Don Tapscott and Anthony Williams explain the power of Wikinomics in their book and blog.
Economic doom and gloom stories have been standard news fare for months, but Don Tapscott and Anthony Williams believe they know how to move out of the financial darkness.
The key to renewed financial vigor is not the multi-billion dollar stimulus recovery package President-elect Barack Obama is widely expected to introduce almost immediately after being sworn into office two weeks from today, but rather through mass collaboration facilitated by existing technologies.
Tapscott and Williams advance their argument in Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything. Readers interested in either learning more or nobook can go to their blog.
The book’s title pays homage to Wikipedia the online encyclopedia phenomenon started by Jimmy Wales that at last count had more than 12 million entries, nearly all volunteer-written, in many languages, Initially eliciting horror and scorn from traditionalists, Wikipedia gradually has gained gruding acceptance among, and even citation by, some academics.
Wikinomics argues that four principles-openness, peering, sharing and acting globally-should guide people’s business interactions. The degree to which individuals and their companies apply these principles, coupled with the quality of the goods or material they produce, will strongly influence the organization’s success.
The point is generally well made, and Tapscott and Williams’ punchy prose chock full of confirming anecdotes moves along quite rapidly.
To be fair, some of the reading speed comes from encountering a somewhat predictable cast of characters; Linux, Wikipedia and Flickr are advanced as examples that both demonstrate and shape the changed reality, for instance.
In addition, those people familiar with the touting of Wikipedia’s entries having nearly the identical number of errors as a typical Encylcopedia Brittanicaentry will not learn much new from that section (The authors do add a useful point about the ability for wikipedia entries to be corrected far more quickly than Brittanica.).
The book also contains interesting nuggets like how the head of Sun Microsystems both communicates with employees through his blog and encourages them to keep blog as well.
Despite these strengths, Wikinomics is far less convincing when it comes to the issue many collaborative enteprises seem to grapple with: how to make money. This difficulty is exacerbated by consumers who are increasingly accustomed to having access to content and sometimes even goods for free.
The method the authors present of doing some combination of sharing and retaining control seems a stretch a best and utterly implausible at worst. This does not negate the fact that certain businesses have figured out how to be both collaborative and profitable, but these are much more the exceptions than the rule.
This objection does not mean Wikinomics should not be read, but readers looking for a how-to guide to instant wealth should go elsewhere.
Wikinomics may not lead to the riches that Tapscott and Williams predict are possible, but it may help the reader have a better understand and participate in the dizzying changes that have already, and will continue to, tranform our world