EMBRACE THE SWARM

If you are not in real time, you’re dead.

Swarms need real-time communication. Living systems don’t have the luxury of waiting overnight to process an incoming signal. If they had to sleep on it, they could die in their sleep. With few exceptions, nature reacts in real time. With few exceptions, business must increasingly react in real time. High transaction costs once prohibited the instantaneous completion of thousands of tiny transactions; they were piled up instead and processed in cost-effective batches. But no longer. Why should a phone company get paid only once a month when you use the phone every day? Instead it will eventually bill for every call as the call happens, in real time. The flow of crackers off grocery shelves will be known by the cracker factory in real time. The weather in California will be instantly felt in the assembly lines of Ohio. Of course, not all information should flow everywhere; only the meaningful should be transmitted. But in the network economy only signals in real time (or close to it) are truly meaningful. Examine the speed of knowledge in your system. How can it be brought closer to real time? If this requires the cooperation of subcontractors, distant partners, and far-flung customers, so much the better.

 

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This is a blog version of a book of mine first published in 1998. I am re-issuing it (two posts per week) unaltered on its 10th anniversary. Comments welcomed. More details here.
-- KK