Accelerated Solutions Environment Blog

Accelerated Solutions Environment Blog

Opinions expressed on this blog reflect the writer’s views and not the position of the Capgemini Group

What links 17th century Merchant Law and leading 21st century organisational collaboration?

It’s 1606. You’re a young and inexperienced merchant captain of a Spanish Carrack ship and you’re sat in a coffee house in the port of Deptford.

A few days from now you’re due to embark to trade wool, tin and lead in what you’ve been led to believe is Harbour of Eleutherios, though you can’t be exactly sure because this expedition will be the first time you’ve navigated the Strait of Gibraltar.

You don’t really know what to expect when you begin trading and you certainly don’t have the first idea about what your goods are worth in terms of Ottoman yarns – or what tax you’re going to have to pay on any goods you exchange because the online self-assessment tax calculator won’t be invented for another four centuries.

Feeling somewhat overwhelmed you turn to the coffee house crowd and scope out the most sea-worn looking individual with the intention of trading some useful tips and information with them in order to apply their knowledge to your imminent voyage.

Across Europe, 17th century coffee houses were the grounds for the creation of the Lex Mercatoria

Lex Mercatoria, or Merchant Law, was a body of law that emerged out of the development of rules for international commerce – rules that were produced by the merchant community themselves and not by an overarching governing body.

In the 17th and 18th centuries these rules functioned as a European-wide law of commerce and would help settle any disputes that would arise between merchants trading from different jurisdictions.

The general process of community formation can be attributed to recursivity and the materials through and with which it operates

We can see that a community will seek to constitute itself through things like peer review, forum narratives and an explicit or implicit identification of common values and goals. Linking this back to the example above, we can see that late-Renaissance coffee houses became entities within which the Lex Mercatoria could be produced. The coffee houses gave the merchants a flexible forum through which to share their knowledge, test their narratives and to identify their common ground.

In the Accelerated Solutions Environment we seek to be a 21st century coffee house

We are an entity with the capability to enable businesses and institutions to collaborate in a way that enables them to produce and strengthen their own communities. We give businesses and organisations the space, facilitation and tools to help them collaboratively tailor their common values, goals, shared meanings and attitudes to process. In turn, this enables them to create their own Lex Mercatoria-esque principles by which to address and critically engage with their mediums of production.

We create our coffee shops across the globe and they frequently morph into the sets of game shows, giant interactive living timelines, Jurassic forests, campsites and movie theatres. From recent participants ending their time on our Mars One base by symbolically pushing a large button to start their institution’s newest mission, to the participants exploring their common connections by making a room-sized physical network with balls of string, these carefully constructed environments and the inputs staged within them are the materials through which community is generated.

About the author

Portia Light
Portia Light
Portia studied for a BA in Anthropology and History at the University of Birmingham before studying for an MSc in Anthropology and Law at the London School of Economics. She joined Capgemini in 2014 as a business analyst and has keen interests in systems thinking, cybernetics and organisational transformation.

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