Futurist envisions our Wikifuture

Collaboration means more than a warm fuzzy feeling. It will be the central, defining business concept of a new type of borderless organization and the driving economic force in the 21st century. That’s according to Don Tapscott, CEO of New Paradigm, a futurist think-tank based in Toronto.

Tapscott’s new book, Wikinomics, due out in December, was inspired by some proprietary research conducted by New Paradigm and funded by big guns such as IBM, Cisco, SBC and Bell Canada. The companies forked out a total of $4.2 million for some tangible facts, examples and strategies for using IT to their advantage in what Tapscott calls the new Age of Collaboration.

“This is the biggest investigation ever of IT and business strategy,” claims Tapscott. He says the impetus for the research began three years ago in the wake of his debate at the Forbes CIO summit in San Diego with Nicholas Carr, author of the controversial Harvard Business Review article IT Doesn’t Matter.

“It occurred to me, as we move into this new period in economic history, that there’s liable to be a lot confusion and opposition about how technology enables businesses to be productive and competitive,” explains Tapscott.

Wikinomics summarizes some of the main findings of 28 research projects led by a number of leading thinkers. All aspects of the research surprised and delighted him, says Tapscott. “We came to the conclusion that not only does IT matter, but it’s at the heart of the biggest change in the century that will affect the way we innovate, market and produce goods and services.”

He explains that a new kind of corporation is emerging – the open networked enterprise – which is radically different from the previous model. Open networked enterprises will capitalize on peer production, using the Web to harness millions of brains scattered across the globe, which self-organize into a collective force. He cites Linux and Wikipedia as two examples of this. They are “just the tip of the iceberg of a new form of economic production enabled by the Web,” he says.

Interconnected and orchestrated through blogs, Wikis, chat rooms, peer-to-peer networks, and personal broadcasting, the Web itself is being reinvented to provide the first global platform for collaboration.

Tapscott says there are yet more areas of research to explore. “Some of the best examples of collaboration are coming out of Asia,” he notes, adding that he’s in the midst of relaunching the research to explore new areas, and that new companies such as Disney and Upjohn have been invited to participate in the next round.

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