Corporation as a Collaborative Community

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Essay: The Corporation as a Collaborative Community. Heckscher & Adler

(possibly a draft for inclusion in The Firm as a Collaborative Community?)



David Ronfeldt:

"distinguishes three approaches to coordination: hierarchy, market, and community. The authors focus is the corporate business realm. Their concern is that hierarchy and market ways of doing things have eroded community ways far more than is desirable, especially now that collaborative knowledge production is becoming paramount. What’s needed is a new kind of community principle to go along with the hierarchy and market principles. By “community” they mean much that other analysts mean by “network” and related terms — thus their trifold array is quite standard. But their key point is unusual: They advise against returning to the old form of community, because it would draw sharp distinctions between insiders and outsiders, protect traditional values, and stifle individual autonomy and creativity. Instead, what’s needed is the development of a new, higher form — “collaborative community” — that would engage participants who have multiple identities, stimulate the collective creation of shared value, and place trust in peer dialogue, review, and accountability. Indeed, they say (p. 37), “without a rebuilding of communal institutions, the potential of a knowledge economy cannot be realized.” Their best examples presently lie in the scientific community and the open-software movement." (

Tom Haskins:

"I'm delighted with the dimensions they've added to some of the arguments I've been making by their:

  • Application of micro scale, psychological dimensions like trust, loyalty, values, identity -- to macro scale issues like hierarchy and market forms
  • Use of "dependence - independence - interdependence" characteristics much like the relational grammars I've been using
  • Exploration of the impacts on processes of innovation and on responsiveness to customers/markets by advances into network/community formations and regressions into institution or market forms
  • Explanation of the toxic effects of "tribal"/traditional community conduct inside bureaucracies/institutions and market-driven corporations

I'm delighted to learn how some collaborative efforts have evolved inside large organizations to emphasize personal contribution, using metaphors of "value chain" and "business proposition" at a personal level, and setting up "strategy jams" to expand objectives far beyond the profit motive.

I like their model of resolving ongoing tensions that creates a zig zag path of progress. Their picture of communities always present in shadow or foreground has given me a lot of reflect upon."(email, June 2009)

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