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How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything


15 min read
10 take-aways
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What's inside?

The world you know is being collaboratively rebuilt into an exciting mashup by people around the globe. Want to join in?

Editorial Rating



  • Innovative
  • Applicable


Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams have written an intriguing, necessary and, in some ways, groundbreaking book, which getAbstract recommends to everyone...with some caveats. The authors examine the possibilities of mass collaboration, open-source software and evolutionary business practices. They integrate examples from the arts ("mashups"), scholarship (Wikipedia) and even heavy industry (gold mining) to argue that new forces are reshaping human societies. Some of their examples will be familiar, but others will surprise and educate you. However, the authors are so deeply part of the world they discuss that they may inflate it at times - for instance, making the actions of a few enthusiasts sound as if they already have transformed the Internet - and they sometimes fail to provide definitions or supporting data. Is the "blogosphere," for example, really making members of the younger generation into more critical thinkers? Tapscott and Williams repeatedly dismiss criticisms of their claims or positions without answering them. The result is that the book reads at times like a guidebook, at times like a manifesto and at times like a cheerleading effort for the world the authors desire. It reads like the Wikipedia they so admire: a valuable, exciting experiment that still contains a few flaws.


What is "Wikinomics"?

"Wikinomics" combines the term "wiki" (from the Hawaiian word for "quick") with "economics," but even more than speed, Wikinomics refers to a new way of interacting that is appropriate for and made possible by the digital age. It is built on software that enables collaboration.

Traditional business organizations kept clear boundaries, and tightly controlled their proprietary information and processes. Such firms sought to hire and keep the best people. By contrast, if you implement wikinomics principles in your organization, you assume that the boundaries of firms, documents and processes are porous. More good people and ideas exist outside your business than inside, so find ways to use them to generate ideas and solve problems. For example, rather than producing everything in-house and trying to be good at everything, outsource production. Allow outside companies to focus on what they do best. Rather than having a hierarchical relationship with suppliers, work with them as partners. For instance, instead of providing detailed production specs they must follow, allow them input on design as well. And, in the step most people find the scariest, ...

About the Authors

Don Tapscott is a consultant on business strategy and organizational transformation. He is the founder of New Paradigm, now owned by NGenera. Anthony Williams is a senior fellow with the Lisbon Council and a strategic adviser to governments, international institutions and several Fortune 500 firms. Both authors live in Toronto.

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