Wikinomics – How mass collaboration changes everything

wikinomics coverYou’ve probably visited Wikipedia, a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit . You’ve probably heard how prone it is to errors (which this book disputes). But have you begun to get your head around the power of mass collaboration – the wisdom of crowds ? On the morning of the 2005 London Underground bombings the first entry on Wikipedia appeared within 18 minutes. A few minutes later other contributors were adding additional information and correcting the spelling of the first entry. By the end of the day, over 2,500 contributors had created a comprehensive 14 page account that was much more detailed than anything the mainstream media had produced.

Whilst some reviewers have been critical of the authors for their gee-whiz excitement and consultant speak, for me this book confirmed my suspicion that mass collaboration is a powerful idea for change and outlined some models and case studies that were inspiring.

Some key topics covered :

1. Open collaborations to produce collective results not owned by anyone  – e.g.  Wikipedia and Linux.
2. Accessing more expert knowledge through idea markets.
3. Customers being able to participate in detailed creation and customisation of products.
4. Knowledge transfer among the scientific community.
5. How companies are opening up their product and technology infrastructures to swarms of partners tocreate value.
6. Global production methods whereby supplier collaboration is leading to new possibilities for products and production.
7. New ways of facilitating collaboration inside an organisation so that internal silos are broken down and teams can connect to external networks.

Here are a few examples to whet your appetite :

  • The “Goldcorp Challenge” – a struggling Canadian gold miner publishes its geological data online and offers a prize of $575,000 prize for the answer to the question – Where is the gold ?Over 1,000 entries lead to the discovery of masses of gold.
  • The Beastie Boys  – Video “Swarm” – a D.I.Y. Concert video. The group recruited 50 fans on the Internet, equipped them with Hi8 video cameras, and set them loose in Madison Square Garden. The end product was edited down from 100 hours of footage shot from over sixty angles.
  • Katrinalist – An impromptu web site, built on the fly by volunteers. Filling the void due to official incompetence, this website compiled survivor data from all over the Web into a searchable format that made it easy to identify and locate family members.
  • Chongqing – a collaborative platform for motorcycle product ripoffs. Chinese motorcycle manufacturers spent many years mastering Japanese technology. Not content with old-fashioned reverse-engineering, the many firms that form the supply chain, in a nd around Chongqing,  have self-organised around a modular architecture where standard interfaces  – like brake attachment brackets, enable easy substitution and innovation at the component level.

I call this book a must read. Ongoing growth in collaboration inside and outside of the organisation will be increasingly powerful and disruptive to those organisations that don’t adopt it – but what excites me are the new product, service and business models that can be unleashed by collaborative techniques and platforms.

Wikinomics : Tapscott & Williams : 2006 : ISBN 978-1-84354-637-5

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