Thursday, October 29, 2009

Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything

What book was selected?

Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything is the text that I selected for our book review project in this course. The book, produced collaboratively by Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams, postulates on how interactive online communities can strengthen the efforts of all involved. Throughout the work the two authors makes strong cases for this viewpoint, and back their assessments up with situational data and real-life examples. Even the subtitle of their book was created via an online public discussion. By the end of this book the authors have strongly made their case, and have gone a long way towards convincing me about the validity of their stance.

Why was this book chosen?

My initial selection of the book came out of my desire to learn how to more effectively use online interactive communities. These sites are not only fantastic social extensions, but also can serve as an excellent promotional tool if they are maintained skillfully. Being a performer and needing a way to spread the word about myself, I naturally latched onto a book that might teach me something about using such networks effectively. I had seen the book mentioned on Amazon in several “Best Of” lists created by site members, and thought it would be an excellent tool for reaching this goal. While in the end the book was not exactly what I had in mind, it was still very illuminating.

What is the book's subject?

Wikinomics, to quote the authors, is about how “new mass collaboration is changing how companies and societies harness knowledge and capability to innovate and create value.” An example it cites early on to elaborate this principle is that of GoldCorp. GoldCorp was a mining corporation which was seeking ways to discover new veins in addition to its existing properties, which were moving towards depletion. Rather than hire a development team to work inside the company, GoldCorp opened up the challenge to the entire world via a contest wherein they offered $575,000 in prize money to whoever could develop the best predictive models for gold discovery. The project was a massive success, and the winning model helped transform GoldCorp from an under-performing $100 million company into a $9 billion powerhouse. Obviously the system of peer collaboration can produce profitable results. This text shows that basic principle at work again and again, explaining how any company which ignores this capability is missing out on a massive revenue opportunity.

What is the book's format?

In general the book utilizes the same format seen in many books of this nature. Each section is split up based on the main principle or idea being discussed within, with subsections based on a case-by-case basis. Often a whole chapter is designated to a gradual explanation of the title principle. An example would be the chapter “Ideagoras”, which discusses the emerging global marketplace of qualified minds that can be applied to solving all sorts of dilemmas. It elaborates later on by noting “the world is your R&D department”, an intriguing notion indeed. Each section of the book works thusly by introducing its primary principle and then detailing how it works in today’s e-commerce world. Most of these sections were very informative. There is occasional redundancy, but that’s to be expected in any text of this nature.

What is the value of the book to its target audience?
The value the book offers to these readers, as well as any business student willing to pick it up and read it, is an educational one. It illuminates its readers to the gradual dissemination of all information. A good example would be its chapter “Collaborative Minds”, which again goes a long way towards selling its viewpoint. The information in this chapter makes a strong case for the release of most proprietary information in order to drive the total evolution of the marketplace. Tapscott and Williams state that by following this practice, companies help create a “synergized ecosystem” in which “prosumers” and “ideagoras” will help to remodel and streamline business practices on a new global stage. If one should take away anything from the text, it is the notion of the incredibly high value of “human capital” utilization across organizational boundaries.

What was your final reaction?
While the book’s primary principles are valid, it ignores some contradictory data in order to make its point. At no point does the text convincingly address how this new market of mass collaboration will overcome the problem of groupthink. That is, the fact that in many collaborative groups such as “think tanks” set up by world governments, ideas can often be lost as individuals within the group strive to reach consensus while sacrificing creativity. The pursuit of group cohesiveness can often be overpowering in an attempt to reach a solution. Many companies, such as GoldCorp, have fought this concept by turning the whole process into a contest for cash reward. Still, the text never discusses how many collaborative research groups fight the groupthink impulse. More elaboration here would have been of great value.

1 comment:

  1. I know everyone laughed during your video but I thought it was cool. After all the presentations this was the book I was most interested in.