Author: Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams ISBN-10: 1591843677 First, if you have not read Wikinomics Mass Collaboration Changes Everything, read it. If you have read it, read it again. If your company is not moving noticeably in the direction of mass collaboration, it is in peril. The last 6 years of global economic pressure has exacerbated the need for the concepts of mass collaboration set forth in this book. The book was published in 2006, and updated in 2008.
The connections to reality over the past 5 years are incredible and undeniable. There is already a new book by the same authors published in 2010 titled MacroWikinomics. I’m one of those that find it fascinating to read a business book a few years after it comes out. While reading, I can connect prediction and history, and short-cut my own action plan. This time, there is a sense of urgency required.
The next generation has grown up intimate with mass collaboration. Unlike later generations painfully learning the tools and philosophy of mass collaboration, this new generation is expert, and knows nothing other than mass collaboration.
The advantage of a book review written well after the publish date is the added editorial dialog possible. I have done this liberally to ground concepts and messages in what I’ve observed.
I first learned of Tapscott and Williams working as a CMO for Paradigm Geophysical in Houston, Texas, in 2007. My CEO, John Gibson began the shift toward mass collaboration in terms of software development. We applied it to innovation in subsurface asset management solutions for oil and gas exploration. We were an early user of InnoCentive in the energy industry. Rereading the book has solidified some of the concepts.
Four Wikinomics Principles
The authors call Wikinomics “the art and science of peer production.” Make no mistake; this is not a story of online encyclopedias. Nor is it about consumer technologies like mp3 players, tablet computing, eReaders and smartphones. The examples in the book point out how Boeing and BMW (airframes and automobiles) have for years embraced, and reinvented around mass collaboration. These companies make less and less. Instead, they integrate systems created by others companies with far greater niche systems competency. The result is a much better product that satisfies customers in new ways. The Four Principles of Wikinomics are openness, peering, sharing, and acting globally. Each principle is traditionally foreign to corporations which focus on secrecy as a competitive advantage. But the proof is in the book. Companies like IBM and P&G realized early they needed to leverage the power of larger bodies of knowledge. Communities of learning that could drive innovation at a greater rate than either of the companies individually could hire talent to achieve. Perhaps because of their size they felt it coming faster than smaller companies. But like the opening analogy of Goldcorp, and its story of publishing its data to turn a dying company around to be one of the top gold producers, mass collaboration is now proven. The fundamentals of mass collaboration have produced the “perfect storm.” However here’s the basics and you should read the book. Ideagoras are marketplaces for ideas, innovation and uniquely qualified minds. Prosumers are a new large community of participatory early adopters and hackers. The New Alexandrians are a new renaissance for sharing for science, and science for sharing. Platforms for participation where the entire world is a stage and everyone can be a star. And the global plant floor creates planetary ecosystems for designing, making and assembling things while the wiki workplace enables an incredible new form of real-time learning services and service-organizations that unleash the power of “us.” You will have to read the book.
Why Wikinomics is Important Now More Than Ever
The global economic downturn and ongoing pressures of the last 5 years have taught us a few things. First, we know that we cannot budget-cut our corporate path forward. We also cannot continue to invest and lead in the same way and think that something different will happen. This is classic application of Albert Einstein’s definition of Insanity: “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Some significant rethinking around products and services; business models and channels; and organizations and processes is required. In good economic times, leaders often ignore change and innovation in industry, surviving for a very long time. Then, after others have invested all the early adopter costs and have democratized a new technology or method, they jump in. However, with mass collaboration, the tables are turned. Innovation is no longer that expensive. The process of development by a small internal team and being proven by a small group of early adopters takes too much time. Today, through the mass collaboration described in Wikinomics, new ideas evolve and become adopted in near real-time. Users quickly grow to much greater numbers and market penetration accelerates faster than the old model.
Tapscott and Williams wrote: “The opportunity for customers or competitors to get the jump on new innovation in your area of business increases daily. And with the speed at which these communities move, the time to act is now.”
Leaders that do not understand the mass collaboration model are in trouble and are likely losing ground to competitors that do. The pressures of the global economy are increasing natural effects of technology on time-space compression at an alarming rate. It’s better to participate, collaborate, learn, and move forward than to sit and wait. Companies that don’t act, may not recover.
It is interesting that early players offered as examples in the book, like MySpace, missed the platform concept since the book was published. They ignored the need for openness and mass collaboration and are now obsolete. MySpace has all but been replaced by Facebook as a platform for participation, with its APIs. MySpace is now history. The advent of WordPress as the open platform for blogging was not foreseen by Typepad and others. Oddly, a blogging platform is open to some degree. But it was WordPress that built the virtual global plant floor engaging in a worldwide set of developers, not unlike Linux did, to produce the platform for participation. WordPress not only involved the prosumer hackers, but has built a communication channel on the platform of participation for media that gives every voice the microphone, and makes every actor the star.
We could go on about the last 3 years of evolution of eReaders, tablet computing, and Amazon. But one to watch is the GE Industrial Internet initiative. Following classic Wikinomics strategy, Jeffrey Immelt is inviting ideagoras to develop platforms for participation in markets and ecosystems of prosumers. Another one to watch that needs a leader is the science of Big Data and Analytics. Unlike GE, there are no big players driving openness, peering, sharing and acting globally. What institutions and industries are poised for Wikinomics? Energy, healthcare and consumer services seem ready either from a market pull, or customer-push perspective. Institutions like government and education are also ready. Their anchors holding them to their institutional legacy are being driven out by a new younger set of academic leaders and professors driving things like Coursera. These new leaders are visionaries in seeing how education is not about the institution, but more about educating people to the global benefit of all. Transparency alone has proven that truth, ethics and integrity cannot be whitewashed in government. Embracing Wikinomics is the only survival for these institutions.
Who Should Read This Book?
You should read this book if you are a leader, manager or team member working to the health of your company and its business. Any individual, project or leadership team that recognizes that mass collaboration is changing everything as a force to build competitive viability in universally changing markets selling to uniquely different customers than just 5 and 10 years ago. We like to reminisce at the end of every calendar year about what we will miss that has gone away over time. Or, older generations look at how younger generations don’t know what some things are, like newspapers, land line telephones, fax machines, Sony Walkman cassette players, a record album of 20 songs, and so many other things. It is a long list of product dinosaurs. The real dynamic is not the simple “what we had yesterday that we don’t have today” perspective. It is instead, the fundamental way in which the next generations have grown up. Wikinomics, the book, points out that the current new generation has never lived in the world where there was NOT collaboration. We are moving into an era where collaboration is not something that has to be taught, it is something that is the primary, first learned way of functioning for the generation that lives by their smart phones, and collaborates in real-time thought-for-thought with Facebook, Twitter and Google+. I have to thank my son, Jake, for giving me this book to read. He is one of the brightest minds about economics that I know. I can’t wait to read the next book, MacroWikinomics. Maybe next year!