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November 20, 2004 » 12:06 pm

Do NICs Exist?

Doug Engelbart, the inspiration behind Blue Oxen Associates and one of our advisors, gave a talk for the Bay Area Future Salon last night. I’ve heard him give this talk a hundred times, but it’s always an interesting experience. I tend to pay more attention to the audience than to Doug — observing their reactions to different slides or anecdotes, listening closely to the questions.    (5US)

I also monitor my own reactions, which have become surprisingly consistent and more intense over the past few years. It not only demonstrates the key points where I differ from Doug, but also the growing convictions I have in my own beliefs. The Blue Oxen Way is heavily influenced by Doug, but it’s not identical to his way of thinking.    (5UT)

A key difference relates to Doug’s view of Networked Improvement Communities (NICs). An audience member asked whether there were any examples of NICs that currently exist. Doug said no. That’s wrong. If you listen to or read Doug’s description of NICs, then you can point to many, many examples of them. That’s not to say that all of these groups are effective NICs, but they certainly practice bootstrapping and they certainly emphasize knowledge capture and sharing.    (5UU)

The problem is not that NICs do not exist, it’s that they are not aware that they are NICs. Once they realize the importance of certain practices, they can be explicit about evaluating and improving them. The challenge is not creating NICs, it’s improving them.    (5UV)

Jamie Dinkelacker is currently writing a paper with a similar thesis, where he identifies several existing NICs and evaluates them based on Doug’s written criteria. It will be an important contribution to the literature, and I’m really looking forward to it.    (5UW)

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