CHAPTER 6 Professional development at the digital frontier

Is there no end to the utility and potential of connected communication? For a self-declared tech (and all-round) optimist, I think not. Connected networks allow unprecedented collaboration, which has created a giant global brain that is powering us forward, and it’s open to anyone who can access the internet.

Tapping into this global brain, for example when we type a question into Google, is so routine that we don’t stop to think about the enormous complexity of the algorithms that bring us answers or the billions of humans who participate in creating and linking web pages to provide that information.

Of course, the principle of pooling resources, including intellectual ones, to improve outcomes for the tribe is as old as human history. But in the past resources were tightly held and access was often associated with privilege. The internet has opened things up.

In the past the printing press monks painstakingly transcribed books by hand, and few people knew how to read anyway. But once information started flowing freely, people were incentivised to learn to read and education flourished, as did the circulation of new ideas.

Now anyone online can learn practically anything for free, including from prestigious universities around the world. This makes ‘access’ the new gold currency, and groups like and Google aim to bridge the digital divide and bring the internet to the two-thirds of the world not yet adequately ...

Get The Social Executive: How to Master Social Media and Why its Good for Business now with O’Reilly online learning.

O’Reilly members experience live online training, plus books, videos, and digital content from 200+ publishers.