QUORA: THE 3RD GENERATION GBN NETWORK


In 1987, a group of friends in Berkeley – Peter Schwartz, Jay Ogilvy, Stewart Brand, Napier Collyns, and Lawrence Wilkinson – conceived the idea that a connected network of the brightest minds in the world was the source of the best possible thinking when executing scenario-planning strategies, and so they created the Global Business Network. The members of GBN couldn’t be more diverse and iconoclastic: from economist Francis Fukuyama to musician Laurie Anderson, producer Brian Eno and MIT professor Sherry Turkle. A 100 people, a multitude of disciplines. For its first 15 years, corporate clients would pay up to $40,000 annually in order to gain access to this network of advisers through a private website, attend meetings on emerging trends and training seminars, and receive a selection of literature about future issues each month. Sounds familiar?

In 2002 I joined the greatest bunch of people: Jeremy Brown, Tom Savigar and Raj Panjwani. Together, the network of experts that they had managed to form in 2001, the Senseworldwide Network, was enlarged, the site revamped, and I got them to blog. The Sensers – the members of the network, became the most cohesive and yet diverse focus group that our clients could dream of. And our work, predicting “the future of people and things”, as Jeremy coined at the time, became our trade. As with GBN, our approach was the same: that only the do-ers, those who actually create and perform specific skills are the best experts. In a world where consultants spend their lives re-hashing information digested from their clients, our standpoint was to demonstrate that the most creative ideas emerge when vibrant minds come together. And one of the GBN members, the super-nice Napier Collyns became a member of our board of advisors, because, in his words, the Sense network was a young GBN of the 2000s.

Fast-forward to now: Quora. I signed up 48 hours ago and my friends in the industry are connecting to me and others that I’ve never met but that I can see why they want to follow me or I should follow them. Quora: the Q&A network. The answers are qualified if the respondents work in places and within roles that entitle them to provide such answers with a level of accuracy that others can trust. How will this scale? It does not need to. The more generic the question, the more answers it will attract. It is like search terms. The success of an answer will be its capacity to narrow down the specific of its corresponding question. The relief is that it will force people to provide straightforward answers, Twitter answers, as opposed of lengthy show-offs. Quora is a great example of netocracy: you are what you put out to the world when you work so your knowledge comes from your empirical practice rather than the books you’ve read or your consulting. I look forward to that.

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