Working together apart

On 21 September 2009 Netflix announced the winners of a contest to develop a better algorithm for recommendations on the films  it distributes. The winners share one million dollars. As Good Morning Silicon Valley (GMSV) put it:

For a relative pittance, the movie rental company got thousands of experts around the world to bust their butts on its challenge before a coalition of leading teams calling itself BellKor’s Pragmatic Chaos edged another collaboration called The Ensemble in a furious finish that literally came down to the final minutes of the three-year contest and had to be settled by a tiebreaker rule.

And who were these puissant winners? A virtual team. Again from GMSV:

The seven-member, multinational winning team was pleased to be given the chore of divvying up a million bucks and also for the chance to finally meet each other in person at the award ceremony.

Once again the world has been shown that virtual teams are not only possible but that they can beat out “traditional” teams that work in the old fashioned way, face-to-face. But wait! The almost-first-place team was also virtual. They lost by a fraction of an eyelash, according to Netflix. What are the implications of this for your organization? In this economy?

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