Five Things Don Tapscott Has Learned about Collaboration

Wikinomics author Don Tapscott on the power of collaboration and transparency

Wikinomics author and consultant Don Tapscott believes that transparency is power and that the benefits of collaboration outweigh its drawbacks.

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Read an excerpt from his book Wikinomics and his article IT: The Engine That Drives Success

Business is under the microscope today. Due to the Web, companies are scrutinized like never before. In a world of instant communications, whistle-blowers, inquisitive media and Googling, citizens and communities routinely put firms under the microscope. Customers can evaluate the worth of products and services at levels never before possible. To collaborate effectively, companies and their business partners have to share intimate knowledge with one another. Corporations are becoming naked. And if you're going to be naked, you'd better be buff!

Transparency is a new form of power. Rather than being something to be feared, transparency is becoming central to business success. Open corporations perform better, so smart firms are choosing to be open. I suppose you could say they "undress for success."

The benefits of mass collaboration are boundless. I'm hard pressed to think of a service or product that couldn't benefit. The music industry is probably the most irritating to me; it's been clear what they should do for years. But leaders of old paradigms have the greatest difficulty embracing the new—and the industry that brought you Elvis and the Beatles is hated by its customers. I'm surprised by the C-level executives who insist, despite evidence to the contrary, that collaboration's drawbacks outweigh the benefits.

Practice what you preach. I try to get as much firsthand knowledge before I sit down to write. For example, we used online discussion forums to brainstorm ideas and seek suggestions when writing Wikinomics. The book's subtitle—How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything—was arrived at by soliciting suggestions from the public. The final chapter is a wiki. I'm currently writing a sequel to my 1998 book, Growing Up Digital called Grown Up Digital. Again, I'm using online discussion groups on Facebook and other networks to brainstorm ideas. We run the company by wiki. There hasn't been an actual management meeting here in months.

Thinking forward pays off. I first began to seriously think of networking and the profound impact it would have on society during my work on the "office of the future" at Bell Northern Research in the 1970s. My research was within the corporate context but it didn't take long for me to see that networking would extend beyond corporate boundaries, and some form of "information superhighway" would precipitate major changes. But back then, everyone said professionals and managers will never learn to use a keyboard.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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