Tag Archives: Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything

Coming for the November First Friday Book Synopsis – Tapscott’s Macrowikinomics, and Derailed: Five Lessons Learned from Catastrophic Failures of Leadership

We had a wonderful morning at the October First Friday Book Synopsis.  Karl presented a synopsis of the terrific new Tony Schwartz (et. al) book, The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working: The Four Forgotten Needs That Energize Great Performance.

I presented my synopsis of The Power of Positive Deviance: How Unlikely Innovators Solve the World’s Toughest Problems by Richard Pascale, Jerry Sternin, and Monique Sternin, which described how the worst problems can be solved — in fact, in many cases have already been solved – by the successful “positive deviants” found in almost any and every group.

Both books were really good, useful, challenging, books.  We will have our synopses, with handouts + audio, up on our companion web site, 15minutebusinessbooks.com, available in a couple of weeks.

For next month, (the first Friday of November, November 3), we have chosen these two books.  Karl will present  Derailed: Five Lessons Learned from Catastrophic Failures of Leadership by Tim Irwin, Patrick Lencioni (Foreword).

And I will present a synopsis of the brand new book by Don Tapscott (et. al) Macrowikinomics: Rebooting Business and the World.  (I can’t wait to read this!)  His earlier book, Wikinomics:  How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything (which I presented at the May, 2007 First Friday Book Synopsis), is a genuinely significant book in this/for this connected age.

If you are in/will be in the DFW area, come join us on November 3.  As one enthusiastic participant said this morning – “great content, really good food, great networking – the best event I attend each month.”

We agree!

Context, and Confusion – Reflections on Gladwell’s Latest

Malcolm Gladwell

(Wiki/Twitter activism) is simply a form of organizing which favors the weak-tie connections that give us access to information over the strong-tie connections that help us persevere in the face of danger. It shifts our energies from organizations that promote strategic and disciplined activity and toward those which promote resilience and adaptability. It makes it easier for activists to express themselves, and harder for that expression to have any impact. The instruments of social media are well suited to making the existing social order more efficient. They are not a natural enemy of the status quo. If you are of the opinion that all the world needs is a little buffing around the edges, this should not trouble you. But if you think that there are still lunch counters out there that need integrating it ought to give you pause.
(Malcolm Gladwell, from his latest…)


I am a big fan of the whole social media, Twitter revolution, Wikinomics era thing going on.

I am a big fan of Malcolm Gladwell.  (I’ve presented his first three books at the First Friday Book Synopsis).


In Wikinomics:  How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything (I can’t wait to read Tapscott’s new book!), we learn that there is a whole new world out there from the connections, put everything up there and out there on the web, approach to innovation.

So – Twitter, wiki, everybody gets access, everybody gets connected, is the answer to all of our problems.  Right?

Not so fast.

Malcolm Gladwell’s latest is: Small Change: Why the revolution will not be tweeted. He acknowledges that Twitter, and the whole new world, has its place.  Its place is just limited.  When you want a real revolution, it won’t provide what we need.

In the article, Gladwell contrasts the massive work behind the scenes in the Civil Rights era 50 years ago to the environment of today.  Consider these excerpts:

These events in the early sixties became a civil-rights war that engulfed the South for the rest of the decade—and it happened without e-mail, texting, Facebook, or Twitter.

Fifty years after one of the most extraordinary episodes of social upheaval in American history, we seem to have forgotten what activism is.

The platforms of social media are built around weak ties. Twitter is a way of following (or being followed by) people you may never have met. Facebook is a tool for efficiently managing your acquaintances, for keeping up with the people you would not otherwise be able to stay in touch with. That’s why you can have a thousand “friends” on Facebook, as you never could in real life

But weak ties seldom lead to high-risk activism.

Gladwell reminds us that the people who sat at lunch counters in the 60’s were literally tempting some goons to bash their heads in – and some of the heads were bashed in.  It took a lot of preparation, a lot of serious organization, a lot of courage – not “weak ties,” but very, very strong ties.  Twitter wasn’t needed, and would not have been enough to pull this off.

In the world of politics, there is a new observation developing, which Gladwell alludes to.  People who read blogs and even write in blogs are under the impression that they are involved, they are activists, changing the world.  But the evidence is not yet backing this up.

Here’s what I think.  Gladwell is a master at raising the right question – a master of tapping into the Zeitgeist, saying just the right things at the right time.  I’ve read this new article carefully – even as I have just thrown Tapscott’s new book, Macrowikinomcs, into my “I should present this book” mix.  Let’s just say that I am trying to figure out just what Twitter and the new world can – and cannot – accomplish.


Read Gladwell’s article here.  It’s worth the time.

Really Good News About Alzheimer’s – And Confirmation Of The Promise Of Wikinomics

First, the news, reported in Rare Sharing of Data Leads to Progress on Alzheimer’s by Gina Kolata in the New York Times.

In 2003, a group of scientists and executives from the National Institutes of Health, the Food and Drug Administration, the drug and medical-imaging industries, universities and nonprofit groups joined in a project that experts say had no precedent: a collaborative effort to find the biological markers that show the progression of Alzheimer’s disease in the human brain.

I’m sure you’ve heard the news about this project.  The researchers have discovered a spinal fluid test that is seemingly very accurate in predicting the onset of Alzheimer’s.  The article describes how it was made possible by the mass and generous of information.  And in the arena of science and research, this meant individuals and companies had to get beyond their own desire for credit and profit to make this available to all.  In other words, this was a genuine and true systemic/process breakthrough, enabled by the technology that makes such information sharing possible.

How successful was it?

And the collaboration is already serving as a model for similar efforts against Parkinson’s disease. A $40 million project to look for biomarkers for Parkinson’s, sponsored by the Michael J. Fox Foundation, plans to enroll 600 study subjects in the United States and Europe.
The work on Alzheimer’s “is the precedent,” said Holly Barkhymer, a spokeswoman for the foundation. “We’re really excited.”
Companies as well as academic researchers are using the data. There have been more than 3,200 downloads of the entire massive data set and almost a million downloads of the data sets containing images from brain scans.
And Dr. Buckholtz says he is pleasantly surprised by the way things are turning out.
“We weren’t sure, frankly, how it would work out having data available to everyone,” he said. “But we felt that the good that could come out of it was overwhelming. And that’s what’s happened.”

Now, let’s think about it.

Though this work on Alzheimer’s “is the precedent,” in fact other arenas have already made great use of this new collaborative approach.  We could start with Wikipedia, but the best description of this is found in the book Wikinomics.

So, what is the biggest benefit of this technological era?  I presented my synopsis of Wikinomics:  How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything by Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams back in May, 2007.  A.G. Laffey, CEO, Proctor & Gamble, in a “front of the dust jacket” blurb, stated why the book and its ideas are so important:

“No company today, no matter how large or how global, can innovate fast enough or big enough by itself…  Wikinomics reveals the next historic step – the art and science of mass collaboration where companies open up to the world.  It is an important book.”

Here’s a little from the book:

Call them the “weapons of mass collaboration.”  New low-cost collaborative infrastructures – from free Internet telephony to open source software to global outsourcing platforms – allow thousands upon thousands of individuals and small producers to cocreate products, access markets, and delight customers in ways that only large corporations could manage in the past.  This is giving rise to new collaborative capabilities and business models that will empower the prepared firm and destroy those that fail to adjust.

Peer production is a very social activity.  All one needs is a computer, a network connection, and a bright spark of initiative and creativity to join in the economy.

These changes are ushering us toward a world where knowledge, power, and productive capability will be more dispersed than at any time in our history – a world where value creation will be fast, fluid, and persistently disruptive.  A world where only the connected will survive.  A power shift is underway, and a tough new business rule is emerging:  Harness the new collaboration or perish.  Those who fail to grasp this will find themselves ever more isolated – cut off from the networks that are sharing, adapting, and updating knowledge to create value.

The lesson is clear, and simple:  no one knows as much as every one.  No one company, university, research unit, knows as much as all companies, individuals, research units.  Unless you can hire every professional and amateur scientist in the world, then for breakthroughs to be found at the fastest speed, this is the new model.  Throw your data out there.  Get any one and every one to start thinking about the problem, and looking for solutions.

This may be a bad model for “profit,” (the article hinted at that), but it sure does sound promising for people frightened about Alzheimer’s.  And, I suspect, and hope, this is only the beginning.

The Collaborative Era

You’re already self employed. When are you going to start acting like it?”
Seth Godin

Themes. Clusters.  After 12+ years of presenting synopses and briefings of business books, I clearly see that there are patterns, themes, clusters of books dealing with similar problems and pointing us in similar directions.  Here is one really obvious, and important such theme.

We need to learn to collaborate – or perish.

Why?  Because:
• Because “I” don’t know enough – “we are smarter than any “me”
• Because the problems may be really, really big
• Because the knowledge obtained through collaboration will make your decisions/actions better
• Because the knowledge is more available than anyone could have ever imagined…

This phrase (collaborate – or perish) is a direct quote from Wikinomics:  How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything by Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams.  Here’s the more complete quote:

Peer production is a very social activity.  All one needs is a computer, a network connection, and a bright spark of initiative and creativity to join in the economy.

These changes are ushering us toward a world where knowledge, power, and productive capability will be more dispersed than at any time in our history – a world where value creation will be fast, fluid, and persistently disruptive.  A world where only the connected will survive.  A power shift is underway, and a tough new business rule is emerging:  Harness the new collaboration or perish.  Those who fail to grasp this will find themselves ever more isolated – cut off from the networks that are sharing, adapting, and updating knowledge to create value.

We must collaborate or perish – across borders, cultures, disciplines, and firms, and increasingly with masses of people at one time.

The principle:  we all have to work “together” to build the future.  And even though we each work in a specific job, or in a specific company, the growing reality is that we are free agents.  For an increasing number of people each year, we have no idea where we will be working, for whom we will be working, this time next year.  Job security is a thing of the past.

So collaboration is needed for two reasons:  to succeed at any and every task we tackle, because “we” are smarter than “me” – and, to build that network of connections that we will all need, probably over and over again, to find and open that next work and life  opportunity.

With whom shall we all collaborate?  Recognize that anyone and everyone (from anywhere and everywhere) can be a collaboration partner.  Thus we need to practice generalized reciprocity – “pay it forward;” “be generous.”

And in this collaborative era, we collaborate because it helps people, and it is the “right” thing to do.  We do not collaborate to “get credit.”  In fact, we don’t care who gets the credit — we share the credit, freely and generously.  The result is what matters.

It truly is the collaborative era.

The Stupidity of Crowds ( a reflection)

"A person is smart. People are stupid." (Kay)

Edwards: Why the big secret? People are smart. They can handle it.
Kay: A person is smart. People are dumb.
(Will Smith & Tommy Lee Jones — Men in Black)


I’m a  big fan of James Suroweicki’s The Wisdom of Crowds.  I really like Wikinomics:  How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything by Don Tapscott, and The Collaborative Habit by Twyla Tharp.  I believe that “we” know more, and can accomplish more, than any “me.”

But… there is another side to this equation.  Call it “The Stupidity of Crowds.”

I keep thinking about this as I ponder the oil-rig disaster, and the Wall Street meltdown.  I already quoted a portion of this section from The Big Short by Michael Lewis in a recent blog post, but, to refresh our memory (with a little more of the quote this time – note:  Danny and Vinny were colleagues of Steve Eisman, one of the main characters in the book):

This is a fictitious Ponzi schmene.  In Vegas the question lingering at the back of their minds ceased to be Do these bond market people know something we do not.  It was replaced by, Do they deserve merely to be fired, or should they be put in jail? Are they delusional, or do they know what they’re doing? Danny thought that the vest majority of the people in the industry were blinded by their interests and failed to see the risks that had created.  Vinny, always darker, said, “There were more morons than crooks, but the crooks were higher up.”

This has been called by many names: Groupthink, The Herd Mentality — but here’s what I think.  When everyone says “this is true – this is what you can count on,” it takes a lot of courage – a whole lot of courage! – to say to the crowd: “are you crazy?”

For one reason, the crowd may be right.  So, in labeling the crowd stupid, you may be wrong.  For another, even if the crowd is wrong, and stupid in their wrongness, it may cost you your reputation, your social standing, your friendships to stand up against the crowd.

But when the stupidity of crowds actually does the people in the crowd harm, it really, really is time for the courageous few with sight and insight to stand up and say – ENOUGH!

Unfortunately, we usually only hear about the few who say no after the fact (like the Burry and Eisman stories in The Big Short).  During the actual madness, no one is listening to them – the noise of the crowd vastly outweighs and drowns out the courage of the few.

And so, sadly, all too often, we are at the mercy of the stupidity of crowds.  Not a good place to be.

The Collaborative Habit — new from the brilliant Twyla Tharp

at the top of my list of favorites

In the first decade of the First Friday Book Synopsis, my favorite book — the best book I read — was The Creative Habit by Twala Tharp.  Tharp is the award winning, Kennedy Center Honoree, choreographer. I realize that “best” is very subjective, and many would put other books at the top of their lists.  But I put The Creative Habit at the very top of mine.  It taught me so much.  And I simply admire anyone who is the best at what they do trying to share with the rest of us.

Here is the last paragraph from her Kennedy Center biography:

“I have always believed a strong classical training is a very good foundation for moving in any direction,” Tharp has said. In virtually any direction she chooses, she has given us quite a lot.

One of her main points it this:  life is made up of habits.  Good habits, practiced habitually (that’s what makes them habits!), lead to success.  So, creativity is a habit to be nurtured and cultivated.

Well, somehow I have missed that she has written a new book.  I learned about her new book:  The Collaborative Habit:  Life Lessons for Working in this NY Times article, Tharp Is Back Where the Air Is Rarefied.  (Yes, I have already ordered the book from Amazon, and can’t wait to read it).

A lot has been written about collaboration, like Don Tapscott’s terrific book Wikinomics:  How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything.  But just as with creativity and innovation in her earlier book, Tharp seems to approach the issue from a completely different world than other business book authors.  Here are a few excepts (picked up from the preview pages on Amazon):

For some of us, collaboration is a superior way of working; for almost all of us, it’s inevitable.

I’m a choreographer who makes dances that are performed on stages around the world.  It’s just as accurate to say I’m a career collaborator.

I define collaboration as people working together – sometimes by choice, sometimes not.

The brilliant CEO, the politician who keeps his own counsel, and the lone hero are yesterday’s role models…  The real success stories of our time are about joint efforts:  sports teams, political campaigns, businesses, causes.

Collaboration is the buzzword of the new millennium.

Collaboration may be a practice – a way of working in harmony with others  — but it begins with a point of view.

As seems to be happening with increasingly frequency, as I read about this book, I had this feeling – I really can’t wait to read it!

Twyla Tharp's new book, The Collaborative Habit


I’m not alone in my admiration of The Creative Habit.  Cathie Black, president of Hearst magazines, listed “five books helpful to success.”  Her list was published in the Wall Street Journal (Getting ahead. How to succeed in business? Invest some time with these books. Wall Street Journal, October 27, 2007), but I found it here.  Here is her list:

1) Personal History by Katharine Graham, Knopf, 1997
2) The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp, Simon & Schuster, 2003
3) Winning by Jack Welch with Suzy Welch, HarperBusiness, 2005
4) Never Check E-Mail in the Morning by Julie Morgenstern, Fireside, 2004
5) The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey, Free Press, 1989.