Problem-solving Networks

Problem-solving Networks

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Most new companies fail within the first few years. In this day and age, the chances of building an organisation that succeeds in its mission are quite low.

I’ve always found this curious, and have been quite unaccepting of that fact, in my mentoring of entrepreneurs, over the years. With those odds against you, why would anyone start anything? Is there another way of succeeding, without paying that cost?

Whilst I’m a big fan of learning from failure, I am also a fan of designing things so that they avoid failure. Let’s design-in success.

For me, this is even more of an issue when your aims are for social benefit, rather than monetary. If you dedicate your life and resources to solving a particular issue, an organisation-focussed approach isn’t necessarily the most effective way of achieving your mission.

In launching The Dandelion Foundation, we looked to build something with a high chance of success in solving the challenges we faced as a community.

It was very clear, early on, that the more we tried to go down the ‘build solutions’ route, like a traditional organisation, the more we got tied up – and the likelier we were to struggle and fail in what we aimed to do. We decided to take another approach to solve the challenges – by building networks, rather than organisations.

There are already lots of resources and assets available in any community. The important thing is to get those assets to work in a more coherent and cohesive way, to achieve more ambitious goals. Our ‘The best place to live on earth’ meme and the TEDxStPeterPort events we ran were the rallying call to catalyse and connect people and projects for a more ambitious future.

Traditional organisations are more ordered and controlled, but in that order and control lies constraint – and you are far less likely to succeed. We lost control of things the day we launched! But we put processes in place to make success far more likely.

We have continued to launch problem-solving networks. 3 years ago, we launched Thrive2020 – which has become The Thrive Foundation – to build a network to solve mental health problems. Just over a year ago, we launched the Journey to 100 network to solve the challenges of the exploding costs of an ageing population. In the future, we hope to launch a network called ‘Cost of Living Zero’ to focus on poverty and sustainability. What we do know is that these networks build and develop by themselves, creating far more breakthroughs than we could ever have achieved on our own.

The networks are so strong in my community now, that it’s much easier to get things off the ground than it was 4 years ago, when we began. Making things happen can take as little as a dozen emails and a few coffees. That feels good, because there’s no company or large organisation to support or manage – yet things happen. From that point of view, progress feels quite effortless, at times.

It has never been easier to build networks than it is today. Social media, crowdfunding, event management platforms, etc. are all bringing down the costs of convening, connecting and collaborating. Things can happen without traditional structures. And that is a really good news story for the world.

For me, the future of designing, developing and leveraging networks is even brighter. For example, take the common adoption of incentive prize competitions and challenges. They create a healthy problem-solving ecosystem, using a fraction of the resources and a much smaller degree of risk than it takes to build a company. The X Prize reinvigorated a stuck space industry at the turn of the century. All it took was a $10 million prize to kickstart the private space industry – and two decades later, billions are being spent by private space companies, and there’s an acceleration in breakthrough technology. When philanthropists and governments recognise that prizes solve challenges at a fraction of the cost, we are going to see a tsunami of innovation and breakthroughs.

There is more to come. One of the most interesting emerging technologies – one that will change everything – is blockchain. At the moment, it is quite difficult to financially resource networks effectively. Traditional organisations are currently better structures for raising finance to solve issues. That is starting to change. Once people can be efficiently and effectively rewarded for contributing, connecting and collaborating, we are going to see the end of a lot more traditional organisations.

At the moment, people like Elon Musk are breaking the barriers of possibility in physical innovation. In the future, well-resourced self-organising networks will create an innovation speed that no organisation driven by a single leader can match. The hive-mind of humanity will soon merge into a collective superintelligence capable of adapting itself to meet any challenge.

Soon, our capacity for problem-solving will increasingly be linked to our ability to leverage networks, rather than our ability to build organisations. If you’re spending your time, brain-power, energy and resources on building something for yourself, by yourself, you might be missing a trick. Harness our global capacity. Whether you use it to access individual ingenuity or work on challenges collectively, empowering networks can lead to greater success.

The answer is out there.

To networks.


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