Control in Distributed Networks

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Decisions 2.0: Harnessing Collective Intelligence

An increasingly complex, fast moving and connected world poses new challenges for government, non-profit and commercial organizations. Organizations of all sizes are in need of a new paradigm for decision-making that reflects a more distributed, and often less hierarchical structure. For example, in the military, asymmetric warfare against terrorist threats requires a shift from traditional command and control to distributed and decentralized decisions.

Numerous examples of disaster response, from the 2004 tsunami to hurricane Katrina, have demonstrated the power of distributed decision-making by people on the ground. Organizations from aid agencies to airlines to music retailers are experimenting with adaptable and evolvable models are proving powerful means to transcend of traditional top down information flows.

Acknowledging that decisions made at the head office may not fit local realities is the easy part, developing parameters and systems for devolving control, while still maintaining accountability and organizational efficiency present a challenge for today’s leaders. While it is clear that the harnessing the collective intelligence and transforming the organization into a broker of information will be key components of organizational dynamics, how these new principles will map into the structure of diverse organizations is not obvious.

For more than 20 years, SFI has been at the forefront of the science of collective intelligence, promoting themes such as swarm intelligence, self-organization, decentralized problem-solving, collective choice theory, in fields ranging from biology to engineering to economics. While technology may have caught up with the theory in the form of Web 2.0, a practical framework for understanding, supporting and managing these new modes of decision making –Decisions 2.0, is still lacking.

This SFI workshop will examine the theory and practice of decentralized and distributed decisions in government, non profit and commercial organizations. We will also discuss the costs and benefits of decentralized/distributed decision-making. While decisions gain in robustness, self-organization, adaptability, innovative potential, organizations may become more difficult to control, harder to “program”, and more unpredictable.

Control in Distributed Networks Business Network Workshop will be held Tuesday, March 25 at the Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.
See Travel Information link for more details on the venue.