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Collaboration vs centralisation

Collaboration is vital for the success of a circular economy - at any scale.

The examples we've looked at in previous #circularwonderings clearly show how collaboration can, indeed, must be a cornerstone for Circular Economy success. [1] [2] [3]

That mindset opens exciting opportunities for software engineers.

But it also opens (yet another) potential pitfall: our desire to control too much.

Lets take one (fictional) example: there is a huge range and depth of new knowledge available to help physical product designers become more circular. Plus that knowledge is growing and changing fast. So, the technical mind will be tempted to imagine one central database for all this knowledge globally. It seems like the perfect solution, right? All we need to do is pull together this information and product designers will have everything at their fingertips.

Of course, the reality is a lot more complex. It seems especially tempting when we are at an early stage of new knowledge.

There is a joke which makes this point much more elequently that I can: Ref: XKCD cartoon version of text below [4]

  • Situation: there are 14 competing standards
  • "14! Ridiculous! We need to develop one universal standard"
  • Soon: there are 15 competing standards

The solution, for circular collaboration, is not centralisation, but networks.

With this approach, using analogies from ecology [5] and concepts like anti-fragility [6], we might just be able to create a future proof, scalable, circular collaboration!



About the author

Barry O'Kane

Barry is the founder of HappyPorch. With 20 years in the web development industry as a programmer and agency owner, he has a preternatural ability to decipher the systems and processes code that holds many teams back from achieving their goals. Partners say Barry gets to the root of issues quickly and makes it downright easy to deliver good work.    

While he's unbelievably grounded, it's not uncommon to find him sailing through the trees as he paraglides his way round the world.