David MacGregor got asked by Idealog magazine to review the book Wikinomics, a new tome all about the power of collaboration for modern society and business. David thought it might be interesting to experiment with a collaborative approach to the review.

In the end, two busy schedules, very similar viewpoints and, yes. the admittedly difficult problems brought up by remote collaboration conspired to scuttle the project.

It seemed a waste to ditch the stuff I had written thus far so here, for your reading pleasure, are my thought abut Wikinomics, the book;

Flashback to around a decade ago when a fresh faced management student wrote a paper visioning the way organisation of the future would function. He used terms like “organic”, “ad hoc”, and “project specific”.

I was that student and I’m still talking about the same thigns a decade later. Only now I have a host of examples to show as proof that this change is occurring. I also have a myriad of tools to use to enable the organic collaboration to occur. This review is a unique and somewhat inspired example of collaborative models being applied to traditional problems.

Not surprisingly then, Wikinomics is a tome that pleases me greatly. With the headline that  “in the last few years, traditional collaboration-in a meeting room, a conference call, even a convention centre-has been superseded by collaborations on an astronomical scale”, Wikinomics details the paradigm shift that is occurring in the world as organisations move from strictly hierarchical topologies to a much more organic structure.

Wikinomics takes some well known examples of this structure; YouTube, Flickr and MySpace. But rather than focusing purely on internet businesses the authors  also throw in some more traditional organisations; Proctor & Gamble, BMW and Boeing. Where the Wikinomics thesis really shines however is in detailing where collaboration models have been utilised to harness the power of many for the good of all, the Human Genome Project, AIDS research and others.

Wikinomics therefore becomes a champion for organisations changing the way they do things to take advantage of the available tools, from Wikis to Blogs to customer generated products and services. It also tries to fulfil the role of visionary, detailing where this new paradigm will take businesses, individuals and society as a whole going into the future.

All too often books such as this one, detailing as it does a sea-change in the way things are done, tend to be a little evangelical. The Wikipedia authors manage to walk the fine line between walking the talk on one hand and ramming concepts down their reader’s throats on the other. The book itself, and the resulting body of work, is an example in collaboration, the authors proudly tell of their experiences working apart from each other and utilising a number of tools to build a whole that is bigger than the individual parts.

The Wikinomics team have also (of course) set up a website, a blog and a wiki. In what is an innovative approach towards writing a sequel, they have developed the overview for a new book, and are encouraging contributions from anyone and everyone. Truly a collaborative authorship model.

As with all these things, only time will tell. While I believe the core thesis of Wikinomics, that is the power of the network, of collaboration and of synergy, is well-founded. I came away feeling a little uncomfortable with the revelatory nature of the book, wondering if it wasn’t something of a false messiah.

Ben Kepes

Ben Kepes is a technology evangelist, an investor, a commentator and a business adviser. Ben covers the convergence of technology, mobile, ubiquity and agility, all enabled by the Cloud. His areas of interest extend to enterprise software, software integration, financial/accounting software, platforms and infrastructure as well as articulating technology simply for everyday users.

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