Sunday, April 23, 2006

How do you validate the reputation of those you collaborate with but have never met in person?

IBM's Global Innovation Outlook 2.0 notes,
In the last decade the proliferation of communication networks has not only connected people, places and ideas in unprecedented ways, but also catalyzed the evolution of social structures. Suddenly, it’s possible to transcend physical and geographic borders more easily, and that freedom has fostered a new willingness to partner both within and outside the traditional boundaries of organizations and countries.
Most of us have experienced this. The Innovation Outlook goes on to note,
In such a world, unifying forces such as loyalty and pride of ownership could be supplanted by trust and pride of contribution. But that also suggests the need for a new set of social standards to help foster collaboration. In many GIO discussions, people kept coming back to the idea of “reputation capital”... as a kind of currency for building trust in a prospective worker’s personal and professional qualifications. They cite examples such as Wikipedia and eBay, both of which have built successful brands based on the contributions of hundreds of thousands of non-affiliated individuals. In each case, there are standards in place that allow people to see and rate the integrity and credibility of contributors. And the more a contributor consistently demonstrates a high level of accountability and quality, the more value he or she garners—from commanding a higher selling price on eBay to having more “authority” on Wikipedia. Reputation capital is even beginning to function as a currency outside the parameters of a specific endeavor—some college-age and postgraduate job hunters now put their eBay rating on their resumes, pointing to this “trustmark” as a de facto measure of reliability and desirability.

Even for businesses not built around the contributions of individuals, reputation capital has intriguing possibilities, especially for those emerging global players who have only a virtual presence and no visible brand of their own. What new standards, systems or institutions might emerge to provide the equivalent of the eBay trustmark or the Good Housekeeping Seal for small businesses and other entities looking for partners in the global economy?
InnoVenture is focused on creating Communities of Innovation, and so that last question is a very personal one for me. I'm interested in your thoughts.


Evan Tishuk said...

Credibility isn't only about having a seal or rating. However, it would be very helpful to have some sort of universal quality stamp for individual professionals. If it could be accomplished, that sounds like something that would be woefully incomplete and out of context no matter how you tried to do it (kinda like the SAT). Any time you try and measure quality through a quantitative measures, you leave something out of the picture.

There's a website out there called "Rent A Coder" which places freelance computer programmers in touch with people who have online projects. I'm currently working on a project with a company from Ahmedabad India and the yardsticks provided by the site are just enough to help make a decision, but definitely not complete or perfect. "Every coder on the site is scored using a formula that takes into account their experience, the sizes of jobs they have worked on, the satisfaction of their customers, and their organizational skill." Though helpful, there's still a feeling of uncertainty when working with someone 12 time zones away who you really only know by a screen name and a few random numbers. So, yeah, I'd pay a little more for the peace of mind that a respected quality seal might give, but I'd prefer to meet them in person.

I've also worked with several people and even partnered to build a second company almost totally based on the quality, originality and authenticness of their blogs. I don't think it acts as a seal of trust or ebay rating, but if you read through what another person has blogged about you can get a really good sense of who they are. I'd argue you can learn more in an hour of crticially reading a person's blog archive than an hour in face-to-face conversation. You get a good QUALITATIVE sense of if this is "your kind of person."

Steve Johnson said...

There are a number of cutting-edge technical fields where actually the federal government is establishing testing and validation programs and "seals of approval" that these technologies meet newly-issued federal standards and performance requirements.

The most recent example is in the field of biometrics, the use of fingerprint, eye scan, hand geometry, or other unique personal markers that can be encrpyted on a "smart card" to allow access to buildings or even computer systems. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is about to begin initiation of a new program to authenticate the claims of literally hundreds of emerging companies in this field. Some are legit - some are based on dubious science. The program will discern between the two. Results will be made available to interested investors.

Thomas C. Neil said...

A Step on the Path “Toward a Sustainable Entrepreneurial Ecosystem”

Perhaps if we had the following.
Communities of Practice – Learning as a Social System (Etienne Wenger "Systems Thinker," June 1998)
Members of a community are informally bound by what they do together–from engaging in lunchtime discussions to solving difficult problems–and by what they have learned through their mutual engagement in these activities. A community of practice is thus different from a community of interest or a geographical community, neither of which implies a shared practice. A community of practice defines itself along three dimensions:
· What it is about – its joint enterprise as understood and continually renegotiated by its members
· How it functions - mutual engagement that bind members together into a social entity
· What capability it has produced – the shared repertoire of communal resources (routines, sensibilities, artifacts, vocabulary, styles, etc.) that members have developed over time.

Of particular interest would be a Community of Practice dedicated to establishing and sustaining “A Learning System” based on excellence, quality, innovation, creativity, and professionalism within the Southeastern Innovation Corridor?
The history of knowing what works is there. The knowledge base is there. Individuals with appropriate experiences are there. The Best Practices are there.
1938: In his book "Experience and Education," John Dewey publicizes the concept of experiential learning as an ongoing cycle of activity. (The foundation for an effective learning model is established and continuously validated through research & practice.)
“Between 1946 and 1953 there occurred 10 conferences under the heading of "Cybernetics. Circular Casual, and Feedback Mechanisms in Biological and Social Systems". Sponsored by the Josiah Macy Jr. Foundation, the co-called Macy Conferences mark perhaps the most important event in the history of science after WW II. Using new terms such as 'information', 'feedback', and 'analogical/digital' as a basis, the Macy attendees sought to develop a universal theory of regulation and control that would function for living beings as well as machines, for economic as well as mental processes, and for sociological as well as for aesthetical phenomena. The Macy Conferences are of extraordinary historical/scientific value because they didn't generate completed texts but rather interdisciplinary conversations, which have been continually edited, amended, and expounded upon in subsequent decades.” (The Macy-Conferences 1946-1953 / Die Macy-Konferenzen 1946-1953 by Claus Pias)
1969, McMaster University (located in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada), introduces problem-based learning in medical education, an approach that would prove to be more than a temporary fad and would eventually influence university teaching and learning dynamics in many universities throughout the world. Problem-based learning (PBL) is an educational approach that is based on andragogy, philosophy, psychology, educational research, teaching and learning, curriculum design and various other important areas. According to Barrows, (1980), PBL can be explained as “the learning that results from the process of working toward the understanding or resolution of a problem.” … a process of building on prior knowledge, problem solving, using critical thinking approaches and reflecting (Maudsley 1989).

In 1989, The Center for Organizational Learning is formed at MIT, with Peter Senge as director and with Ed Schein, Chris Argyris, Arie de Geus, Ray Stata, and Bill O'Brien as key advisers. The staff of the "learning center," as it's called, includes Bill Isaacs, Daniel Kim ( whose research involves linking the learning organization work to the quality movement ), and research director George Roth.
1993 – EDINEB – “During the last few years economics and business education have emerged as one of the largest fields of study in higher education. Simultaneously, the pressing concern for improving the quality of higher education in these fields has led to a definite need for more knowledge about effective instruction methods and tools, as well as about innovation (in terms of both methodology and contents). This has been the background to establish a network to disseminate the results of the efforts undertaken by researchers and professionals in the field of educational innovation. "EDINEB", established in 1993, is such a network.” EDINEB was initiated under the auspices of the College of Business, Maastrict University, Netherlands, which was mandated by legislation to operate under the Problem Based Learning Model.
1995-1997: Society for Organizational Learning – “An emerging idea of bringing together practitioners/managers, researchers and consultants/capacity builders. The desire to expand this learning community led to a process of extended reflection and renewal in 1995, and the founding of SoL in 1997. This process was guided by Dee Hock, the founder and former CEO or Visa International. Dee's belief in the power of ‘chaordic organizations’ had a strong influence on SoL's design.”
KIN – “The idea of the Knowledge & Innovation Network is to begin to understand how human systems perform and evolve, engaging leadership in conversation and reflection about how people do what they do, how they innovate, solve problems, create new knowledge.”

Some businesses get it.
Communities of practice and organizational performance by E. L. Lesser and J. Storck, IBM Systems Journal, 2001, 40(4) Knowledge Management

King Haiglar said...

Nothing will ever beat a referral from a trusted source; whether that person lives in Ahmedabad or Aiken.

Reading someone's blog proves they can write critically, but shouldn't be the only yard-stick by which to measure a potential team member, mainly b/c it excludes the time factor.

My advice, send that person a homework assignment with a quick due-date and then judge the quality of work based off your requirements/inputs.

Creating a tool/process to do that would improve on the eBay model for service based commerce.

tom neil said...

As suggested by KH, asking for a time-limited product provides ground zero regarding ability to produce, willingness, and creativity.

The technology delivery system exists.
Is there an interest in establishing a "Community of Practice", which enables JIT Idea Building?