Monday, December 22, 2008

Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything

This is the most complete book on the economic, technological and social revolution that they call wikinomics. It has also been called social production, peer-to-peer (peer production) and the social web among many others. The software tools have been called social software, collaborative software and web 2.0 among many others. In my opinion, it is the biggest change in the way we work since electrification. It is an excellent book to read, and anyone interested in attempting to stay current, must read it. I say stay current because the rate of change in this revolution is far faster than I can keep up with. However, this book is a good place to start. If you’re in education, an equally good book to start with is Will Richardson’s Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms.

The authors’ introduction describes very well the revolution. “Throughout history corporations have organized themselves according to strict hierarchical lines of authority. Everyone was a subordinate to someone else-employees versus managers, marketers versus customers, producers versus supply chain subcontractors, companies versus the community. There was always someone or some company in charge, controlling things, at the "top" of the food chain. While hierarchies are not vanishing, profound changes in the nature of technology, demographics, and the global economy are giving rise to powerful new models of production based on community, collaboration, and self-organization rather than on hierarchy and control.

Millions of media buffs now use blogs, wikis, chat rooms, and personal broadcasting to add their voices to a vociferous stream of dialogue and debate called the "blogosphere." Employees drive performance by collaborating with peers across organizational boundaries, creating what we call a "wiki workplace." Customers become "prosumers" by co creating goods and services rather than simply consuming the end product. So-called supply chains work more effectively when the risk, reward, and capability to complete major projects-including massively complex products like cars, motorcycles, and airplanes-are distributed across planetary networks of partners who work as peers.”

The authors’ suggest that we should call this collection of tools, facilitated by the infrastructure of the Internet, digital telephony and later by digital radio and TV, weapons of mass collaboration. These weapons they write, “…allow thousand upon thousands of individuals and small producers to co-create products access markets, and delight customers in ways that only large corporations could manage in the past. This is giving rise to new collaborative capabilities and business models that will empower the prepared firm and destroy those that fail to adjust.”

Because the principles of wikinomics are so vastly different from those the past, it is difficult for people and organizations to perceive and understand them. “The new mass collaboration is changing how companies and societies harness knowledge and capability to innovate and create value. This affects just about every sector of society and every aspect of management. A new kind of business is emerging-one that opens its doors to the world, co-innovates with everyone (especially customers), shares resources that were previously closely guarded, harnesses the power of mass collaboration, and behaves not as a multinational but as something new: a truly global firm. These companies are driving important changes in their industries and rewriting many rules of competition.

Now compare this to traditional business thinking. Conventional wisdom says companies innovate, differentiate, and compete by doing certain things right: by having superior human capital; protecting their intellectual property fiercely; focusing on customers; thinking globally but acting locally; and by executing well (i.e., having good management and controls). But the new business world is rendering each of these principles insufficient, and in some cases, completely inappropriate.”

The authors’ assert that wikinomics is based on four principles:
• Openness
• Peering
• Sharing
• Acting globally

They write, “These four principles-openness, peering, sharing, and acting globally-increasingly define how twenty-first-century corporations compete. This is very different from the hierarchical, closed, secretive, and insular multi-national that dominated the previous century.

One thing that has not changed is that winning organizations (and societies) will be those that tap the torrent of human knowledge and translate it into new and useful applications. The difference today is that the organizational values, skills, tools, processes, and architectures of the ebbing command-and-control economy are not simply outdated; they are handicaps on the value creation process. In an age where mass collaboration can reshape an industry overnight, the old hierarchical ways of organizing work and innovation do not afford the level of agility, creativity, and connectivity that companies require to remain competitive in today's environment. Every individual now has a role to play in the economy, and every company has a choice-commoditize or get connected.”

The book is an incredible source of specific information about the collaboration revolution, links for even more information about specific topics and tools, and stories about successful uses of mass collaboration.

The book covers several models of mass collaboration for businesses:

* “ Peer producers apply open source principles to create products made of bits-from operating systems to encyclopedias.

* Ideagoras give companies access to a global marketplace of ideas, innovations, and uniquely qualified minds that they can use to extend their problem-solving capacity.

* Prosumer communities can be an incredible source of innovation if companies give customers the tools they need to participate in value creation.

* The New Alexandrians are ushering in a new model of collaborative science that will lower the cost and accelerate the pace of technological progress in their industries.

* Platforms for participation create a global stage where large communities of partners can create value and, in many cases, new businesses in a highly synergistic ecosystem.

* Global plant floors harness the power of human capital across borders and organizational boundaries to design and assemble physical things.

* Wiki workplaces increase innovation and improve morale by cutting across organizational hierarchies in all kinds of unorthodox ways.

Each model represents a new and unique way to compete, but they all share one thing: These new forms of peer production enable firms to harvest external knowledge, resources, and talent on a scale that was previously impossible.”

The future for business, nonprofits and government, in fact all forms human endeavor, looks very different from what the past has been.

Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything
Don Tapscott and Anthony Williams
Portfolio, 2006, 324 pp

No comments:

Post a Comment