Don Tapscott and Anthony Williams' Wikinomics, how mass collaboration changes everything tells us how the internet and the digital culture is changing how we are interacting with each other, with the world, and how we are doing business. It is the natural follow-up to their The Digital Economy.
The basic premises of the book is that in thanks to the web 2.0 era the possibility to share information has encouraged a growing number of people to work together and to make better use of worldwide supply-chains. The large, established corporations have not always responded well to this, and most of them are not quite ready yet to change their business models. The authors however encourage companies to become what they call an "enterprise 2.0". The main attributes of such an enterprise are being open, peering, sharing, acting globally.
Being open implies being transparent (to a certain level) towards the world. On the one hand this means that you do not hide skeletons in your closet, on the other hand the authors state that opening up part of your system (which is not core business) can be beneficial. The common example of the latter is the opening up of applications and infrastructures by Amazon, Google and Facebook (but also the outsourcing of innovations by P&G).
Peering concerns working together in an open-source fashion to incrementally improve a given product. IBM has been able to extract considerable innovations from investing in the Linux community.
Sharing information and resources speeds up the process of innovation. The tricky part here is to share important information which do not count as trade secrets. In the beginning of the book, the example is given of a gold mining company in Canada, which couldn't find an important source of gold. Tests had shown that their must be a vast gold vein somewhere on their grounds, but their top geologists couldn't track it down. In the gold mining industry it is considered not done to share geological data. This is exactly what they did, and soon enough the new gold reserve was found thanks to the help of a huge amount of external contributors.
Acting globally is not deciding as a company what you will be doing and then doing this globally. Collaboration should be done on a global scale. Involve all the players in your supply chain. Share the gains and losses, and develop the product together.
All of this doesn't just happen by itself. It needs to be managed properly and done for the right reasons at the right time. Just opening up all your knowledge for the sake of opening up is not the answer either. Coca-cola can share the way they produce large quantities of cola, but they don't need to tell the details of their secret formula. Work together where it is beneficial, share information where possible and keep the secrets of your core business to yourself.
Tapscott and Williams flesh out their basic idea by detailing the components and prerequisites for the creation of an enterprise 2.0, to which they add a large amount of examples in the business world. All in all they make a convincing case. Part of what they are describing is already happening, part might be on its way. What is sure is that the information revolution and globalization is changing our world. The old business models are slowly outliving their usefulness in their current forms. The path sketched in wikinomics (although I'm not really a fan of the word) seems reasonable and well thought out. Only history will tell if it will all play out like that, but I for one hope it will. A culture, and a business, based on an open mentality can only make us evolve faster as a species. In a way capitalism, with the aid of the internet, has succeeded in creating the building blocks for a more egalitarian society in a way that communism never has.