Collaborating Minds is a combined software platform and virtual organization designed to scale high-performance team capabilities to 150-1000 geographically dispersed and diversely skilled individuals. We believe that Collaborating Minds will be able to take on large-scale, complex problems that have resisted other approaches.
We are about to launch a beta version incorporating the lessons we’ve learned to date. In this stage our principal goal is to create a nucleus community of 125-175 members, demonstrate the problem-solving capacity of the community, identify a path to a sustainable operating model for a community of 1,000 members, and options to scale beyond the first successful community.
Collaborating Minds fills a gap in the world of collaboration methods.
- High-performance teams emphasize quality of interaction.
- Small group of people (6-12)
- Complementary and diverse skill mix by design
- Invest in ongoing relationships
- Invest in shared problem-solving practices and techniques
- Crowdsourcing approaches emphasize diversity of input
- Wide net for skills and knowledge
- Skill diversity by scale and accident rather than design
- Minimal techniques for group problem-solving; voting, popularity
- If one person has a great answer – fabulous – but if not, then no answer will be found
- Collaborating Minds is an effort to synthesize the best features of high-performance teams and crowdsourcing.
Where we’ve been so far
We’ve been developing Collaborating Minds and the ideas behind it for several years. We began our collaboration in 2009 as we tried to understand the hype, the promise, and the mixed results that organizations were seeing with what was being labeled “Enterprise 2.0”. Between us, we had nearly 60 years of experience in problem solving, consulting, knowledge management, relationship building, organizational improvement, and collaboration.
Our next step was to build a prototype of the capabilities we imagined and to recruit people to participate. Our theory was that there were people in the world who wanted to work together the way this system would let them and who valued what it could provide. We began developing the prototype in late 2010, and did an Alpha test in late 2011 through early 2012, with about 30 participants. We then took down the site to address issues raised in the alpha test and to install elements that had not been built yet. We are now ready to recruit a group of people for the beta test.
The design of the beta and the assumptions to be tested
The alpha test demonstrated that it is possible to attract a community interested and willing to work within the conceptual framework of Collaborating Minds. That community is likely to tolerate necessary growth and evolution in the technology platform but only to the extent that they perceive themselves as full partners in the evolution and that the value of belonging to and participating in the community significantly outweighs the costs and annoyances of an evolving platform and business model.
Therefore, the beta phase of Collaborating Minds expects a 70/30 split between nurturing a community and extending the technology. Successfully attracting and nurturing an initial community depends on:
- Explicitly monitoring and managing the interaction among early members
- Engaging the community in immediate and relevant problem solving efforts. We contemplate parallel work on three:
- Articulating and refining a sustainable business model for Collaborating Minds acceptable to the community as a whole
- A current social problem of relevance to the community (and ideally to a foundation that might serve as an initial target customer/audience and funder)
- A problem posed by a member and taken up by the community
- Establishing a high level of transparency about the workings and evolution of Collaborating Minds within the community.
On the technology side, the beta phase depends primarily on:
- Adequate social networking capabilities
- Support for deeper profiles of individuals
- Support for at least one problem-solving process
- Fallback support for existing team collaboration tools (individual blogs, shared wiki space, threaded discussion)