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Continuum Consulting Services LLC

We’re continuing to study megatrends emerging right now and today are naming the fifth one in our ongoing research into what’s creating major impacts.

We consider something to be a megatrend when there’s a major shift in policies and/or activity across a wide spectrum of organizations and cultures, enough to rewrite our shared stories on a global scale. The most talked-about megatrends are usually the ones seen as global threats, but we focus on solution-focused trends that show great promise of doing good, solving key societal issues, and advancing future generations. These aren’t ‘weak signals’ on the horizon but enormous emergent shifts that show up in our everyday worlds of work and family.

See our four other named megatrends here.

Massive Issues Requiring Massive Collaboration

Within our ongoing megatrend conversations, the presence, importance, and upsurge of mass collaboration keeps showing up. It’s not exactly brand new, but it’s constantly morphing and expanding.

When Continuum was first founded, we focused on developing individual client teams and then expanded toward getting people to work together better across departments within an organization. Our challenge was to eliminate silos.

Now … to meet the challenges and novel unknowns our clients face today, we must expand our concept of collaboration to include not only those we currently work with but also groups outside of their own particular organizations.

How do we bring together multiple sectors—business, non-profit, government, academia, social networks and more—to create new ways of innovating and tackling the multiple and increasing global challenges?

Expanded collaboration creates huge potential and raises some difficult questions:

  • How do we bring diverse groups together for true dialogue that leads to aligned vision and inspired action?
  • How can we shift our focus from the things that separate us, and instead, keep our focus on the common elements of our individual visions that can unite us?
  • How do we ensure that all voices are heard and aligned outcomes supported?

In individual organizations, to ensure accountability, vision and action plans can be tied to compensation and advancement. We have some “push” power to enact the changes we seek.

But in multi-sector, multi-organizational collaborations, how can we ensure accountability and follow-through?

We must move from an external “push” form of motivation to a powerful internal “pull”. The motivation must come from within a person and be powerful enough to propel ideas and actions forward in a way that change happens. 

To do this, conversations focus on questions such as these: How do we work together to create an aligned vision and pathway forward so compelling that people can’t help but become excited and put their energy into follow- through?

How do we work in a way that people feel like they “can’t not” take steps to initiate change and follow through?

Facilitated events and processes bringing together large groups of people for work on a topic of great importance became more common in the 1990s. We saw the emergence of Appreciative Inquiry, World Café conversations, MG Taylor DesignShops and Future Search. These large ‘summit’ events provide an opportunity for all to contribute their ideas, views, and particular expertise. They involve people throughout an organization from leadership down to the individual contributor.

FutureWave Epiphany Labs, created by Continuum in partnership with IDEA360, bring diverse people and multi-sector organizations together to dialogue and discover solutions addressing key challenges. We leverage the diversity of perspectives and tap into what we call the “Genius in the Room”, as we squint together into the future. From this ‘futurist’ perspective, the group generates new visions and sets directions to meet current needs and predicted future challenges.

We have facilitated multi-day, multi-sector summits and FutureWave events with hundreds of people together onsite. We were once part of facilitating a global company’s 10,000+ plus employees connected virtually around the world, working together in real time on a single issue and discovering exponential solutions. These events are memorable experiences for all.

Igniting Overnight

In the past decade, upgraded technology solutions have provided ever-evolving forums for ongoing collaboration. Zoom is now a household word. Phone video and user-friendly editing technology has made it possible for anyone to send their messages and ideas out into the world on a global scale. Movements can ignite overnight. Geography is no longer a barrier to connecting people, ideas and solutions. Artificial Intelligence is unlocking unimaginable access to information in ways we have not yet begun to understand. These technologies can be leveraged for positive good or be used for harm. The choice is ours.

There are many definitions of this continually emergent mass collaboration movement.

Wikipedia says that “Mass Collaboration is a form of collective action that occurs when large numbers of people work independently on a single project, often modular in its nature.”

Gartner Glossary defines Mass Collaboration asthe ability for multitudes of people to quickly and effectively contribute to the development or evolution of an idea, artifact, process, plan, action, etc. In the context of social software, mass collaboration includes participation by people who otherwise may not have had a pre-existing relationship.” 

While the stretched-out way that mass collaboration can work may not make us feel part of an immediate and intimate dedicated team, just knowing that there are so many others out there working in their own ways on the same issues can bolster our own feeling of being part of something important. It can be energizing and life-giving, and it’s not going away. More and more, we are waking up to what Professor James Rosenau in my graduate school years called ‘the cascading, complex, asymmetrical interdependence’ of nation-states…and of us, individually and collectively, too.

At Continuum, here’s how we’re defining mass collaboration:

“the ever-expanding desire and capacity to participate in bringing humanity’s intentions, ideas and solutions together in ongoing conversation.”

Connecting the Collective

Mass collaboration shifts our understanding of leadership and its purpose, of who gets to start an initiative, of who has a voice on emergent issues.

Why has it grabbed our attention at Continuum as a key megatrend?

Because we are interested in pointing to any methodology/technology that can contribute to emerging connections and solutions. And, because collective focus brings shifts faster and more fully.

Where do we see evidence of it?

Everywhere in areas of vast research and innovation, such as in the field of regenerative agriculture. People are sharing solutions and questions worldwide on how to best feed our planet’s inhabitants.  New knowledge is emerging everywhere, and whether it’s intentional or not, massive collaboration is happening, speeding up possibility for positive change.

We can think of hundreds of issues currently benefitting from mass collaboration: species protection, climate change, new discoveries around our galaxy and universe, medical breakthroughs, and yes, in our field of organizational development (OD) and design, where recently, Appreciative Inquiry pioneers Drs. David Cooperrider and Lindsey Godwin published an article on the future and importance of OD:

The deeper cornerstone capacity is nothing less than the elevation and expansion of human systems collaborative change capacity at whole new orders of magnitude and inclusiveness—at precisely the time we are witnessing the anguished fraying of our social bonds.

In your own experience, where are you seeing the possibility and actuality of mass collaboration? Let us know.

Sallie Lee
Sr. Consultant                                                                                           
Wendy B. White
Founder | CEO