Cultivating the Value of Networked Individuals

IGI Global, Forthcoming

14 Pages Posted: 18 Jun 2010 Last revised: 3 Dec 2015

See all articles by Wolf Richter

Wolf Richter

University of Oxford - Oxford Internet Institute

David A. Bray

Institute for Defense Analyses; Harvard University; Emory University - Goizueta Business School; National Defense University; Forbes Ignite; University of Oxford

William H. Dutton

GCSCC Computer Science University of Oxford

Date Written: January 1, 2010


The Internet and related digital networking platforms facilitate searches for information and the sharing of information and expertise among individuals. In recent years, these behaviours evolved from focusing on information retrieval and sharing to include facilitation and coordination of collaborative problem-solving efforts and distributed co-creation of services and products. Such collaborations, supported by digital networks, often extend beyond the traditional boundaries of organizations and institutions, the social networks of small groups, the subjects of specific disciplines, and the geographic borders of nations. Consequently, they raise concerns over how to best manage networked individuals and realize the potential utility of their activities.

This chapter builds on the findings of a series of case studies designed to explore such questions. From the results of these case studies the authors propose a framework for categorizing “Collaborative Network Organizations” (CNOs); one that suggests that value emerges as a result of cultivating particular kinds of relationships and activities within these networks. The authors employ the term “cultivation”, instead of management, as the case studies indicated that such efforts often fail if managed too precisely or too restrictively in a “top-down” fashion. Instead, the provision of greater latitude and “bottom-up” autonomy to the individuals involved characterized the more successful CNOs we studied. In addition, the success of CNOs depended on how such efforts reconfigured information and communication flows in ways that supported distributed sharing, generation, or co-creation of content within a wide variety of collaborative contexts, ranging from the conduct of scientific research to problem-solving in business and everyday life. Directly attempting to manage or control CNOs can undermine these networks, whereas indirectly influencing and cultivating desired behaviours and activities can encourage the expansion of productive networking. The authors offer this theoretical framework as a means for better capturing the mechanisms governing collaborative behaviour.

Keywords: Collaboration, Networking, Internet, Wisdom of the Crowds, Peer-production, Performance management, Sharing, Contributing, Co-Creating

JEL Classification: D23, D70, D83

Suggested Citation

Richter, Wolf and Bray, David A. and Dutton, William H., Cultivating the Value of Networked Individuals (January 1, 2010). IGI Global, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN:

Wolf Richter

University of Oxford - Oxford Internet Institute ( email )

David A. Bray (Contact Author)

Institute for Defense Analyses ( email )

4850 Mark Center Dr
Alexandria, VA 22311
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Harvard University ( email )

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Emory University - Goizueta Business School ( email )

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National Defense University ( email )

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Forbes Ignite

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University of Oxford

United Kingdom


William H. Dutton

GCSCC Computer Science University of Oxford ( email )

Department of Computer Science
Robert Hooke Bldg 010
Oxford, Oxfordshire OX1 3PR
United Kingdom

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