who buy their belts and key ties and put them up for sale in their
fashion stores. Supporting their face-to-face interaction with an
online storefront and community further allowed them to get direct
access to their end customers, collecting their feedback and gauging
their response to new belt designs.
From Creators to CINs—Illustrating the
Process Through Social Networks
CINs not only carry consumer products over the tipping point, but
they can also help spread ideas inside large companies. In my earlier
book on Swarm Creativity,
I described how collaborative innovation
happens based on my own experience working in a COIN at Deloitte
Consulting, where the creator-COIN-CLN-CIN process was further
leveraged to develop a new consulting service focused on the Collab -
orative Knowledge Network (CKN).
During my time as European e-business practice leader—right
when the e-business bubble was at its peak—I experienced the power
of the swarm. A consultant named Robin in the Deloitte Research
office in New York had the idea of bringing together a group of con-
sultants in San Francisco, to talk about what the Internet might do
for collaboration. Her plan was that we would collaboratively write
what we called an “e-view,” a document describing a new emergent
trend about a hot topic.
Robin invited a mixed group of people. Along with my boss
Cathy, the global e-business practice leader, and me, Robin also
brought in her boss, the head of Deloitte Research, and some other
partners and consultants she thought might work together well to
develop a new point of view on this subject. The way this group of
people collaborated serves as a perfect blueprint for the creator-
COIN-CLN-CIN process. The process started with Robin, who
was a perfect fit for the role of creator. While she was not that high
up in the pecking order of Deloitte, she had built a great network of
people to draw on for the creation of new ideas. And if she did not
know the right people for a certain task, she certainly knew the peo-
ple who knew others suited for whatever idea Robin had in mind.
For example, she knew Adriaan, a senior manager for Deloitte in
Texas, who was the unofficial “prophet“ for knowledge management
at Deloitte. Robin went to him when she was looking for creative
minds to help her on her “e-view”; in fact, it was Adriaan who rec-
ommended me to Robin.
I still vividly remember the initial meeting in San Francisco,
with Robin doing a perfect waggle dance for her idea. In this first
meeting we laid out the blueprint for what later would become the
Collaborative Knowledge Network, a concept the nascent COIN
developed over the next eighteen months. Robin had selected a
group of people excited about the idea of developing the “e-view.”
Over the next few months, some of the original members, but also
a few new ones, communicated almost daily to develop the con-
cept. As the budget was limited, after the initial meeting we mostly
collaborated over the Internet. We also had biweekly web confer-
ences that we called “virtual brown bags,” where usually anywhere
from a dozen to up to a hundred people got together virtually to
discuss the latest thinking and new ideas on collaboration and
knowledge creation.
Our communication pattern was captured very well in our e-mail
exchanges, which were fully distributed to people physically located
in Helsinki, Zurich, New York, San Francisco, Melbourne, and
Singapore. In our online meetings, some people always had to get up
in the middle of the night to participate. To retroactively better
understand the communication process, I therefore loaded the e-mail
archives into our Condor communication analysis tool (described in
more detail in Chapter 7).

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