“No matter who you are, most of the smartest people work for someone else.” In the 1990s, Sun co-founder Bill Joy thus challenged leaders to face the Knowledge Revolution. His quip later became “Joy’s Law.” Joy was not talking about the old “war for talent”—hiring better employees–but a newer one: tapping networks of smart non-employees for innovation and problem-solving horsepower.
Today network-savvy companies are doing just that. They’re co-creating products with customers, building virtual communities of enthusiasts to burnish their brands, running open competitions for new ideas from anywhere on the planet. They’re building smart-people networks to create whole new businesses, like TopCoder, Gerson Lehrman Group, LiveOps and so many others.
What’s the new leadership blueprint for all this? When a network opportunity arises, and you want to call on talent that in no way reports to you, how should you lead?