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Sunday Video: Clay Shirky: ‘How do groups get anything done?’

January 2, 2011 by

In his 2005 TED talk titled “Institutions vs. Collaboration,” notable author Clay Shirky posed a question, “How do groups get anything done?” More precisely, “How do you organize a group of individuals so that output of the group is something coherent and of lasting value instead of just being chaos.”

For the next 19 minutes, Shirky offers examples of Flickr, online support groups and blogs, to show how the power of collaboration, namely online, is approaching that of established and to-be established institutions. Shirky says:

More recently, because the costs of letting groups communicate with each other has fallen through the floor, and communications costs are one of the big inputs to communication, there has been a second answer: to put the cooperation into the infrastructure. To design systems that coordinate the output of the group as a byproduct of the operating of the system without regard to institutional models

Although this talk was given almost five years ago, Shirky’s examples from the web still hold true, and the final conclusion he reaches is as important as ever. Watching this video today, at the start of 2011, provides a better understanding of the changing landscape and instills motivation to better understand it and become a part of it.

Note: If you’ve read Shirky’s “Here Comes Everybody,” you’ll enjoy this talk even more as he illustrates examples from the book.

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