Wikinomics

We were supposed to read just the first chapter titled, “Wikinomics,” but I wanted to read everything preceding it so I could comment as I read from the start of the book.

PREFACE: The authors started right off the bat getting the reader’s attention and making the point they drive home in every paragraph. Clearly they want you to know that YOU matter. In fact, the first edition of this book came out in 2006 the same week that Time magazine chose “You,” the global online collaborator, as its “Person of the Year.” Although I personally was not on Facebook until 2008, apparently most college students used Facebook in 2006 along with the now-irrelevant MySpace phenomenon. In fact, the whole idea of “social networking” and “user-generated media” is just a small slice of the proverbial pie which this book tries to browbeat you into grasping that indeed, this is the present and the future and to be successful and viable in this new tech world, you must change with the times. The old guard just won’t cut it anymore and will actually hinder one’s progress and profit. The original text, the authors, proudly state, had a huge impact, such as in the way that “wikinomics” has become a bonafide word quite popular in the vernacular. Moreover, it’s used by those in all realms of popular culture from business to religious to politics and so forth.

The book acknowledges that such a drastic, fast change in culture and how we communicate and get our news is understandably going to cause fear and unease. Some will always have trouble embracing the new and letting go of the old guard. They even openly mention their critics such as Nicholas Carr and Andrew Keen. However, they authors hold fast to their opinion, insisting that this is just the way it is, resistance is futile and counterproductive. I was interested to learn that despite the open, collective nature of Wikipedia, that the traditional Encyclopedia Brittannica has virtually the same amount of errors. The one-way dialogue is simply a thing of the past. The now is composed of input from literally every corner of the globe. Contrary to skeptics, the books insists that the idea of such sharing and collaboration is NOT communist because profit is very plausible even in this new world order. Our brains need to be rewired, the shift has happened and things will never go back to how they were for past generations, even my Gen X group who was the last generation to grow up without internet and with landlines, making us the special generation to have straddled this massive change in culture. I consider that a lucky thing for my age group. We know how it was but we are still young enough (not quite middle age, thank you very much) to be viable and mentally flexible enough to embrace social media and function. The same cannot be said for my parents’ generation who married in the 1960s, had  but 1 or 2 jobs in their lifetime. My life trajectory is utterly different from hers. I sometimes envy her ease at not having to embrace the newest mobile technology. Her generation still lives more simply than mine. She never has FOMO. But I digress, my point is that the preface really setup the book’s strong, unwavering declaration that this Wikinomics culture still ripe and ever-changing, is about thinking differently than ever before in the history of modern civilization. Sure it’s scary in ways, and it’s unchartered territory but the preface assures us that not only is it unavoidable, it’s also a great opportunity to express ourselves and quite possible make the planet a better place.

Introduction

Corporations have always been about hierarchy and control. As a child of the 80s, I was instilled with a mantra made famous in the film Wall Street that championed the idea that as the Gordon Gekko character said, greed is GOOD. In this era, the focus is different. Sure you can make profit and there is still nothing wrong with that capitalism is alive and well, fear not, however, the   mentality shifted. Everyone is part of the dialogue, not just the rich or connected or even those employed. Even the poorest person, in the poorest nation, can contribute to the global conversation. In that way, it’s mind-boggling how much potential one has. Tradition has been displaced for good. The pros are the new innovations and growth. The cons are that mass collaboration is not totally harmless nor is profit as obvious and literal. The companies that have changed early on are the ones succeeding, such as Boeing, BMW, and P&G. Millions of dollars have been spent in studying the impact of mobile and web business models and the power of transparency. What was once the biggest no-no (giving up secrets, openly sharing inside info) is now the most savvy step you could take as a company. The profits aren’t just in terms of dollars but in the idea of what we can achieve….together. Even when separated by many miles, even continents, collaboration can happen in real time (due to things like Skype) and make the involved parties feel they are on the same page in the same (head) space.

Subtitles

On just one page, the authors, in showing how they practice the open, sharing methodology, listed some suggestions for subtitles that they got from a public online discussion in 2006.

Chapter 1. Wikinomics (The Art and Science of Peer Production)

Using examples of corporate owners such as the CEO of Goldcorp Inc., we see how thinking out of the box, doing often opposite of what has been done, can yield better results than expected. The subject of Linux is a true testament to sharing info to create a greater result than any single contributor could create.  People are part of the economy more than ever before. Collaboration is not on the past’s small scale but on a truly global marketplace. We have more fluid roles, less restrictions, more room for advancement. We are freer with peering. The book then outlines seven ways peering makes the economy better: creation over consumption, individualism over stifling, networks over limited partnerships, rewriting passe tenets, and rethinking the concept of openness. My biggest gripe was the pushing of foreign labor onto the markets. My pet peeve is the horrible loss of jobs right here in America due to greedy companies in search for cheap labor. Therefore, I completely disagree with the statement on page 21 that says, “companies must increasingly open their doors to the global talent pool.” It is abhorrent to me that we must kowtow to third world countries by giving them jobs  that belong in America and other industrialized countries. I understand the argument is that we are to INCLUDE everyone in this new global world we live in, however, we must maintain balance. China, for example, cannot continue to spit out cheap, often toxic products. I really take issue with the insistence that we open arms to everyone as if we’re on an even playing field. This is simply not realistic. I agree, though, on the point that transparency does help build trust with customers, as with the example of Progressive Insurance. (22) The ‘Flo’ character is not only memorable, pleasant, and funny but informative and clear. I agree that sometimes when something is so pervasive, as with the old ways of corporate organization (unfair and demeaning, if you ask me,) people forget there are viable options. We get so set in our ways that we can forget to think outside the box, to ‘unthink’ what we know and do. I understand the point of using Linux as an example of the positive potential of peering. Why? Because openness allows for leverage that never existed in traditional corporations. The logic is not only convincing but it works with most industries. Just like paying for a phone call seems outdated, so does being divided geographically. Being global pays. It’s that simple. My biggest complaint and concern about this is my fear that we are losing our national identity. I am open to other cultures and embrace multiculturalism, BUT at what cost? Feeling like I have to apologize for being American? I resent being places in my own country where I am made to feel like I am not Asian enough or European enough. I truly believe that with such a manic move towards a world with no boundaries that national identity will be smudged if not erased. After all, caucasians are now the minority. In our culture, worldwide, everyone is too politically correct, living in fear of saying something that could be viewed as close-minded. A truly global company has no U.S. dominance. I don’t want to “treat the world as if it were one country.” (30) This really scares and offends me! I was raised to be proud of my country. I am patriotic. I just feel fearful of a world where “the whole world feels local.” (30) I also take umbrage with the quote that the “old heirarchical ways of organizing work and innovation do not afford the level of agility, creativity, and connectivity…[required in] today’s environment.” (31) I don’t like being ordered to “commoditize or get connected.” (31) The authors keep incessantly forcing this idea of old meaning hardwired and new meaning dynamic. I understand that this new world needs reconfiguring, but to throw the baby out with the bathwater seems too harsh. You can be innovative without trashing everything that was.

The assignment wasn’t to read anything past the first chapter, so I didn’t. However, this Chapter 1 sets up the new 7 models of collaboration. In summary, I feel that sure, the age we live in is very expansive and still fertile with potential for a better environment, more of a consensus than ever possible. We can’t let the Millennials change everything. Some things didn’t need changing.

Tapscott, Don, and Anthony D. Williams. Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything. Expanded ed. New York: Penguin Group, 2008. Print.

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