The Future of Collaboration Begins with Visualizing Human Capital

November 10 2009 / by VenessaMiemis / In association with Future
Category: Business & Work   Year: General   Rating: 6 Hot

visualizing human capitalHow can the power and scope of social networks, combined with human capital metrics, be used to facilitate shared creation and innovation?


It’s becoming more accepted that collaboration, not competition, is a more effective avenue towards producing emergent, innovative results. Now that millions of people participate in online social networks, it seems high time to develop a system of matching people’s skill sets with common values and goals in order to bring about positive change.

Social networks have the advantage of being able to connect globally distributed individuals, who can then operate with flexibility within a bottom-up, non-hierarchical framework. But, just having access to each other is not always enough to make things serendipitously happen.

Theorists, consultants, and managers have for years been trying to understand and explain the combination of elements needed to facilitate innovation in groups. Many believe that by introducing the optimal levels of diversity and complexity to the group, it will create an environment on the “edge of chaos”, one that causes just enough anxiety to foster creativity.

With all of the metrics currently being tracked about our user preferences, behaviors, and activities, could there not also be measurements of human capital? Admittedly, it would be tricky to set up, and might cause some initial ruckus. (who’s the expert to judge human value?) But I envision a set of skills that would be unique to each individual, that could then be matched up with complimentary skills of others in order to assemble innovation powerhouses.

For instance, imagine if on Facebook (or linkedin, or some new collaboration-focused social network) there was an application for an online assessment, something like Tom Rath’s StrengthsFinder 2.0. Your results would be integrated into your profile page. In addition to that, there might be statistics on diversity levels (family background, transformational experiences, temperament, personality type, business skills), social capital (richness of connectivity within your social networks, spheres of influence), technical skills, core values, and other relational, contextual knowledge and skills. All of these could form your Human Capital Metrics, which would be available to be viewed graphically with some type of visualization tool. The system could then generate a list of people who have the complimentary skills and could create the right amount of tension to carry out an adaptive collaboration project.

What could this mean for the future of ideas…………..innovation………business…… change?

cross-posted from

Comment Thread (3 Responses)

  1. Nice thoughts. IBM is a trailblazer in this arena. Other companies must follow. Eg, as open sourcing projects accelerates the evolution of platforms like Twitter, Google & Facebook, the next logical step is more guidance/scaffolding for the humans working on these initiatives. I think the metrics you speak of must also be paired with rewards (reputation, $, credits, early product access). I was way more inclined to work on Wave at a developers competition where I was given uber-early access to the sandbox. I’d be more inclined to x-post to or write for the NYTimes if they had a structured farm system that had something to offer me, the PROSUMER!

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