8 The Law of the Allegiance

Feed the web first

The distinguishing characteristic of networks is that they have no clear center and no clear outer boundaries. The vital distinction between the self (us) and the nonself (them) — once exemplified by the allegiance of the industrial-era organization man — becomes less meaningful in a Network Economy. The only «inside» now is whether you are on the network or off. Individual allegiance moves away from organizations and toward networks and network platforms. (Are you Windows or Mac?)

Thus, we see fierce enthusiasm from consumers for open architectures. Users are voting for maximizing the value of the network itself. Companies have to play this way, too. As consultant John Hagel argues, a company’s primary focus in a networked world shifts from maximizing the firm’s value to maximizing the value of the infrastructure whole. For instance, game companies will devote as much energy promoting the platform — the tangle of users, developers, hardware manufactures, etc. — as they do to their product. Unless their web thrives, they die.

The net is a possibility factory, churning out novel opportunities by the diskful. But unless this explosion is harnessed, it will drown the unprepared. What the computer industry calls «standards» is an attempt to tame the debilitating abundance of competing possibilities. Standards strengthen a network; their constraints solidify a pathway, allowing innovation and evolution to accelerate. So central is the need to tame the choice of possibilities that organizations must make the common standard their first allegiance. Companies positioned at the gateway to a standard will reap the largest rewards. But as a company prospers, so do those in its web.

A network is like a country. In both, the surest route to raising one’s own prosperity is raising the system’s prosperity. The one clear effect of the industrial age is that the prosperity individuals achieve is more closely related to their nation’s prosperity than to their own efforts.

The net is like a country, but with three important differences:

1) No geographical or temporal boundaries exist — relations flow 24 by 7 by 365.

2) Relations in the Network Economy are more tightly coupled, more intense, more persistent, and more intimate in many ways than those in a country.

3) Multiple overlapping networks exist, with multiple overlapping allegiances.

Yet, in every network, the rule is the same. For maximum prosperity, feed the web first.

Рубрики: | Дата публикации: 12.07.2010

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