Clinton calls for more, less-hierarchical networks

Joseph Waring
14 Nov 2011

The genius of the "network" is that it's a continuously evolving experiment, Bill Clinton said yesterday at a forum in Hong Kong on the use of ICT in education. "As long as our goal is to do something faster, cheaper, better, we don’t have to be afraid of not having all the answers or trying something that doesn't work."


He told the audience that for the rest of his life he's trying to force himself to say either, "I don't know or I was wrong. The whole idea of the network is to present ideas and grow from errors to being right."


The former US president was in Hong Kong over the weekend to participate in the Networked Society Forum (or NEST), which brought together business leaders and government officials to discuss how ICT can be used to shape the future of education and learning globally.


Clinton noted that what works in the modern world is the network -- creative cooperation between the public, private and non-governmental sectors.


"In the industrial era the model for what really worked was a large hierarchical system governments and corporations and giving everybody a piece of the hierarchy. There was a comfortable set of rules for public-private cooperation."


He called for more networks that work in a far less-hierarchical, flatter way. The trick is how to make it work for everyone. "If you look at the world's problems, it comes down to the fact that you have to choose between shared prosperity over more for ourselves without regard to others."


Clinton said that institutions and systems in wealthy countries are generally insufficiently geared toward continuous improvement. Pointing specifically to higher education and health care, he said they are not in continuous improvement mode and are not adapting.


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