Balance data and intuition, planning and acting, safety and risk, giving due honor to each.
“Clockware” is a term that describes working ways that are rational, planned, standardized, repeatable, controlled and measured. In contrast, “swarmware” refers to working in ways that explore new possibilities through experimentation, trials, autonomy, freedom, intuition and working at the edge of knowledge and experience. The idea is to say just enough to paint a picture or describe the absolute boundaries, and then get the people in situations with high levels of complexity active in trying whatever they think might work.
“For jobs where supreme control is demanded, good old clockware is the way to go. Where supreme adaptability is required, out-of-control swarmware is what you want.”—Kevin KellyIt is not a question of saying that one is good and the other is bad. The issue is about finding an appropriate mix for a given situation. Where the world is certain and there is a high level of agreement among people—where people have to repeat the same process over and over to get the optimal results, like the activities in the operating room during a routine surgery—clockware is appropriate. In a clockware situation, agents give up some of their freedom and personal mental models to accomplish something they have collectively agreed upon. The group displays less emergent, creative behavior, and begins to act more like a machine. There is nothing wrong with this.
“Cohesive teams are needed for day-to-day issues. Spontaneous learning networks that have open conflict and dialogue are vital to handling strategic issues.”—Ralph Stacey
However, where the world is far from certainty and agreement (near the edge of chaos) swarmware is needed with its adaptability, openness to new learning and flexibility. Swarmware is also needed in situations for which the old clockware processes are no longer adequate for accomplishing the purpose, in situations for which the purpose has changed or in situations in which creativity is desirable for its own sake.