Jay Cross helps people work and live smarter. Jay is the Johnny Appleseed of informal learning. He wrote the book on it. He was the first person to use the term eLearning on the web. He has challenged conventional wisdom about how adults learn since designing the first business degree program offered by the University of Phoenix.

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Collaborative intelligence

posted on
March 22nd, 2009


This past Friday evening, Betsy Burroughs and I drove down to SAP Labs in Palo Alto to attend Future Salon and listen to our friend Zann Gill tackle the Engelbartian question of how, “as much as possible, to boost mankind’s collective capability for coping with complex, urgent problems.” The title of her session: Evolving Collaborative Intelligence.

Mark Finnern
Mark Finnern, founder and leading light of Future Salon

Once a month, sixty or so people convene at SAP Labs for nibbles, networking, an invariably fantastic presentation, and discussion. A few years ago I attended every other meeting, but travel and the long drive got me out of the habit. Friday’s session re-kindled my interest.

Zann Gill
Zann covered so much ground and presented so many provocative frameworks that I can only offer you a few sound bites from my notes:

Future Salon
Q&A was extensive and all over the map. I was disappointed that many people asked such self-serving questions, demonstrating in the flesh that they didn’t buy into Zann’s points about the power of working toward breakthroughs collaboratively.

Future Salon

Future Salon

Zann Gill

Follow-up and elaboration:
Zann Gill
The Thief (1952) with Ray Milland

Incidentally, since my pocket camera bit the dust on Thursday, these are among the first photos I’ve taken with my iPhone. The shots are not as clear as I’m accustomed to, but overall I’m happy with the results.


  • Ken Allan - March 22, 2009 at 6:18 pm -

    Kia ora Jay!

    I think the important thing here is what is done with all this intelligence, however it is aggregated. Collaborative intelligence, is as useless as collective intelligence if neither of them are tapped and used appropriately.

    So often the intelligence (in whatever aggregate) is there. It’s how it’s used/applied that is the practical issue in solving the problems mentioned here.

    Frankly, it’s that part that incurs politics and I’m afraid to say that political interference negates all the care and attention given to aggregating the intelligence however it is done. This has been witnessed at local level and at international level and even at the global level in recent past history.

    I do not have a solution to this. But I recognise that it is at least as important as deciding how to aggregate the intelligence of a large group of people, either considered individually or otherwise.

    Catchya later
    from Middle-earth

  • k.a.m. - March 26, 2009 at 4:19 pm -

    Mr. Cross,

    Thank you for turning me on to Ms. Gill.

    From your site I linked to Google talks and found out more about her ideas, her books, and just great stuff I otherwise would have never found without your link.

    The internet truly is an online learning tool.

    If nothing else comes out of social darwinism’s collective ideas online, I believe exactly what I’m doing here, biofeedbacking to you, is reason enough to do it.

    Where is all this going?

    Who knows?

    And that’s alright too.

    Thanks again for sharing.

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