When people are getting paid to produce inside facilities that are being maintained, bell curves will capture most of what's occurring. Most of the activities will be close to average and extremes will be cutoff. For instance, all the employees who put in an eight hour day will be the norm. Those that are less committed because a very demanding home life will be less productive and far from the norm. Those that are very professionally active (networking, associations, conferences, etc) will also be less productive and far from the norm, but on the opposite end of a scale of commitment to the employer. This kind of production embodies large transaction costs which are minimized by creating organizational hierarchies.
When people are not getting paid to produce and no facilities are provided, the transaction costs are eliminated. Production is voluntary and dependent on personal initiatives. There will be a few exceptional heavyweight contributors and a vast majority who contribute rarely. In between will be a range from a few big contributors to several small contributors. These contributions can come together for free-- due to Web 2.0 tools and server space. Besides the amount of contribution, there are many other facets of this "production without an organization" that portray power law distributions. The size of the audience, subscribers or community members varies from a few gigantic ones to a majority of tiny ones. It's evident in open source software development, Meetup.com groups, Wikipedia edits and the staggering volume of content generators uploading to blogs, YouTube, Flickr and social networking sites. We are free to produce in ways that hierarchies can never be:
- Hierarchies must filter before publishing to avoid costly failures, dead ends and setbacks. We are free to publish first then filter, which nurtures each individual's contributions.
- Hierarchies achieve quality by controlling people and imposing rules. We are free to evolve quality by making errors, refining drafts and maintaining "works in progress".
- Hierarchies must limit the number of contributors due to the cost burden it involves. We are free to encourage an unlimited number of contributors.
- Hierarchies insist on a minimum amount of production to qualify for the paycheck and office space. We are free to produce within gift and reputation economies for intrinsic motivations.
- What if each learner's current understanding of each current exploration was put online for others to contribute using the tools for digital portfolios to create digitized works-in-progress.
- What if each leaner was in charge of what changes were made in that understanding and considered all the inputs, suggestions and support?
- What if others made contributions to a digitized current understanding in the form of questions to be considered, personal experiences with "getting it", examples of how other's found the understanding to be useful or relevant to something else.
- What if the" digitized current understanding" published an RSS feed that others could subscribe to in order to keep abreast of updates and consider additional contributions.
- What if most understandings had very few contributors, but an occasional one had got a very big response?
- What if all these contributions to each other's understanding followed power law dynamics which gave each learner those freedoms that hierarchies cannot provide.