In the last few years, traditional collaboration-in a meeting room, a conference call, even a convention center-has been taken over by new, innovative collaboration methods – on an ever-growing scale.
Dan Tapscott and Anthony Williams’ book Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything has definitely spurred discussion. First published in 2006, the book explores how some modern-day companies mass collaboration and open-source technology such as wikis to be successful.
According to the authors, Wikinomics is based on four key ideas: Openness, Peering, Sharing, and Acting Globally. The use of mass collaboration in a business environment, in recent history, can be seen as an extension of the trend to outsource business functions.
Based on a $9 million research project, Wikinomics shows how all people can participate in the economy like never before. They are creating TV news stories, sequencing the human genome, remixing their favorite music, designing software, finding a cure for disease, editing school texts, inventing new cosmetics, and even building motorcycles.
Furthermore, the book challenges the status quo, questioning if success can be achieved in less overtly structured ways. In many ways, it emphasizes the trend of customer-driven power.
To illustrate these points, Wikinomics cites traditional business approaches. Throughout history corporations have organized themselves according to strict hierarchical lines of authority. Everyone was inferior to someone else-employees versus managers, marketers versus customers, producers versus supply chain subcontractors, companies versus the community.
While hierarchies are not vanishing, massive changes in technology, demographics, and the global economy are producing influential new models of production based on community, collaboration, and self-organization rather than on hierarchy. Mass collaboration relies on free individual agents to come together and cooperate to improve a given operation or solve a problem. Much of this is the result of our growing, global Internet-based culture.
While some leaders fear the quick growth of these massive online communities, Wikinomics proves this fear is unfounded. Smart firms can actually use collective talent and genius to prompt innovation, growth, and success.
Who are these pioneering businesses? Companies such as Boeing, BMW, and Proctor & Gamble have been around for almost a century. And yet their leaders use collaboration as a way to cut costs, innovate, co-create with customers and partners, and push ahead of their competitors. Wikinomics shares a number of these stories, citing the explosive growth of phenomena such as MySpace, flickr, Second Life, YouTube, and the Human Genome Project.
Is Wikinomics reflecting a new, substantial economic trend or just another wave of innovation? Regardless, mass collaboration is taking hold. In true collaborative fashion, the last chapter is written by viewers, and was opened for editing on February 5, 2007.