In their book, Wikinomics, Donald Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams present some intriguing, thought-provoking examples of how mass collaboration is radically transforming the worlds of business, education, and leisure in the early 21st Century.
First, by defining the word wiki (Hawaiian for “fast”), the authors set the stage for the torrent of examples of how myriad companies have used wikis to create value and promote intellectual development on a global scale. Wiki, as pertaining to Wikinomics, is software that enables a number of people to collaborate on documents, software, business problems, etc., over the web. Other useful wikis mentioned include those used in creation of mutual funds, the creation of online textbooks, and the grand dame of them all: Wikipedia.
The best part of Web 2.0, which is based on xml instead of html, is that interactivity becomes paramount to a fulfilling experience. The Net generation, which has been raised on a diet of bits and bites, is hungry for interactive online experiences. Unlike the baby boomers or the Gen-X crowd, who accept the one-way flow of information from the “experts” to the “common people,” the “Net-genners” would like to post comments, vote on their favorite pictures, videos, songs, etc.; converse with others across the globe; and contribute to the online global community with their own points of view through their Facebooks, MySpaces, blogs, vlogs, and the like.
But I digress. We were talking about business, using free agents and creating value. In today’s marketplace, Tapscott and Williams state, openness, peering, sharing and acting globally are the keys to success. An example of one company that found success through just this ideological journey is GoldCorp. After coming to a dead end in its search for gold, the company decided to hold a contest for mining ideas, and in the process released its precious intellectual property to see if the world would answer their call for prospecting help. Sure enough, chemists, physicists, engineers, mathematicians and others were able to analyze GoldCorp’s geological data in new, ingenious way, leading to the eventual mining of more than 8 million ounces of gold. (The prize money in the contest was $575,000. At today’s gold prices, that’s about a 9 million to 1 return on investment. Shares of Berkshire Hathaway can’t come close to that!)
Tapscott and Williams purport that if a company can outsource work for less money than it costs to do the same job in house, it should do so. They define Coase’s law: “A firm will tend to expand until the costs of organizing an extra transaction within the firm becomes equal to the cost of carrying out the same transaction on the open market.” GoldCorp saw the value in following this law. They also acted followed Tapscott and Williams principles of Wikinomics: “openness, sharing and acting globally.”
I think that this book contains a wealth of good information, ideas and gems that any person or company could put to use in moving into the era of mass collaboration in order to tap the power of the crowd.