Distributed Networks Aren’t just for the internet anymore.
In the world of the internet, some years ago, as a researcher at RAND Corporation, engineer Paul Baran was asked to devise new ways to make communication networks more resilient. He concluded that a distributed network—one without a fixed center of control—is strong, adaptable, and ultimately generative because it allows information and knowledge to flow across the network in the most efficient way, including routing around blockages or disruptions. It is designed to avoid a single point of failure.
It empowers the edge of the network and, in effect, positions all nodes in the network as equally useful and potentially powerful (even though, as in life, some nodes will always be more equal than others). The distributed model enables users anywhere in the network to connect, innovate, and share.
So, it is with work in the virtual world. We are moving away from centralized organizations to distributed networks. Organizations have evolved from centralized systems, to decentralized systems and now to distributed systems. And just as in the internet work sparked by Baran, organizations that are embracing the distributed model are more agile, more adaptive and, most importantly more generative because the information, knowledge and products created flow across the network more efficiently.
The more connected the networks become, they create new social capabilities and resources that governments, citizens, civil society organizations, and businesses are already using to change the way they work, relate to their customers and partners, and drive innovation. These rich, broad connections between different systems and domains—businesses, universities and think tanks, social sector organizations, government agencies— allow for the use of data to drive decision, to reduce faulting thinking and strengthen collaborations across all these social partners. The distributed model enables users anywhere in the network to connect, innovate, and share.
This disruption will cause the organization restructuring of work, of institutions as we know it. It will create more resilience in society because it forces inclusion, because it positions all nodes in the network as equally useful and potentially powerful.