on natural principles, which have developed and proved themselves useful through millions of years of evolution.

Now some of these ideas have been tried before with some success and some failures. However I believe that now because of the advent of a whole new generation of internet-based communication technologies and tools it is now possible, for the first time, to create the truly successful human bioteams

Bioteaming is not about us all behaving like ants or bees – rather it is about how we incorporate natural principles, based on 10 million years hard won evolutionary experience to make smart human teams much more effective and how we can use technology to help!”

The link above has a detailed explanation of the characteristics of such teams.

Ken’s expertise lies in the principles and practices of Mass Collaboration, as evidenced in the typology below:

There are three types of internet-based “mass collaboration� which I would characterise as:

1. Give and Take – for example creating shared distributed computing capacity

Example: alllowing Skype to use some spare computing, in exchanging for using the service

2. Needles in Haystacks – connecting to other like-minds through shared interest rather than personal relationship

Example: How Innocentive use 80,000 self-selected problem solvers

3. Participation through Passion – co-inventing with others based on passion rather than money as the motivator

Example: Free Sofware and Open Source projects

Ken Thompson also identifies four different degrees of collaboration:

1. Solowork – members doing same things at different times

These can be completed by single individuals without help. There is no division of labour and no concurrency.

2. Crowdwork – members doing the same thing at the same time

These tasks require multiple team members to do the same activity concurrently. Crowdword has a place in organisational teams such as team review meetings, brainstorming and team social gatherings. There is concurrency but no division of labour.

3. Groupwork – members doing different things at different times (sequential)

This is where a task is split into two or more subtasks that can be organised sequentially. Example: working on shared documents. There is division of labour but no concurrency.

4. Teamwork – members doing different things at same time (concurrent)

Requires multiple individuals to perform different tasks concurrently. Different individuals must do different things at the same time. There is both division of labour and concurrency. This is real ‘Teamwork” and requires the most complex co-ordination between team players.”

Ken is also working on a concretisation of these concepts through a new tool called Swarmteams, which combines and integrates internet functionalities from within the mobile, optimized for group communication and cooperation:
Swarmteams allows for instant mobile group messaging across multiple channels; it spans cell phone messaging (SMS) and internet  messaging (IM). The main concepts are summarised in this link.

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