Wikinomics has the subtitle “how mass collaboration changes everything”. I’m not sure that it proved its point, but it made interesting reading.

(In true Web2.0 fashion, the authors have a Wikinomics blog, too; I’m just writing about their book now.)

It is all about collaboration and openness, and how the authors believe that these two principles will changes the way organisations and people will work. They provide lots of interesting stories and examples of how organisations have embraced openness and collaboration in many forms, how users forced collaboration on organisations (and how it would have been better if those organisations had been open in the first place), and how the world is changing forever, however hard some organisations struggle against it.

It is a fascinating, compelling vision.

But I am not sure I really buy it. It all sounds a bit like the arguments given by those prophets of the dotcom boom in the late 1990s – the internet was changing the way the economy works, the future of organisations is being changed forever, yadayada. I don’t doubt the power of user-created content, collaborative working and open-source developments leading to new, exciting business models which change the way people chose to live and work.

But I am doubtful that these models will really wreak the havoc described, or will prove as solid as they may need to be to survive.

The authors are also consultants, and the book suffered from consultants’ myopia: they picked examples which supported their arguments. I couldn’t help thinking of the examples that have failed; and the Economist attributes the open, collaborative supply chain as a cause of worker unrest and a strike – an example praised in Wikinomics.


2 thoughts on “Wikinomics

  1. Robert Wylie

    I have worked in environments where the words have been used and not followed through resulting in smoke and mirrors and where individuals don’t know where they stand until it id too late. I have also worked in environments where it works fabulously. The former was a share owned company and the latter was a firm. My point would be that the dynamics of ownership will influence the success or otherwise of this approach.

  2. patrickhadfield Post author

    My best collaborative experiences have been in small teams within large public companies – where, in both cases, the team itself felt subversive and counter-cultural. this may, in part, have helped create the feeling within the team.

    Your point about the ownership structure is interesting though. One of the participants in the Open Everything conference was convinced that, for open, collaborative structures to truly function, there needed to be an alternative to money to pay people who were involved – a bit like the local currencies that some towns have started. I didn’t really follow the argument, myself – but involving people through shared ownership could be very valuable. They still have to eat, though!

    (BTW I am suffering a heavy cold – so I hope this makes sense!)


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