“Cooperation”, “Consensus” and “Collaboration” are three C-words that get thrown around in the context of Internet (technology and policy) development. Given that it is at the heart of the Internet Engineering Task Force’s organizing principles, I was a little surprised to see consensus treated as a poor discussion framework in Peter J. Denning and Robert Dunham’s “The Innovator’s Way – Essential Practices for Successful Innovation”.
While I still don’t entirely buy the authors’ view of consensus as a force of creativity stifling, with a little more reflection, I could see their argument that consensus aims to narrow discussion to find an outcome. In an engineering context of complex problems, when the problem is well understood and an answer has to be selected, that’s a good thing.
However, for many of the challenges facing the Internet, there isn’t even necessarily agreement that there is a problem, let alone a rough notion of what to do about the challenge. These are wicked problems, requiring more collaboration across diverse groups of people and interests. The heartening thing is that we’ve actually solved some of these wicked problems in the past — the existence and continued functioning of the Internet is testimony to that.
To provide more concrete guidance on how to recognize the Internet’s wicked problems, and keys to successful collaboration to address them, I put together a whitepaper along with former Internet Society colleagues Phil Roberts and Konstantinos Komaitis. You can find the resulting whitepaper here:
And, Konstantinos took the lead in writing up one case in point of how those key principles were in play to address a recent wicked Internet problem — the IANA transition from the US government. You can read about that here: